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Olabisi Olateru-Olagbegi: An iconic amazon

By Josephine Agbonkhese, Daniel Eteghe & Chris Onuoha

IT was amidst emotions and sobs penultimate

Thursday in Lagos that Nigerian Women Civil Society Organisations celebrated Olori Olabisi Ibijoke Olateru-Olagbegi who passed on recently after a brief illness.

The memorial celebration of this iconic amazon, themed; “Celebrating an icon of women’s struggle in Nigeria and beyond” held at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hall, Victoria Island, Lagos, had in attendance civil society professionals and activists whose impact in the society is visible, especially to women gender and general.

Held under encomium and tributaries, participants who actually felt the demise of this Nigeria’s great women leader and epitome of women’s struggle in Nigeria, Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi were deeply touched for what she represents.


The Bisi Troika

Her Excellency, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Former President, African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) Ghana, Former First Lady Ekiti State and wife of Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals  led the scene of women activists as she bared her mind on how she would miss ‘Auntie Bisi’ as she was fondly called by all that knew her. In her tribute which she titled “The Bisi Troika” she narrated how she met Auntie Bisi in the early 1990s during the involvement of several women organizations like Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Women in Law and Development Africa (WILDAF), Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN) among others.

Women’s significance

In a lighter mood, she mentioned the three giant ‘BISIs’ who are Chief Bisi Ogunleye referred to as ‘Large Bisi’, Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi as middle Bisi and herself Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi as small Bisi. The trio made remarkable impact in the struggle for women’s significance in the society. Erelu Bisi in her tribute said, “Auntie Bisi was a role model, teacher, mentor and friend to so many, either up close or from distance, she was always impeccably turned out in lovely Aso-Oke or Adire, local fabric which she proudly promoted everywhere she went in the world”.

Continuing, she stressed, “Auntie Bisi gave her time, energy and significant intellectual resources to promoting a campaign against Trafficking in Persons. Auntie Bisi belonged to the genre of Nigerian women activists who served women’s interests with every fiber of their being. They did not need the endorsement of governments or their money.

They brought clear, ideological clarity to their work, an understanding of how patriarchy undermines women’s lives and the need to acquire the tools to address this effectively.” with controlled emotions, she expressed how she will eventually miss such a wonderful big sister and friend. Woman activist, Joe Odumakin amidst uncontrollable sobs and emotions, spoke on her brilliance in career and how she impacted lives around her. She mentioned how she lived her life for women and women’s struggles.

According to Joe Odumakin, “In her, there are all qualities that women live and die for. She is a book to read and study. She was a defender of the defenseless, oppressed, and vulnerable.” She lamented her demise was a huge blow to women’s struggle and called for women to rise, emulate and keep the fire burning.


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