Gender Mobile in commemoration of the International Women’s Day and Women’s month 2021, recognizes the outstanding achievements and progressive contributions of 20 leading Nigerian women in creating a more equal world. Across sectors women have contributed immensely during and beyond the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In line with this year’s campaign theme #ChooseToChallenge ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’, these remarkable women represent beacons of inspiration through their notable impact in addressing real societal issues and add significant value to the realization of sustainable development.
In no particular order, we are proud to present this impressive list of notable women while calling for renewed committed actions towards the acceleration of gender equality and full realization of women’s rights in Nigeria and beyond. These recognized women are leading change agents and are achieving a gender-inclusive, sustainable world. Meet them, learn about their work and accomplishments, and be inspired.
1. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an international development expert and economist and currently serves as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, the first woman and African to hold the office. She was educated at Harvard University and has a Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala previously served twice as the Minister of Finance for Nigeria and also as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first female to hold both positions. She also served as the Managing Director of the World Bank where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia. Her achievements as Finance Minister garnered international recognition for improving Nigeria’s financial stability and fostering greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption.
She is the recipient of numerous awards and in 2006, was named by Forbes Magazine as one of 100 most powerful women in the world and listed among 73 ‘brilliant’ business influencers in the world by Condé Nast International Business Intelligence magazine.
Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Amina Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and served as the Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the millennium Development Goals.
Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to three successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development.
She first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She has been conferred several honorary doctorates, the recipient of various global awards and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development.
Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is the first Lady of Ekiti State Nigeria, a feminist activist, award-winning writer, policy advocate and philanthropist in feminist and human rights movements. In 2001, she co-founded the African Women’s development Fund (AWDF), the first Pan-African grant-making organization. She serves as a UN Women Nigeria Senior Advisor, and was appointed as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College, University of London in 2017. She is CEO, Above Whispers Limited, and runs an online community called AboveWhispers.com.
Through her position as the First Lady, she has been involved in a range of policy advocacy, grassroots empowerment and social inclusion programs in Ekiti State. She led the campaign to pass a Gender Based Violence Prohibition Law (2011), revised in October 2019), an Equal Opportunities Bill (2013) and a HIV Anti-Stigma Bill (2014). She continues to work on the implementation and sustainability of these initiatives.
She serves on the Executive Board of the African Women’s Development Fund. She is Chair of the Advisory Council of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund and also serves on the Governing Council of Elizade University in Nigeria. She is currently Chair of the Gender Based Violence Law Management Committee, Ekiti State and Chair, Ekiti State AIDS Control Agency. She is also on the Steering Committee of the Regional African Women Leaders Networks (AWLN) and a member of AWLN-Nigeria Steering Committee where she serves as an Adviser.
She has received many awards and recognition such as the ‘Changing the Face of Philanthropy’ award by the Women’s Funding Network in 2007, and was named one of the 20 most influential African women in 2009 by New magazine. In 2011, Women Deliver listed her as one of the top 100 people in the world, advancing the rights of women and girls. In 2019, she was awarded the 2018 Zik Leadership Prize for humanitarian Leadership by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC).
Dr Josephine ‘Joe’ Okei-Odumakin is a women’s rights activist, president of the rights groups Women Arise for Change Initiative and Campaign for Democracy and also serves as the Executive Director of Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies. She has an educational background in English Education, Guidance and Counselling and a doctorate in History and Policy Education.
A leading female voice in Nigeria’s civil rights movement, Dr Okei-Odumakin has over 25years experience in human rights activism and challenged human rights abuses during the military regimes in Nigeria, resulting in her repeatedly being arrested, detained and sustaining serious injuries.
Dr Okei-Odumakin has remained an undaunted activist and worked on thousands of cases including serious cases of extrajudicial killings, seeking justice for violations of the rights of others, especially women and children. She is a recipient of several national and international awards including the ‘Hero of Democracy and Good Governance Award’, ‘Eminent International Gold Award’ and ‘International Women of Courage Award’ in recognition of her outstanding activism, courage and efforts in advocacy for democracy, human rights and women empowerment – often at great personal risk.
Josephine Effah-Chukwuma is a development specialist and leading gender rights advocate with over 20years experience in the promotion of women’s rights in Nigeria. She is an Ashoka Fellow who since obtaining her master’s degree in Women and Gender Development from the University of Hague, Netherlands, has actively contributed to advocacy efforts for the advancement of women’s rights in Nigeria, gender equality and the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Alert on Violence Against Women, an organization advocating on the issue of violence against women and providing support services to survivors in Nigeria. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma pioneered the establishment of the first shelter for victims of sexual abuse victims in Nigeria.
Josephine Effah-Chukwuma’s work at Project Alert focuses on advocacy, providing counselling services and emergency shelter spaces for abused women, ensuring access to legal services and breaking the silence surrounding sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria.
