Erelu Bisi Fayemi, First Lady of Ekiti State, and Chairperson of the Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum has been named as the Women Leader of the Year, at the inaugural International Women’s Day Awards Gala jointly hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, European Union, British High Commission, and the Embassies of the United States of America, Germany and France, to commemorate International Women’s Month. Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.
The #IWDNaijaAwards is designed to celebrate women’s achievements & recognizes individuals who have championed women’s political and socioeconomic empowerment in Nigeria and beyond. In a statement by the UNDP office in Nigeria: “The International Women’s Day Gala and Awards seeks to leverage the opportunity of the representation of 11 key countries in Nigeria by women Ambassadors to advocate for increased women representation in political and governance space, incentivise change by publicly recognising women empowerment champions, encourage decision-makers and policy makers to ensure adequate space is created for women in the spheres of policy and decision making and advance women’s political and socio-economic empowerment.”
In addition to having women in senior positions in the United Nations and other multilateral organizations, Nigeria is also fortunate to have women ambassadors in; the Republic of Benin, Burundi, Colombia, Cuba, European Union, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The gala event which attracted attendance of many accomplished women from across civil society, academia, government, the private sector, e.t.c., featured the presentation of awards to deserving individuals in recognition of their efforts and contribution to championing and advancing women’s issues and agenda.
Erelu Bisi Fayemi is a globally renowned feminist writer, policy advocate, gender and development specialist, and social entrepreneur. In 2001, she co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a foundation which has supported the work of over 4,000 women’s rights organisations in 42 African countries, including Nigeria. In her role as the First Lady in Ekiti State, she has led campaigns to enact laws to protect women and girls from physical, economic, mental or sexual violence and improve their status in the state. She is a prolific writer and CEO of Above Whispers, an online community for women. In 2021, she was named amongst 107 Nigerian women “choosing to challenge the systems and structures that perpetuate gender inequality in the country”, by Baobab for Women’s Human Rights.
In her acceptance speech, Erelu Fayemi said: “I am extremely honoured and humbled to receive the Woman Leader of the Year Award. I am genuinely delighted to be nominated in the company of such great women, all of whom are equally deserving of this prestigious award. This award is dedicated to all Nigerian Women. I would like us all to remember that: we are worthy; we are powerful; we have contributed significantly; we are important; we matter.”