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There are good women and there are great women. Bisi Fayemi, who recently celebrated her 61st birthday, is one of the latter. For all her contributions to gender equality and social justice, the former First Lady of Ekiti state, remains a leading feminist activist, policy advocate, and social change philanthropy practitioner. Fayemi’s journey is marked by her relentless pursuit of education and advocacy. With a BA and MA in History from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and an MA in Gender and Society from Middlesex University, UK, her academic prowess laid the foundation for a career dedicated to empowering women and girls.

Her professional career started with a notable tenure as the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika, where she established the African Women’s Leadership Institute. She co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund, a pioneering grant-making foundation for women’s organisations in Africa, and served as its first CEO from 2001 to 2010. Through these roles, Fayemi significantly influenced the direction of feminist movements and philanthropic endeavours across the African continent.

Then, as the First Lady of Ekiti State, she used her platform to champion numerous legal and policy reforms. Her advocacy led to the enactment of groundbreaking laws such as the Gender-Based Violence Prohibition Law, the Equal Opportunities Bill, and the HIV Anti-Stigma Bill, providing protection for women and girls, and ensuring that their rights remain upheld and their voices heard even now.

Fayemi’s influence has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades. In 2021, she was named one of the 100 most influential leaders in civil society in Nigeria. The following year, she received the Outstanding Woman Leader award from the United Nations Development Program Nigeria, UN Women Nigeria, the European Union delegation to Nigeria, and the British High Commission. There is also her Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Philanthropy Network in 2022.

Fayemi’s life’s work stands as a powerful testament to what can be achieved through dedication, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to equity and justice. As she celebrates her 61st birthday, her legacy as a gender specialist, philanthropist, and advocate for social justice continues to shine brightly.

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