Adefunke Ekine, PhD. is currently the Deputy Director, Directorate of Research and External Relations at Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State, Nigeria; a position she has held for seven years. She is also a Senior Lecturer and her research focus has been on girl’s education, gender- based violence, curriculum development, teacher development and STEM education. She had her first degree in Food Science and Technology from University of Ife, Ile Ife before proceeding for her postgraduate degrees. She holds both Masters and PhD in Early Childhood Education from the University of Ibadan. She has been a teacher at all levels of education for the past twenty- five years.
Adefunke is an Echidna Global Scholar at The Brookings Institution, USA. She is a board member of many schools and NGOs in Nigeria and currently represents her university on the Go-Lab project, an initiative of Co-Creation Hub to improve STEM teaching in Africa supported by the European Commission.
Adefunke has won grants to express her work with children especially girls such as the 2019 Tetfund Research Grant on Development and Validation of a gender-responsive pedagogy, Ford Foundation supported project on capacity building and Rockefeller Philanthropist Advisor grant.
Patience Ogolo-Dickson is an accountant and an advocate on women’s rights, disability rights and the rights of women and girls with disabilities. She is the Co-founder of Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI), an organization that works within the intersection of women and disability rights, and advocates for the human rights of all women and girls, with a special focus on women and girls with disabilities. AWWDI works in collaboration with other regional and international organizations of women and girls with disabilities
Part of her engagement has been advocacy and awareness raising about women with disability and its issues, full participation and inclusion, disability and development, capacity building, access to justice, violence against women and women with disabilities including gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights amongst others.
A facilitator, trainer and a mentor, Patience is an Alumni of the US International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). She is currently the National Coordinator of Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI).
Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru is a specialist Obstetrician, Gynecologist and Founder of Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), an organization focused on addressing issues pertaining to gender-based violence, rape and trafficking of young girls and women in communities across Nigeria.
WARIF’s work has contributed to an increase in SGBV educational and outreach services in various communities and promoted the creation of Sexual Assault Rehabilitation Centres (SARCs) across Nigeria, thereby boosting response services for victims/survivors of SGBV.
Omowumi Ogunrotimi is an experienced gender rights expert and development advocate, with an academic background in Law. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Gender Mobile Initiative, a youth-led organization adopting a comprehensive approach and leveraging technology in gender-based violence prevention, response and advocacy efforts.
In 2018, she was the first Nigerian and West African to receive the Commonwealth Award. She was awarded one of the top ten gender activists and advocates by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa and has worked in over 50 rural communities creating safe spaces for vulnerable populations particularly women and girls by empowering them with knowledge to protect themselves, become peer educators and ensuring their access to justice.
As a legal practitioner and the Executive Director of Gender Mobile Initiative, she is committed to using innovative approaches to solve social problems. In 2020, she was appointed the Deputy Head, Women and Gender Sectoral Cluster Committee of the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) Nigeria Standing Committee.
Oluwafunke Adeoye is a lawyer and human rights defender with 8 years’ experience working on human rights, social innovation and criminal justice issues. After undergoing a near death experience which resulted in a child loss, she decided to pursue purpose by founding Hope Behind Bars Africa, an organization that provides access to justice to indigent pre-trial inmates, builds the capacity of stakeholders in the criminal justice system and advocates for reforms.
Funke leads the capital defense team of her organization and oversees Made in Corrections, a social enterprise aimed at preventing recidivism by empowering incarcerated women and young persons. In 2020, with support from the German government, she supervised a project that saw female inmates producing reusable face masks that were distributed for free to prison inmates and across 11 low-income communities in Nigeria’s capital city as part of the measures to prevent the Coronavirus.
A graduate of law from the University of Benin, she is a Makwanyane fellow of Cornell University Centre on Death Penalty Worldwide, Ithaca, New York and a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellow. In 2018, she won Accountability’s lab SDG 16 Innovation Challenge where she graduated into the Accountability Lab’s Incubation program in 2019. Funke is a 2020 LEAP Africa Social Innovation fellow and has been selected as a 2021 One Young World delegate through the European Commission Peace Ambassador’s Scholarship.
Committed to a life of service, Funke is a member of the Working Group Project: Private Sector implementation of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy 2020. She also serves as a contributory expert for the World Justice Project Rule of law Index since 2019. She was recognized in 2019 as a finalist of the future Africa award prize for advocacy (described by Bill Gates as Africa’s Forbes). In 2020, she was listed by Attic London as one of the lawyers changing the world for the better.
Priscilla Usiobaifo is a sexual and reproductive health rights advocate and a women's rights activist. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Brave Heart Initiative for Youth & Women (BHI) a leading feminist organization in Nigeria advancing young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and promoting women’s rights. She is informally known as a ‘terror to rapists and sexual predators’ in Edo state, in reference to her commitment to ensuring justice for victims of SGBV.
She has distinct experience on young people’s SRHR programming, women’s rights activism and is a strong advocate of community system strengthening. She strategically leads advocacy for gender-related policies and laws and is a consistent voice on the issue of rape in Nigeria. Priscilla Usiobaifo currently serves as Chair of the Edo State Service Providers Accountability Resource Committee (SPARC).
