Eyez on : Ayobami of Iranwo Initiative
I stumbled on Ayobami a few years ago on Facebook through a series of shared posts creating an awareness of her Women’s Adire shirts. I have always admired her practical and sustainable means to eradicating poverty. You can follow her on Facebook @ Oluwafunmilayo Ayobami Oni. Many thanks to Ayobami for granting me this interview. Enjoy!
TELL US A LITTLE OF YOUR BACKGROUND AND ALL THE THINGS YOU DO FOR A LIVING.
My name is Oni Oluwafunmilayo Ayobami. I am a social entrepreneur who is passionate about creating equal economic opportunities for women and providing access to quality education for disadvantaged children. I am a graduate of Tai Sholarin University of Education where I studied economics and education. In 2016, I founded Iranwo Foundation with the aim of bridging the economic gap between both genders, one community at a time through policy advocacy and the provision of business strategies to end extreme poverty among women.
In 2017, I joined Catering For Africans in Need (CAIN) as the Country Director, CAIN aims to break the vicious cycle of poverty in Africa through the provision of access to education and healthcare for all . In furtherance of my passion for social good, I work as a volunteer intern for Kindle Africa Empowerment Initiative. Kindle Africa is a nonprofit situated at Makoko – The world’s largest floating slum and we provide empowerment programmes for women and access to education for children in this community.
I am most excited when I am opportune to work with woman and children and I continue to seek more opportunities to broaden my horizon.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START IRANWO INITIATIVE? DID YOU START IMMEDIATELY? (IF NO, WHAT PUSHED YOU TO START?) IS THERE A SPECIFIC REASON FOR CHOOSING PRODUCTION OF ADIRE CLOTHES AS THE MEANS TO EMPOWERING THESE WOMEN?
I was inspired to launch my nonprofit because I saw a need. Prior to founding Iranwo, I was an active member of ENACTUS TASUED. ENACTUS is a campus based organization that provides support for students to solve community problems using sustainable models. In the course of these outreach, I realized that most women are at a disadvantage when it comes to harnessing economic opportunities and there is a need for inclusion for women in Nigeria.
One of the lessons I learnt as an ENACTUS was the need to offer value. I would rather help women build sustainable businesses than provide them with food and even money, so I carried out a research on feasible businesses. I realized that Adire was unique, made from locally produced resources, easy to learn and affordable for buyers. I saw Adire as a way to aid the ‘‘Buy Naija to Grow Naija’ mantra so I launched immediately. Interestingly, in all our intervention sites, our beneficiaries already had the knowledge of Tye Dye, they just needed to improve on it and learn sustainable marketing strategies so that they can flourish.
DO YOUR EDUCATIONAL DEGREE(S) HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THE RUNNING OF IRANWO INITIATIVE? IN WHAT WAYS?
I have a love-hate relationship with my undergraduate degree (lol) but Yes, studying Economics and Education has a huge and positive impact on what I do.
Nigeria presently serves as host to the highest number of people living in extreme poverty, and 7 in 10 poor people are women. As an Economist, I learnt about economic trends and how best to tackle issues affecting the economy. My background as an economist enlightened me on the need for women economic empowerment and its effects most especially on ending poverty in households. Studying Education exposed me to the importance of education, the anomalies in Nigeria’s education and sustainable approaches to making education function in Nigeria.
I am also a certified Project Management Personnel and my knowledge on project management sharpened my organizational and leadership skills, widened my horizons and paved way for critical evaluation of intending interventions.
WHAT CHALLENGE(S) DID YOU FACE IN THE BEGINNING? HOW DID YOU COPE? WHAT ARE YOUR PRESENT CHALLENGES?
The biggest challenge the team faced was raising enough funds to empower as many beneficiaries that as we would love to. Eventually, we always had to select women who show a very high level of dedication for our empowerment programmes.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CURB THESE CHALLENGES IN NIGERIA?
To curb the challenges of insufficient funding hindering the reach of nonprofit, I think people should reach out more to trustworthy nonprofits and provide support in their capacity. This support could be in form of cash, resources or even network.
WHAT SACRIFICE(S) HAVE YOU MADE IN THE COURSE OF YOUR WORK?
I have made several sacrifices. In the course of my work as a social entrepreneur, I have sacrificed a large chunk of my allowances into all the community intervention that I have been involved with.
I am happiest when I am curating solutions to enable growth among women and children, so I spend most of my time mapping out sustainable interventions to redistribute income for women and quality education for children.
Other times, I have had to go out of my personal convictions to make things work out for families. Recently, I had to raise funds on social media for a child, it was quite urgent and I never really liked the idea of crowd funding so I was really skeptical about it .Eventually, we raised the needed amount needed and I was really grateful that I did.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ACCOMPLISHMENT?
My favorite accomplishment is Iranwo Foundation’s intervention at Oru Refugee camp in Ogun State of Nigeria.
