Erelu Bisi Fayemi is a feminist activist, gender specialist, social entrepreneur, policy advocate, and social change philanthropy practitioner. She co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund, (AWDF) – the first Africa-wide grant-making fund, and served as the first Executive Director from 2001-2010. AWDF has played a key role in the promotion of feminist movement building in Africa.
She is currently Principal Partner, Amandla Consulting, specializing in leadership development for women, and she runs an online community called abovewhispers.com.
She is a UN Women Nigeria Senior Advisor, and was recently appointed a visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College, University of London.
When her husband Dr Kayode Fayemi took office as Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria, October 16th 2010-2014, Bisi Fayemi became actively involved in a range of policy advocacy, grassroots empowerment and social inclusion programs in Ekiti State. She led the campaign to enact a Gender Based Violence Prohibition Law (2011) an Equal Opportunities Bill (2013) and a HIV Anti-Stigma Bill (2014).
She serves on the Executive Boards of the African Women’s Development Fund, and the Global Fund for Women USA. She is Chair of the Advisory Council of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund and also serves on the Governing Council of Elizade University, Nigeria. She is the author of ‘Speaking for Myself’: Perspectives on Social, Political and Feminist Activism in Africa (2013), ‘Speaking above a Whisper’, (2013) an autobiography and ‘Loud Whispers’ (2017) She also co-edited ‘Voice, Power and Soul’, with Jessica Horn (2008) a compilation of images and stories of African Feminists.
Assuming office as the wife of the governor of Ekiti, some of the issues that she would probably be addressing among women in Ekiti state would include Gender Based Violence Prohibition Bill, Ekiti State Equal Opportunities Bill as well as HIV & AIDS Anti-Stigmatization among others.
In this interview with Ekiti Rising, she bears her mind on her focus as the incoming First Lady of Ekiti. Excerpt:
What will be the focus of your office as the First Lady of Ekiti State?
My role as the First Lady of Ekiti State is primarily to support my husband in every way possible. I see that as my main focus. My husband is the incoming Governor because Ekiti people trusted him and voted for him. He is going to be under a lot of pressure to make good on all his promises and commitments. He will not be able to please everybody or do everything. It is my duty to help add value to his administration. During his first term, I was involved in policy advocacy, supporting women into leadership positions, community mobilization, social welfare programs for the needy and relationship building. I intend to continue these things and carry out any additional assignment my husband gives to me.
People say you are a good politician, and you wield a lot of influence. It is also believed that your husband listens to you. Is this true?
For any leader to succeed, it is advisable that they work in partnership with their spouse. All I can do is advise my husband. I do not make decisions on his behalf. He is not only my husband and head of the family, he is my political leader. Of course, there are times when I feel strongly about something and I push hard, but I also know when not to take on a lost cause. For example, I feel strongly about women having a role in governance, and I resent the unfairness of using women for political access only to dump them when it comes to giving out positions. I listen to people’s concerns and issues and I make myself available in ways my husband is unable to because of his schedule. When I make a case to my husband about anything or anyone, he knows that the only agenda I have is protecting or promoting his interests.
How will you work with JKF’s administration to improve the quality of lives of our women, particularly the rural women and aged ones?
During his first term, I had programs such as the Ekiti Development Foundation, The Multiple Births Trust Fund, the Ekiti Food Bank and Soup Kitchen and so on. I will revisit all these initiatives, with some modifications though, because they supported hundreds of Ekiti families and lifted them out of poverty. I will also help with sensitization and mobilization around government programs such as the Social Security Scheme, Health Programs, new opportunities in Agriculture and so on.
How would you want the people of Ekiti State to remember you at the end of your husband’s tenure in 2022?
I would like to be remembered as a wife and mother who cared for her people and tried her best for them.
What is your message to the good people of Ekiti who voted for your husband as the Governor of Ekiti State for a second term?
I thank the good people of Ekiti State from the bottom of my heart. I promise them that my husband will not disappoint them, he will try his best to fulfill all his promises and he will be worthy of the mandate he has been given. Please don’t stop praying for us.