#ImpactandCommunitySeries: “As a woman you have multiple roles and you need to learn to delegate and follow-through, but parenting cannot be delegated.” Iwalola Akin-Jimoh, Co-Founder, Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF)

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh

Iwalola is a public health specialist, a Nutritionist and an avid sports lover. She has first and post-graduate degrees in Human Nutrition from University of Ibadan. At the age of 25 years she won the MacArthur Foundation Fund for leadership Development grant, which she used for 3 years to study and identify the gaps in reproductive health services for adolescents in South-West Nigeria. Iwalola was a lecturer at the Department of Vocational and Technical Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1996, she also worked at the UAC, Nigeria in 1999 as a Management Trainee in UAC Foods. She was the past Executive Director of Ovie Brume Foundation, a civil society organization that focuses primarily on education, livelihoods, health, and leadership development and currently the Executive Secretary of Youth Empowerment Foundation, an organization she co-founded in 1995. She has over 3 decades of experience working in the civil society sector within and outside Nigeria.

Iwalola is on the board of 4 civil society organizations in Nigeria: Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF), Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), Development Communications Network (Devcoms) and Ovie Brume Foundation. YEF in it’s 25 years of existence has continued to impact young people in the area of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health using sports for development, centre-based and outreach programs across South-West and North-Central Nigeria. YEF started the first HIV/AIDS hotline in Nigeria in 2000, which was expanded by NACA in 2005. This line was adapted to provide gender based violence (GBV) counseling and support during the lockdown and currently reaches out through a media based Yoruba and pidgin English program, “Alafia Tayo” to women in South-West and North-Central Nigeria. She is also the Executive Director of Fitness Konnections, a community-based fitness centre in New Lagos.

Iwalola has a wide experience in public health, HIV/AIDS, strategic behavior change health communication (SBCC), education, livelihoods, nutrition and project management with more than 22 years professional experience at the community level. Iwalola believes very strongly in capacity-building for individuals and communities, as a means of establishing effective and sustainable communities. She was a Choice USA fellow (1999) for women in the field of reproductive health and also a Vital Voices Fellowship beneficiary for women leaders in the World (2013-2015). 

Iwalola is a JCI Senator, which is a life-time honor and membership of Junior Chamber International. She has received several awards from JCI Nigeria and is very active locally.

She promotes sports extensively for adolescents and young girls in particular, with special emphasis on martial arts and football. A mother of 2 lovely daughters and a son, she loves Judo(has a brown belt), Taekwondo(has a black belt), listening to good music and reading books on philosophy, nutrition and health.


Leading Ladies Africa: Who is Iwalola Akin-Jimoh? 

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh: Iwalola Akin-Jimoh is the Executive Secretary of Youth Empowerment Foundation. She is a vibrant leader who sets her mind on a course and does not look back until she sees the course to a logical conclusion. She does not have impossible in her list of vocabularies. She sees the good in people and believes every child has a rainbow in them waiting to be discovered.  Iwalola is quiet and an epitome of humility and grace. She is a positive enthusiast, who invests her time in youth development and empowerment based on her love for young people. Iwa is a mother of 2 lovely ladies and a boy and believes families are the needed foundations of excellence in the community and country at large.

Iwalola has a wide experience in public health, strategic behavior change health communication (SBCC), education, livelihoods, nutrition and project management with more than 22 years professional experience at the community level. Iwalola believes very strongly in capacity-building for individuals and communities, as a means of establishing effective and sustainable communities. She was a Choice USA fellow (1999) for women in the field of reproductive health and also a Vital Voices Fellowship beneficiary for women leaders in the World (2013-2015). Iwalola is a JCI Senator and life member of the Junior Chamber International and has benefited from Leadership Training sessions at Wharton School Aresty Institute of Executive Education and Vital Voices.

Iwalola is a trained Nutritionist and has over 3 decades of experience supporting various clients and patients in improving their overall health and wellness through tailored meal plans and exercise schedules. She co-founder Youth Empowerment Foundation with her sister Fiwasade at the age of 25. YEF reaches young people on their tuft with bespoke programs and projects to enhance their leadership, employability and business development skills. Working out of 3 offices in Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja, YEF promotes martial arts as a tool for improving self-discipline, self-defense and mental alertness.

 

Leading Ladies Africa: Can you share some of your Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work?

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh: There are several actually but the ones that impacts me the most are when I meet ladies who have passed through our Foundation and have excelled in their professions, but in particular are the ones who pay it forward by starting girls clubs in their communities or place of work. I recall I attending an international conference and a girl we had worked with from junior secondary school was able to stand, present and share her story on teenage pregnancy and gender based violence without reference to any written document. It’s a bit about cloning ourselves in the next generation and you can take a back seat at some time soon. I also recall 1 of our ladies who stood out as a very powerful anchor for a radio program on life skills and girl child empowerment, those were indeed memorable for me.

When COVID started we were able to create a support structure through the media.., “Alafia Tayo” for gender based violence. Sometimes when you start something new, you never know how impactful it will be…, keep going at it and you will be amazed at how much young people and women will benefit at the end of the day. 

In some of the sites in Nigeria where we work, parents clamour to have their children go to schools where we have our programs running. Initially I was stunned until I experienced and observed it first- hand.

As a Nutritionist and civil society person, there are several moments and sessions that are just testimonies to what God can do through you as an individual. I honestly return all glory to God for positioning me, staff at YEF and several other stakeholders to bring about sustainable change in lives of girls, women and youth in Nigeria.  

Leading Ladies Africa: With how far you’ve come, and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next 5 years?

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh: There is just so much to do and we have our strategy in place that keeps us focused. We look forward to being the civil society organization of choice to partner with on girl child and women empowerment in Africa. For leadership development of young people we are positioned nationally based on our values and the trust our communities have in us to deliver and support this process effectively. We believe so much is this generation of young people and youth and we will continue to invest our time and resources in them.

YEF will be a reference point globally for research and programs on the girl child, women and youth.

 

Leading Ladies Africa: Can you briefly share some women you consider mentors?

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh: I do have mentors and accountability partners now but because I was really young when I started out, my hands holding was done by Professor Bolanle Awe. She believed in me and ensured I had the needed support structures as a young 25 year old starting out in the world of civil society. My mother is also my personal mentor and support, she is a strong goal-getter and you grow up knowing you just have to excel and put in “more than your best”. I personally believe that as a woman you should always “pay it forward” by mentoring young ladies and being accountability partners to each other. “Within your space do good always” and encourage your sisters (women) at all times.

Do you have a life philosophy, personal mantra perhaps that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?

Iwalola Akin-Jimoh: There is always light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bad things are now…., it can only get better. And honestly “darkness is the absence of light”.

I personally thrive on challenges and I’ve learnt to take them in my strides as stepping stones to a higher call. As a woman you have multiply roles and you need to learn to delegate and follow-through, but “parenting cannot be delegated”. We have a lot of dysfunctional individuals as a result of “missing parents and guardians”. 

Having a personal relationship with God is very important and seeing the “God factor” in everything is key. Accessing supernatural intelligence and divine wisdom at all times sets you apart.

 

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