In holding true to ancient wisdom, we must continue to evolve and flow.
I was privileged yesterday to honour the invitation of His Imperial Majesty, Alaiyeluwa Arole Odua, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, The Ooni of Ife, to Chair the Launch and Public Presentation of Unspoken: Oba Obinrin, a chronicle not of Queens, but of Female Kings of the ancient yoruba culture and tradition.
Celebrating historical female royal leadership, hitherto unspoken, and thus unknown and unlearnt by so many generations, was to me, a fitting path from a gender precipice to stronger engendered ground in our dear nation, on the last and final day of #WomensHistoryMonth around the world.
In my Chairman’s address, I traced the journey and evolution of the role and status of women in Nigeria from precolonial times to the early 21st century – throughout which women have played a major role in social and economic activities, also highlighting also the strong recognition within our yoruba tradition of the philosophy and perception of Abiyamo: The Yoruba concept of Motherhood, as a unique matriarchal leadership model.
As a female leader, Pioneer Member and Steering Council Member of the UN Women’s African Women Leaders Network Initiative globally and in Nigeria respectively, a member of the ICPD25 International Steering Council and Founder and President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, an NGO which works to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for women, infants and children, advocacy for women and the girl child across Nigeria, I stand on the shoulders of the Yoruba heroines who have come before me. It is their strength, their sacrifice and their legacy that has allowed me to face all challenges with boldness and without fear.
As a member of His Imperial Majesty The Ooni of Ife’s Caucus of Eminent Yoruba Sons and Daughters, I am inspired by the works of Queen Moremi Ajasoro and the legendary Ooni Luwo Gbagada of the Ancient Ife, the trailblazing Pupupu of Ondo kingdom, Alaafin Orompotoniyun of Old Oyo kingdom and the memorable female Awujales of Ijebu-Ode.
Alaafia, my central motto promotes the attainment of a state of peace, wellbeing and harmony for our mothers, our Abiyamo, their newborns, their families and communities. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa frontline initiatives and my advocacy are based on the theme Alaafia, to establish, promote and positively impact the health and wellbeing of women and children, families and communities. Through the culture of promoting Alaafia throughout the 670 communities where we now work in Lagos, Cross River, Kaduna, Kwara, Osun, Sokoto, Kano States and the Federal Capital of Abuja, we are empowering and engendering the rise of our women and girls through effective frontline programmatic actions and strategic partnerships
Women in the Yoruba world view appear as ‘water’ the primordial element, thus there is a tendency to characterise women as an object that can flow across spaces and leave indelible marks in time. According to Yoruba beliefs, water is the essence of life. So is a woman who brings forth children. She ensures the continuity of the life of the lineage and of the community. Indeed, the ancient Yoruba declaratory prayer ‘Oju-Oro ni ileke omi’ implores those seeking success, strength and superiority to stay on top of water, and thus evolve and flow.
The Alaafia Agenda’s constant and consistent reinforcement, renewal and replenishment of sustainable development actions is in itself a validation of historical culture and tradition. It is only through our joint efforts as pathfinders that we can bring to current and contemporary life – the Yoruba tradition and culture and its pillars of female leadership enshrined in our history by Alaafin Omopoto the first woman to become “king” of the Oyo Empire and Ooni Lúwo Gbàgìdá the 21st Ooni of Ife in the 10th century. Our shared past has given us a special identity, Alaafia Abiyamo, and equally a shared future for our common and universal wellbeing as crowned, uncrowned and acknowledged Oba Obinrin.
We must and will rise to our obligation and the fulfilment that history has bestowed on us, as pathfinders, for our women, for our children, for our menfolk, our ecosystem of communities, and for our leaders of tomorrow.