Hafsat Abiola

Ashoka Fellow
Lagos, Nigeria
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Hafsat Abiola was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Nigerian culture is decidedly patriarchal, and opportunities for women to contribute to the work force or to shape the country's transformation to democracy remain limited. Moreover, young women grow up with few role models in the country or region to show them that they can succeed, that they can and should make a huge difference. Hafsat believes that the only way to significantly lessen–and someday end–gender discrimination in Nigeria is for women to emerge as competent, assured leaders. To serve the needs of young women who show promise as leaders, she has created the first intensive leadership selection process and program in Nigeria. She finds young women leaders–ages 18 to 30–and helps them succeed by providing validation, stimulation, and support from peers, management and leadership training, mentoring from mature leaders, and a deep appreciation for themselves as changemakers. The program refines and shapes participants' instincts to lead and helps the young women see effective avenues for contribution. Through their success and positive contribution in a variety of fields, Hafsat sees that "graduates" of her program will demonstrate that women are as central to the functioning of society as men, and that representation and rights ought to be allotted in equal portions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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