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Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a distinguished feminist activist, gender and development specialist, policy advocate, and social sector expert. With decades of experience and numerous accolades to her name, she has been a formidable force in advancing women’s rights and social justice across Africa and beyond. Her journey from academia to global advocacy showcases her relentless dedication to gender equality and empowerment. Erelu Fayemi’s contributions have spanned across various sectors, from grassroots activism to high-level policy advocacy, making her a beacon of hope and a role model for countless women.

Academic Background and Professional Training

HE Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi holds a BA (1984) and MA (1988) in History from the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She also earned an MA in Gender and Society (1992) from Middlesex University, UK, and received a PhD (Honoris Causa) in Sociology from the Tai Solarin University of Education (2014).

Leadership in Women’s Development

From 1991-2001, Erelu Fayemi served as the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), an international development organization for African women. During her tenure, she established the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI), which has produced over 6,000 women leaders across Africa. She is also the co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), the first Africa-wide grant-making foundation for women’s organizations, and served as the first Executive Director from 2001-2010.

Founding the African Women’s Development Fund

Erelu Fayemi co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and served as its first CEO from 2001-2010. Under her leadership, AWDF supported thousands of women’s rights organizations in 42 African countries with millions of dollars in grants.

Current Roles and Initiatives

Currently, Erelu Fayemi is the CEO of Above Whispers Media Group, specializing in leadership development for women. She also runs an online community called Abovewhispers.com, where she lends her voice to issues affecting women and encourages them to rise above whispers, using their voices, resources, and positions where it matters. Recently, she established ‘The Wrapper Network’, an online mentoring and support program for young women. She served as a UN Women Nigeria Senior Advisor (2017-2018) and is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Africa Leadership Center, King’s College, London.

Legislative Contributions in Ekiti State

When her husband, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, took office as Governor of Ekiti State from 2010 to 2014, Erelu Fayemi became actively involved in policy advocacy, grassroots empowerment, and social inclusion programs. She led campaigns to enact several critical laws, including the Gender-Based Violence Prohibition Law (2011, revised in 2019), the Equal Opportunities Bill (2013), the HIV Anti-Stigma Bill (2014), the Treatment, Care and Protection Bill for Sexually Abused Minors (2020), the Ekiti State Mental Health Law (2021), and the Ekiti State Gender Composition Law (2022). She chaired the Ekiti State GBV Management Committee and the Ekiti State AIDS Control Agency (2018 – 2022) and led the Nigeria Governors Wives Forum (NGWF) from 2020 to 2022.

Erelu Bisi Adeleye-
Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

Literary Contributions

Erelu Fayemi is the author of several influential works, including ‘Speaking for Myself: Perspectives on Social, Political and Feminist Activism in Africa’ (2013), ‘Speaking above a Whisper’ (2013), an autobiography, ‘Loud Whispers’ (2017), and ‘Where is your Wrapper?’ (2020). She also co-edited ‘Voice, Power and Soul’ with Jessica Horn (2008), a compilation of images and stories of African Feminists. Her books “Tray of Locust Beans” and “Demand and Supply” delve into socio-political and cultural themes, advocating for gender equality and empowerment.

The Wrapper Network: Empowering Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Erelu Bisi Fayemi initiated the “A Wrapper for Women Initiative,” providing hope and support to over 60,000 households in Ekiti. Inspired by a story of solidarity, this initiative symbolizes unity, protection, and care, encouraging women to support each other.

Encouragement to Young Women

Erelu encourages young women to be actively involved in politics and community affairs. She emphasizes the importance of persistence, self-awareness, and courage, urging women to raise their voices and demand action against issues like sexual violence.

Final Thoughts

Erelu Bisi Fayemi’s journey is a testament to resilience, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to gender equality. Her work continues to inspire and empower women globally, reminding us all of the power of solidarity and the importance of using our voices for change. Through her vast and varied efforts, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi continues to champion gender equality, advocate for social justice, and empower women across Africa and beyond.

With at least 13 million children out of school in Nigeria presently and rising, with 60 percent of this number being girls, even when they are able to receive an education, there is still a huge challenge keeping young girls in school due to some factors

These factors include poverty, sexual and gender based violence, kidnappings, teenage pregnancy, family responsibilities and forced marriages and so on, make it difficult for young girls to focus on their education. Harmful traditional practices such as early marriages, female genital mutilation, girls trafficking, farming out children to family members to foster and so on, all contribute to creating a toxic environment for girls to grow up and be educated in.

In light of all these, the first lady of Ekiti state, Erelu Bisi Fayemi is focused on addressing these issues with her Keep Girls In School Campaign. According to her, one of the factors that keep young girls away from school is ‘period poverty’ or lack of capacity for menstrual hygiene management.

Lack of appropriate facilities such as gender segregated toilet facilities, adequate safe water supply in schools for washing hands and maintaining good hygiene, absence of sanitary menstrual materials and so on can and does prevent girls from safe hygienic management of their periods.

These may result in absenteeism, reduced levels of concentration in class and low participation in school activities like sports and other extra-curricular activities. The campaign therefore launched a Pad Bank on Menstrual Hygiene Day to enable vulnerable girls in the state have access to reusable sanitary protection, a sustainable way of menstrual hygiene management.

According to the first lady, the bank’s objectives include having a steady supply of menstrual hygiene products, helping young girls who are unable to afford sanitary materials and ensure that young girls don’t stay away from school because of their monthly cycle.

Others include, promoting good menstrual hygiene amongst young girls, providing training in the use of menstrual hygiene products and providing opportunities for young local entrepreneurs to learn how to produce reusable and safe sanitary products.

She added that a box of six reusable pads that can last for a year costs N2, 500 and their target is 3000 girls yearly in the state. Calling for support to enable them reach and surpass this goal, she said donations in cash or kind would enable them keep a steady supply of these reusable pads for regular distribution to young girls that need them the most.