“ I am an unapologetic feminist” Olaoluwa Abagun
Meet Olaoluwa Abagun, a lawyer, a girls’ rights advocate, and a feminist, grooming a dynamic generation of African girls that would lead change and transform their communities.Be inspired by her story!
I am the only girl of my parents’ four children. However, I have never been treated differently from my brothers. Growing up, my parents invested the same (and sometimes more) resources in my education and development. I played video games of combat, as much as I played with my Barbie Dolls, and my household chores ranged from doing dishes to washing my dad’s car, just like my brothers. My doting parents raised me to believe in Gender Equality.
Regarding my active engagement in girls’ rights advocacy, I can also connect the dots backwards to my four-year experience, as a member of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament representing Lagos State. At the age of 13, I was exposed to child rights advocacy – speaking actively for Nigerian children in the media, disseminating the content of the Child Rights Act, and engaging in high level/grassroots consultations. Undoubtedly, these early experiences were nudging me towards my life-long purpose.
I am a lawyer (in equity), vocal girls’ rights advocate, and an unapologetic feminist. My greatest learning experiences come from travelling to new/exciting places and I am inspired by innovative solutions – particularly when they are championed by young women. Currently, I am a Women Deliver Young Leader and a Learner in the 2015/2016 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Learner’s Voice Programme. I am also the Founder of Girl Pride Circle Initiative, a pro-girl NGO based in Nigeria. I hold a Bachelor of Laws (LLB.) degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Inspiration behind “Girl Pride Circle”
Right from adolescence, I have been privileged to be surrounded by people, who are eager to invest in me and push me to be the best version of myself. It was heart breaking for me to look around and find hundreds of adolescent girls without a support system or a safe platform, where their voices could be heard. In my community in Lagos, for instance, it is no news for girls to drop out of school, after becoming victims of unplanned pregnancy, because they do not have access to accurate information about their bodies and their sexuality. On the other hand, the girls who complete school are not actively encouraged to shatter glass ceilings and dream big dreams.
Girl Pride Circle is my contribution towards grooming a dynamic generation of African girls, who would lead change and transform their communities. Through grassroots workshops and after-school education clubs, we have reached 550 adolescent girls in Southwest Nigeria, educating them about leadership/entrepreneurship, sexual and reproductive health and rights, career planning and gender issues.
Yes, I am an unapologetic Feminist…
Feminism is the translucent lens through which I view all individuals – EQUAL, regardless of gender. It is about ensuring that both girls and boys are brought up to be strong and fearless, yet supportive and warm. Because of Feminism, I understand that success and impact are not gender-compliant and EVERYONE – male or female – deserves ample space to explore their full potentials. In full agreement with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we should all be feminists.
My other project and activities
Recently, I was awarded a seed grant by Women Deliver, an outstanding global advocacy organisation that advances the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women. The grant is supporting Girl Pride Circle to implement a community project in Alimosho Local Government – “Safe Kicks Initiative: Adolescent Girls against Sexual Violence”. Reliable data shows that Alimosho has the second highest rate of sexual violence in Lagos, particularly against adolescent girls. With the support of my amazing team, the project would educate 250 girls about sexual violence, empower them with basic taekwondo classes and mobilise them to draft a community action plan for the prevention of sexual violence. The action plan would be adopted by the Sole Administrators of the Local Government/LCDAs, community/religious leaders and school authorities in Alimosho, for the protection of adolescent girls in the community.
As a Learner in the WISE Learner’s Voice Programme, I am also actively engaged in designing an education project from the scratch. At present, I am working with a team of five young and passionate education advocates from Botswana, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea, and Romania. Our project is exploring the intersection between gender equity and high school education in Cambodia.
I had times I felt like giving up…
There are many times I have felt like giving up. Until August 2015, Girl Pride Circle’s projects were solely funded from my meagre pocket money, as an undergraduate. Once, I tried to mobilise funds for an indigent schoolgirl and things turned pretty awry. A lot of times, I have wept silent tears of frustration and I cannot honestly say that I would not have given up, but for God’s mighty hand of comfort. God has shown me that any divine assignment is accompanied with divine resources. In all, it has been a roller coaster journey and the lessons are invaluable.
My greatest reward so far…
My team celebrated the 2015 International Day of the Girl Child with a “Power of the Adolescent Girl” seminar at a small school in Obadore, Lagos. Over 50 girls were at the seminar and when we wrapped up, one of the girls quietly walked up to me. To my surprise, she said, “Aunty Ola, I want to work with Girl Pride Circle.” My heart swelled with so much joy. Beyond helping the girls unleash their inner fire for personal growth, it was amazing that this sweet girl thought of joining our movement to do the same for other girls. It remains my most rewarding moment.
Being recognised as a Women Deliver Young Leader in 2015
My experience as a Women Deliver Young Leader has helped me understand exactly how my team’s work fits into the grand scheme of things, where international development is concerned. Before my selection, I had a strong voice, which I wanted to use to advance girls’ rights. Women Deliver has connected me with an eclectic global network, high level advocacy platforms, resources and trainings, in order to make my voice count even more! The support I receive daily from the youth team is overwhelming; the organisation walks the talk on meaningful youth engagement. I feel highly honoured to have been recognised by such an impactful organisation that delivers for girls and women all over the world.
Challenges I face in my line of work
Like every other young advocate, I have to work twice as hard to convince school authorities and community stakeholders to trust me enough to engage with them. This is because youth engagement in Nigeria is still looked upon with suspicion and the older generation is having a hard time accepting us young people as experts in our own rights. This is a major challenge. Also, managing a non-profit and my other engagements in addition to my legal studies has been very demanding. Mastering the art of multi-tasking, belief in myself, and the help of God has, however, made all the difference.
My advice to young budding female entrepreneurs and social crusaders
Early in your leadership/entrepreneurial journey, seek out true allies that share the same values with you; your darkest days will be tolerable, only when you have reliable shoulders to cry on.
The Nile is the longest river in the world, yet water from it has to be carefully treated before it is drinkable. Be highly selective about advice, opportunities, and mentorship.
For social crusaders, let results and not applause drive you. When you are fuelled by applause, lack of it stunts your work and you would never dare to grow beyond what people want to applaud.
I am a Woman of Rubies
With an outstanding fiery hue, Rubies represent energy, devotion, and inextinguishable passion. I am a Woman of Rubies because of the passion I exude and my commitment to purposeful living. Just as Rubies remain hard and durable, I also strive to stand firm and undaunted amidst life’s challenges.