Oluwafunmilayo Oni is a social entrepreneur with 4 years of experience in the community development sector, focused on ending poverty among women and girls living in urban slums and disadvantaged communities. She is the Executive Director of Iranwo Foundation and the Programs Coordinator at Kindle Africa where she initiates and implements empowerment programs for women and girls. Through these organizations, Oluwafunmilayo has provided access to education for children, vocational skills, business mentorship and microloans for women living in underserved communities such as Makoko( the world’s largest floating slum)Oru refugee camp, Mushin etc She also focus on implementing educational policies at the grassroots and ensuring that the sexual and reproductive health rights of girls living in slums are advanced. She has directly impacted over 2500 lives and indirectly impacted over 20,000 people
Oluwafunmilayo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Education from Tai Sholarin University of Education and she is a 2017 Global Youth Ambassador for Education. She is also a recipient of Ideation Hub Africa Top 5 under 25 social innovator and African Youth Architect Top 30 young leaders in Africa and in 2018, she was selected as a participant of Obama Barracks YALI RLC in Ghana. Recently, Oluwafunmilayo was selected as a delegate for Nigeria at the World Youth Forum in Egypt, and she was opportune to serve as a discussant in a roundtable discussion with the president H:E Abdul Fattah El-Sisi. Oluwafunmilayo was selected by Chanel The Leading fashion brand) as one of her 15 Top changemakers and awarded Chanel’s scholarship and mentorship to attend the Prestigious One Young World in London were she served as a delegate to Nigeria and Chanel. She is also a member of the prestigious African Women Entrepreneurs Cooperative (AWEC).
Oluwafunmilayo is committed to ending poverty and inequality by focusing on gender disparities especially in marginalized communities and she hopes to witness a completely liberated and equal society.
Ms Oni shares her experience in the community development field, working to reduce inequality through business empowerment program and advocacy
Interviewer- You got amazing profile, 4 years in the community development sector. Could you tell us about your family background and childhood growth.
Oluwafunmilayo Oni(O.O)- I am the second child of my mom, I have 2 amazing siblings. Growing up was a bit of fun and it shaped my belief, perspectives and created a desire to ensure social change and progress for women and girls.
Interviewer- What inspired you to focus on women empowerment and girls reproductive health
O.O- I grew up in communities where many families struggled to make ends meet. So many of my peers, especially girls dropped out of school at a very young age and many children didn’t aspire too much in life. A lot of women do not have the opportunity to acquire formal education and they were mostly unemployed and poor. A large percentage of these women had abusive spouses whom faced domestic violence, sadly, these women were often afraid of leaving their spouses majorly due to lack of financial independence.
My experience instilled in me a sense of urgency, a need to find a solution to these problems and a need to end the injustice faced by women.
Iranwo foundation is aimed at empowering women to build ventures that transform their lives and communities from poverty stricken to entrepreneur-vital. Could you tell us more about your work in Iranwo Foundation, The challenges you’ve encountered, success stories and how you been able to follow up to ensure the impacts last and isn’t momentarily.
O.O- My peacemaking project is the Liberate project and it is carried out by Iranwo foundation, a non-profit organisation that I founded in 2016. The Liberate project is a project which intends to provide sustainable solutions to the injustice faced by women and girls in the society by advancing their rights and roles in the community through the provision of empowerment opportunities for them and their families. Nigeria is faced with extreme poverty and 7 in 10 poor individuals are women. This women lack access to basic healthcare, quality education for their children and their standard of living is extremely low.
The Liberate project was launched in 2016 and since then, we have had the Liberate Oru Refugees project, Liberate Makoko women project and Liberate Oke-ira women project amongst others. The Liberate project caters to poor and unemployed women in underserved communities by providing them with vocational and business skills training and most importantly, interest and collateral-free loans to support their business. This project also provides access to quality education for out-of-school children, especially girls by enrolling them into public schools and the provision of education supplies.
