Soroptimist International is delighted to introduce you to Ayodeji Bello, an ambitious and accomplished young woman, and one of our SI Road to Equality #SoroptimistSix. So vital on our Road to Equality – your support of the President’s Appeal, 2019-2021 will empower Ayo and others in their work within their own countries at the grassroots level, to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Marriage.
“I am a strong and vibrant voice against the practice of harmful traditions in Nigeria. With a background in Sociology and Anthropology, I have vast experience in Leadership, Advocacy, Youth Engagements, Public speaking, Public and project management, Counseling, Civic and Ethical Leadership, Volunteering, Policy formulation and implementation, Social development, and Non-Governmental Organisation management.
My journey of advocating against FGM/C began seven years ago as a volunteer, and I proceeded to Found the Initiative for Girls’ Right and Health Development in 2015, as I needed my own platform to ensure FGM/C ends in this generation. As a survivor of FGM/C, my reason for campaigning against FGM/C is simple; I simply do not want other girls to go through what I went through.
At a very tender age, I was mutilated by my grandmother but instead of brooding over the implications the experience has brought my way, I have decided to lend my voice strongly against the practice.
More than visiting communities with my crude passion, I became a professional campaigner after graduating from the Global Media Campaign End FGM Academy where I was taught medical facts about FGM, the Law and FGM, Media Campaign strategies, Ethical Reporting and Amplifying Activism in May 2016.
My campaign strategy and style is to replace the practice of FGM/C with Comprehensive Sexuality Education which has been very productive. Research, Media (Electronic, Print, and Social), Teaching/ Sensitising/ Storytelling, are my major tools for crusading positive social change against FGM/C.
In my journey as a campaigner, I have worked with traditional rulers, religious leaders, local cutters, midwives, youths and other influential stakeholders in various communities.
My greatest success story so far is getting the most influential traditional ruler, spiritual leader and number one person of the Yoruba race, The Ooni of Ife to join my campaign against FGM/C in Nigeria. That recognition and support from His Imperial Majesty the Ooni of Ife brought about a drastic reduction in the practice as other Royal fathers who look up to Ooni joined the end FGM/C moving train. This was a first in Nigeria, because we are very keen on cultural practices and coming from the Ooni made it seem like a mystery.
Through the support of GMC, I have been on more than 20 national television, radio and newspapers with an estimated reach of more than 150,000,000 creating comprehensive awareness on the need to abandon FGM/C.
I am also intentionally carrying religious leaders along in my advocacy. I have been to communities within Osun, Lagos, Ogun, and Ibadan to engage stakeholders in peaceful negotiations, community dialogues, and sensitisation workshops.
I also run a counseling centre which helps me serve as a support system to other survivors of Female Genital Mutilation, breast ironing and other harmful traditional practices and so far, I have supported 58 survivors and settled family disputes that have roots in FGM/C.
I have been a part of lots of policy-making meetings and implementation on the field and currently pushing for the legalisation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria.
I am currently working on #EducateDontMutilate aka #SheMustKnow, which I launched in July 2019, a project aimed at teaching young people all they need to know about FGM/C and the importance of Comprehensive Sexuality Education with the help of a four-week curriculum on sexual and reproductive health and rights, I designed. With this project, I understand that young people are future parents and they have a vital role in ensuring their future daughters are not mutilated, so I plan to catch them young by spreading the end FGM gospel. Through #EducateDontMutilate I hope, with your help, to reach more than 132,000 young people before 2030.
Funding is a major challenge for many activists especially youth activists in Africa. Lack of funding keeps one incapacitated and I am glad Soroptimist International is looking to help other youth activists and me in their way.
I have done so much to end FGM/C in Nigeria but so much still has to be done to ensure women and girls decide what happens to their life and body. The laws against FGM/C in my state are only written on paper and not functioning as there have been no prosecutions. Come 2020, I look forward to tackling the ineffectiveness of the laws by working closely with law enforcers. I also look forward to running a TV show which will help me reach a wider audience, and I believe the sky is my limit, with the support of Soroptimist International and I can bridge the gap between Soroptimist International and the influential religious and traditional rulers in Nigeria, whilst sharing my story in detail to you, through Soroptimist International platforms”.
Please follow Ayo on Twitter to keep up with her latest work @Ayobello0
Please donate through your federation to the SI Road to Equality Appeal 29019-2021 to support Ayo and the other five youth activists in their work to #EndFGM