By Animasaun Ajiboye Diamond

In the entirety of Nigeria and Africa, only a handful of individuals can begin to compare to the exploits of one legendary woman, a woman who, through her relentless virtuous efforts, has contributed greatly to the improvements of the lives and rights of women in modern-day society. 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi or Erelu Bisi Fayemi is the current first lady of Ekiti state, a feminist activist, writer, and policy advocate. 

She has over the years, contributed greatly towards empowering women and further bridging the gender gap, and is widely recognized as the driving force behind the creation or management of numerous bodies or organizations contributing greatly towards bettering society. 

When talking about Erelu Bisi Fayemi, a brief history of her background and her social exploits is pivotal to understanding and subsequently appreciating just how great this woman is.Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi was born on the 11th of June, 1963 in Liverpool, England. She attended the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, le life, and graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in History. She also attended Middlesex University, UK, where she obtained a master’s degree in Gender and Society. 

In addition to these qualifications, she is also a seasoned writer, a successful social entrepreneur, an experienced policy advocate, and a facilitator. 

She is also the first lady of Ekiti State, a position which had given her the avenue to further her prestigious exploits towards contributing to Nigerian and African society. An example can be seen in the various bills geared towards female empowerment she campaigned for since her husband took office for the first time as the governor of Ekiti state in 2011.

If we were to list the various achievements and contributions this great woman has made, the list would be enough to dazzle even the most skeptical of readers. 

Over the years, she has played a major role in promoting and empowering the rights of women and other minority and ethnic groups all over the globe, with her far-reaching efforts supporting thousands upon thousands of people. In 2001, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), the very first Pan-African grant-making organization that supports other organizations promoting women’s rights.

In addition to this, she was elected as the Vice-Chairman of the National Association of Women’s Organization, England and Wales, and served from 1992-1994, she served as a Management Committee member of the London Rape Crisis Center, was nominated as the UK representative on the Steering Committee of Women in Development in Europe, was part of a team of women who founded the Black, Migrant, Refugee, and Asylum Seeking Women’s Network in Europe (BWEN) in 1992 and served on the Executive Committee for five years. 

She has also served as a member of the Africa Committee of the Migrants Forum of the European Union from 1992-1995, as well as serving as the Co-Chair of the International Network of Women’s Funds from 2004-2006, and was the honorary President of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) from 2003-2005 just to name a few.

She has also received a large number of awards and accolades recognizing and praising her acts of distinguished service over the years, with a few of them including the; `Outstanding Contributions to the African Women’s Movement’ given by the Executive Board, the leadership award for promoting women’s rights, received from the Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), the Achiever’s Award from the African Communications Agency (ACA) Accra, 2006, for promoting a positive image of Africa, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, Nigeria, the Timbuktu leadership award, given by Femme Africa Solidarite, Mali, 2006, the ‘Changing the Face of Philanthropy’ award from the Women’s Funding Network, USA, April 2007, the 2018 Zik Leadership Prize for humanitarian Leadership by Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) in 2019 and other numerous awards given by other national, local and international organizations. And as a further testament to her heartfelt Impact, she was in March 2011, listed among the world’s leading 100 individuals working for the interests of women and girls by Women Deliver, a leading global advocate for women’s rights based in New York, USA.

Labeling this wonderful woman’s greatness as unparalleled would not be overstating her abilities in any way. This was also the view shared by leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel peace prize winner from Liberia, who talked about how Adeleye-Fayemi’s support through the AWDF was pivotal to her work in Liberia, leading to her winning the Nobel peace prize. 

Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi has been celebrated as a mother to all, a woman of genuine compassion and integrity, and a shining light, radiating gentleness and warmth unto the lives of the numerous people she has touched through her actions. Her laudable achievements as well as her compassionate and heartwarming personality have set her apart from the rest, making her stand out to the world brightly like a beautifully cut diamond radiating its brilliance under the glowing sun.At home, she has received many awards and honors including various chieftaincy titles bestowed on her by the custodian of our customs and traditions, the kabiyesi. Erelu, as she is fondly called, underscores the importance of how a woman of her great influence can be honored.

She came to our state, Ekiti, to be a blessing and has radiated her greatness on many women who have associated with her over the years. Women and children of this state will never forget her impact on their lives. Even the desolate aged among them receives monthly stipends while the departed were always given state burials through her courtesy anytime God calls them home. She does these not for the dead but also to tell the living among them that they were not forgotten as their end matters to Erelu as well as their living.

Erelu is an all-rounder, teaching old politicians the tricks of modern politicking where she spearheaded new methods of election campaigns. 

The just concluded gubernatorial elections in Ekiti led credence to her efforts in mobilizing Ekiti women and youth in her own way to score electoral victory for her partyAs her husband will be handing over the leadership baton to the newly  elected governor on October 16 this year, Erelu will be sorely missed as she exits the political space Albeit temporarily as the beautiful acts of service she has rendered to her people over the years have undoubtedly left them wanting for more I join millions of your admirers around the world to wish you long life and enduring peace as you continue to render your selfless service to humanity.

•Animasaun Ajiboye Diamond lives in Oye-Ekiti.


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