Since inception, we have trained over 2000 women which includes refugees, internally displaced women, victims of domestic violence and abuse and slum dwellers on marketable vocational skills especially textile designing and laundry soap making . We have trained all beneficiaries on basic business skills such as pitching, pricing, branding, marketing and other business strategies. We’ve also provided help to our beneficiaries to sell their products through our website www.iranwofoundation.com and our social media pages, so far, their products has been accessed in 3 continents and over 8 countries in the world. We have also provided over 150 beneficiaries with interest, collateral-free business loans and have loaned over 4 million naira ($11,023) to women, Our programs has also provided access to education to over 170 out-of-school children. The liberate project is designed to proffer a sustainable solution to the problem of poverty faced by woman and lack of access to education faced by children, especially girls. Because of this, our target are women having children within the school age range, in exchange for business loan, these women have to enroll and ensure that their children are in school.
One of our success stories is of Deborah, a refugee woman who was abandoned in Nigeria and couldn’t fend for her children. We empowered her with textile designing skills and micro-loan. Today, Deborah designs beautiful textiles from which she earns profit to sustain her family. Another story that warms my heart is of Cecilia whose husband paid for only his sons education due to his incapacity to finance everyone’s education. All it took to change the life of her daughter was $14 business loan. The profit made from her laundry soap business was used to enroll her daughter into a public school. In 2018, we also worked with Shadé a victim of domestic violence who was unable to leave her abusive marriage due to lack of financial stability. Shadé was able to leave her abusive marriage in 2019 after she was granted a business loan to launch a small provision stall in her community. It is obvious that ending poverty has a ripple effect on education, gender equality, health and other world problems.
Interviewer- Your work also involves policy advocacy. women, because of their gender, are often the ones put in disadvantaged positions. are there particular policies here in nigeria that contribute to this? What policies need to be changed or revised and what new policies would you recommend to help better position women and promote equality?
O.O- A policy that I believe need to be reviewed is on pregnancy and education in schools across Nigeria. Pregnant girls are not allowed to continue schooling, this is not inclusive, rather, it is discriminatory. Many young girls are raped and preyed on daily and a ban on healthy pregnant school girls only adds to the problem. Inclusion is an important factor in ensuring the development and economic growth of a country and policy makers need to ensure that all policies are inclusive.
Interviewer- Some people think programs and initiatives which focus on empowering women and promoting the expression of their rights are designed to subjugate men or promote misandry. what do you have to say about that.
O.O- No, this is not true. These programs are designed to provide access to equal opportunities as men. It is an open secret that many women face marginalization right from childhood, in their families, community and the society generally. This shouldn’t be so and these initiatives are trying to bridge this gap. The work to achieve equality can be advanced when more men join in. how can regular everyday men who cannot lead campaigns contribute?
Men can lead the campaign for gender equality. The campaign for gender equality should reflect in our everyday life, the way men talk to women and act around women. I believe that gender equality can be better achieved when everyone treats women who they meet daily and in their community as equals. If this happens, more women will have access to education, child marriage will cease, women will hold more leadership positions and domestic violence will be a thing of the past.
Interviewer- Which woman are you inspired by in your local community and the globe
O.O- One woman that inspires me is Wangari Matthai. Even in death, she is still a strong force to reckon with. She crawled so that changemakers can walk.
Interviewer- What’s your favorite local and international movie star
O.O– A movie star that I admire is Taraji P Henson. I am able to connect with Taraji in her movies and her personal story is a beautiful one too. She defied all odds and strived to achieve are goals even when it seems impossible. I love her.
Interviewer- On International Women’s day. Whats your message to the girl child out there.
O.O- I would love to use this opportunity to remind girls that their dreams are valid. No matter how big or wild, your dream is valid.
To connect with Oluwafunmilayo Oni.
LinkedIn: Oluwafunmilayo Ayobami Oni
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