Working with several women who are living in extreme poverty, with little hope and faith in themselves can be really tasking and at some point it was emotionally draining for the team because we had to work on the refugees morale and help them believe in their selves again
At the end of our Iranwo Foundation’s intervention at Oru refugee camp, not only have we helped women build sustainable businesses, we have also re installed their self-esteem, helping these refugees see themselves as victors rather than victims.
LOOKING BACK WOULD YOU SAY THE PURPOSE FOR CREATING THIS INITIATIVE IS BEING ACHIEVED? WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS FOR IRANWO INITIATIVE?
At Iranwo Foundation, we envision a world where women are not just citizens of a country; rather they are active and participating citizens of a country. Interestingly, since inception we have been able to meet our goals in each community that we visit through our empowerment programmes.
In the last two years, we have provided over 300 women in 4 communities with vocational skills training and business advisory sessions, our most promising beneficiaries have been supported with seed grants and connected with the markets.
In the next 2years, we aspire to have empowered 1000 women in 6 more communities, providing opportunities for development and growth for women in these communities.
WHAT PERSONAL QUALITIES DO YOU BELIEVE THAT HAS HELPED YOU COME THIS FAR? WHAT ARE YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES AS A LEADER?
I am result oriented.
As a leader, I have always strived for results and quality impact rather than the quantity. At every community intervention that I have led, we have always measured our impact. It’s by doing this that Iranwo Foundation has been able to improve the standard of living of 64% of its beneficiaries.
I believe that leaders should focus on few sustainable project or intervention at a time in order for their potentials to manifest.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE MONEY VS PASSION DEBATE? HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN THE BALANCE BETWEEN PERSONAL FINANCIAL NEEDS AND RUNNING A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION?
I believe that money and passion should work together. I have always been a firm supporter of passion for profit and that is why we ensure that our beneficiaries at Iranwo Foundation always have value to offer.
So far, running a nonprofit has deprived me of some personal luxuries which I have continued to put on hold till Iranwo Foundation can conveniently take care of its project but I have always used the scale of preference to determine what should come first and this tool has been helpful in creating a balance. So, I can’t all I want now because of Iranwo Foundation, but I have all I need.
WHAT 3 BOOKS HAVE HELPED YOU IN YOUR PATH?
I will always recommend Ndidi Nwuneli’s “Reaching Millions through Impact for every one trying to build a sustainable organization. I recommend Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner’s “Find Me Unafraid” for everyone who wants to learn how to turn passion for community development into a reality. I also recommend the book ‘Half the Sky” by Nicholas Krisof and Sheryl Wudunn for people who want to understand the problems encountered by women in different communities and how to solve it.
WHAT PERSON(S) IN YOUR FIELD OR NOT INSPIRE YOU?
Oby Ezekwesili is one woman who has continued to demonstrate how to be resilient and courageous regardless of the challenges been faced and she inspires me.
ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE INTERESTED IN STARTING AN NGO OR GETTING INVOLVED IN VOLUNTEER WORK?
I will always advice people who want to launch a nonprofit to carry out thorough research on the problem they want to solve and feasible solutions for the problems before launching. I will also advice that nonprofits tailor their solutions according to the needs of the community and not vice versa.
I believe that when nonprofits do the above, scaling is much easier and faster.
ARE YOU WORKING ON A CURRENT PROJECT? (CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?)
Yes, Iranwo Foundation is presently working with women in Makoko – the world largest floating slum. Our beneficiaries are women living in extreme poverty and we are creating business strategies to combat this issue. Within the next three months, beneficiaries will undergo intensive vocational skills trainings on soap making and Tie Dye production and business advisory sessions to learn marketing strategies. To further our impact, beneficiaries will be provided with seed grants and connected with the market.
Oni Oluwafunmilayo Ayobami is an impact driven young leader who is enthusiastic about creating a world where women have equal economic opportunities as men.
Oluwafunmilayo is the founder of Iranwo Foundation, an organization that create equal economic opportunities for women by assisting them to build small scale labour intensive industries. She has 3 years extensive domestic experience in the design and implementation of sustainable community interventions. Oluwafunmilayo provides business solutions and strategy for organizations to build on and advance new prospects that will tackle challenges facing females within the African States and beyond.
Oluafunmilayo is also passionate about improving the quality of education in Nigeria and this is feasible through position at Catering For Africans In Need (CAIN) as the Country Coordinator and her position as a facilitator at Mind Alignment Centre (MAC). Recently, she was awarded at Ideation Hub Africa as one of the Top 5 under 25 social innovators in Nigeria, she is also a Global Youth Ambassador For Education.
When she is not developing life changing projects for women and children with her team, she will be found volunteering with other organization whose goals aligns with hers. She continues to seek opportunities to broaden her horizon.