Story of the Month
Each month we highlight the story of one woman who is making a difference in the world. We invite you to celebrate these women, learn from and be inspired by their stories. We also invite you to share your story of women leading the way, so that we might in turn share it here.
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March 2019: Pan-African Women’s Summit
The Pan-African Women’s Summit is an on-going story of leadership.
It is a story of collaborative leadership.
It is a story about how women lead.
In our Story of the Month, 2016 you met Oluwadamilola Apena, (Dami). At that point, Dami was in Seattle, Washington USA completing her Master’s degree in Environment and Community.
Today she is back in her home country of Nigeria. Having enhanced both her knowledge and her professional skills in the process of completing her degree, Dami has now founded an NGO, Banner Unto Nations Foundation which is a platform for collaborating with other like-minded national and global leaders—at all levels: individuals, organizations, communities, governments—that recognize the interdependence of the global community and are committed to the greater good.
This transition back into her home country was joyful. She married her fiance (Oladapo) in Nigeria, a man strong and confident enough in himself to be able to appreciate Dami’s strength and confidence, They were elated when they discovered that Dami was pregnant! Soon, however, a large mass was discovered in Dami’s abdomen and after several traumatic hospitalizations she lost the baby. This experience awoke her awareness towards foetal and maternal mortality rate in Nigeria. In spite of personal challenges, Dami pursued her intention and founded the Banner Unto Nations Foundation (BUNF). Hence, the EriOluwa Project – Holistic reproductive health assistance for pregnant women which serves as one of the objectives of BUNF.
The driving force which prompted Dami to seek her Master’s degree was her realization that the most challenging issues faced in her country were interconnected, and yet efforts to address these issues were single focused, disregarding the impact of “solutions” on the overall good of the communities involved.
She became aware, for example, that in the Niger Delta where she had been working, 2014 data revealed that 85% of the total government revenue of Nigeria was generated from this region and yet there was very little development in most of its communities. She could see, first hand, how environmental, social and economic challenges that the Niger Delta communities faced on a daily basis were all interconnected, while efforts to address these issues were focused on isolated contributing causes.
Thus, through her leadership, the Banner Unto Nations Foundation (BUNF) is based on an understanding of how interdependent our systems are – education, health care, clean drinking water, economic development, environmental vitality – a change in any of these areas has impact on all of the others.
The areas on which the Foundation has chosen to focus initially include:
- Sustainable education for Orphans and Vulnerable children
- Holistic reproductive health assistance for pregnant women
- Psychosocial support for abused girls and women
- Economic empowerment for women / girls and prevention of sex trafficking
- Inclusive health and educational services for people with disability
- Awareness and fight against oil spillage and environmental pollution
|A few pictures from BUNF’s outreach to 150 orphans and vulnerable children|
As part of her Master’s degree program, Dami had catalyzed a women’s group in Seattle comprised of African women who were students, professionals and immigrants. The Sisterhood Forum and Think Tank for African Women became a platform of active support and powerful conversation amongst the women. This provided an opportunity to deepen her understanding of community organization and local leadership, to learn with and from these women effective strategies for creating positive change that is sustainable and appropriate to local needs and resources.
Meaanwhile, her Mentor, Barbara Spraker, one of her professors at Antioch, had shared with her a vision of a Pan-African Women’s Leadership Summit. Based on the amazing grass-roots leadership demonstrated by African women in many African countries, it seemed an appropriate time to create an opportunity for some of these women to gather – to learn with and from one another, to share their successes, affirm their strengths, prioritize challenging issues and amplify their efforts through connecting with one another.
Based on her awareness of women’s passion for the greater good, their capacity for evoking the leadership of others, and their skill of working collaboratively within their communities Oluwadamilola embraced this vision, gained the support of the Banner Unto Nations Foundation Board, and proceeded to “lead the way” in planning and preparing for a Pan-African Women’s Summit, held March 7th – 9th, 2019, in Lagos, Nigeria, the weekend of International Women’s Day.
Barbara and Oluwadamilola had become good friends while Oluwadamilola was at Antioch, and the opportunity forin manifesting this vision was synergistic, empowering, and compelling for each of them.
While registration for the Summit this year is now closed, If you are interested in connecting with this Pan-African group in their on-going work, please contact Oluwadamilola E. Olaogbebikan (Dami) at firstname.lastname@example.org