Oluwatumininu Adedeji is a gender rights advocate and the Executive Director of Balm in Gilead Foundation for Sustainable Development, an organization working in communities to eliminate gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices and societal gender gaps affecting the sustainable development of women and girls.
Balm in Gilead Foundation for Sustainable Development thematic areas of focus include advocacy, gender equality, youth and women empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights and human rights education.
Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an Attorney and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female-led startups in Lagos.
Before delving into full time entrepreneurship and founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi practiced law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as worked as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She has over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business. The fundamental goal of Tribe XX Lab is to engage on critical women’s rights issues, create a place where women are able to spotlight their business, network, access training and funding opportunities.
Eloho Omame Gihan-Mbelu
Eloho Omame Gihan-Mbelu is a business leader with a background in Economics and Business. She is the founding Managing Director and CEO of Endeavour Nigeria, a high-impact entrepreneurship network focused on economic empowerment in developing markets.
Eloho Omame Gihan-Mbelu is particular about gender inequity and is vocal on the need for creation and transfer of wealth for women aimed at bridging the parity gaps in resource acquisition for females similar to their male counterparts.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is an award-winning novelist, public speaker and ardent feminist. Having authored highly successful books such as Half of a yellow Sun which vividly depicts the Nigeria-Biafra war, Purple hibiscus and critically acclaimed collection of short stories such as The thing Around Your Neck, she is keenly focused on gender equality, challenges patriarchy and advocates for the advancement of women’s’ rights.
Chimamanda’s essay and TEDx talk We Should All Be Feminists explores the subject of gender equality and aptly opened conversations about feminism, an issue that should concern everyone. She advocates for an urgent attitudinal and mindset change amongst men as well as women that reinforce gender expectations and practices of discrimination against women.
Raquel Daniel is a community mobilizer, development strategist and educator working in marginalized communities in Nigeria focusing on education for children and sexual & reproductive health for adolescent girls through Beyond the Classroom Foundation. She is the Co-founder of Nzuriaiki.com, an online platform designed to showcase volunteer opportunities in Nigeria.
In 2015, she joined the Lagos Global Shaper of the World Economic and received the LEAP Africa Social Innovator Program fellowship. She is a Climate Reality Leader, a Walter Carrington Fellow and a two-time Mentor of the Queens Young Leaders Program. Raquel has received numerous awards including the 2021, Luther King Heroes Award, the 2016 Honour Nigeria Community Development Award by Trinity House, and the 2014 Le Roche Exemplary Leadership Award by His Excellency Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, (former Governor of Lagos State).
Prior to Co-founding the NzuriAiki.com, she served as the Admin lead at the Secretariat of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (in the office of the Vice President). Raquel is also the author of FLOW: a girl’s guide to menstruation, There Is a New Virus in Town: a coronavirus awareness book for children and Squeaky Clean; a personal hygiene book for girls.
Esther Ijewere is the Founder and Executive Director of Rubies Ink Initiative for Women and Children. She is a gender rights advocate, author and columnist for The Guardian Newspaper. Rubies Ink Initiative focuses on projects that advance the rights of women and girl children.
Esther Ijewere uses her platform including her Guardian Newspaper column Women of Rubies to give women a voice and tell inspiring stories that lift other women up. Her book Breaking the Silence informs about rape and enlightens women about surviving sexual violence. As a key member of Walk Against Rape, she embarks on campaigns and advocacy efforts to address rape and assist rape victims with support services and seeking justice.
Aisha Abdullahi Bubah
Aisha Abdullahi Bubah is the lead Psychologist and Founder of The Sunshine Series-Mind Wellness, a psychotherapy centre that offers a range of mental health services, including drug addiction rehabilitation and mind wellness services to individuals, groups and communities and creates national awareness on the topical subject of mental health. She is also the Project lead on The Mind Wheel Project, a social impact project focused on providing psychosocial support and capacity building for Lay counsellors and Psychological first aiders.
To mitigate the psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Nigerians, Aisha was supported by the Federal Government of Nigeria to set up a mental health advocacy program providing a mental health helpline, support for people dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and provide free counseling services. Aisha also consults on areas involving mental health, policy, governance, conflict and other areas that enhance human and community development.
Salamatu Bello is a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, heralded for breaking the culture of silence around sexual harassment in Nigerian tertiary institutions in spite of efforts to keep her silent after experiencing sexual harassment in her University.
She is the Founder of Her Life Counts Foundation, an organization focused on encouraging and supporting other survivors of sexual abuse, promoting child sexual abuse education and advocating against gender-based violence.
Yommy Ayilara is a feminist writer, blogger and author, passionate about women empowerment and gender equality. She runs a blog for the appraisal of women, and also to create a safe spot for them to speak their truth about society, abuse, and life in general. (www.yommyayilarasblog.com).
Yommy recently published her first book, 'The Talking Woman' which is centered on Feminism and women empowerment. Yommy is a 400 Level Law student at Adeleke University, Nigeria.