Having experienced the challenges vulnerable young girls from low-income communities face in getting an education, Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin decided to change the narrative.
EM got the chance to have an interview with this phenomenal woman and here are her answers. Do have a pleasant read.
Please tell us about yourself?
My name is Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, an advocate for the education and empowerment of girls and women.
I founded a non-governmental organization, Pearls Africa Youth Foundation, which focuses on promoting the cause and advancement of vulnerable young girls and women in underserved and underprivileged communities in Nigeria for the purpose of economic independence.
In my free time I like to watch movies and I particularly enjoy playing pickleball. I’m currently reading Atomic Habit and highly recommend it.
How long have you been in this field?
I’ve been doing my work for over a decade now, but it honestly feels like less since I’m continuously learning new things.
Why did you decide to go into this field?
I like to think that I didn’t choose the field, but the field chose me. I’d known about the growing area of computer science for quite a while, but like many women, I never saw myself as having the capability to venture into the field and perform well.
It wasn’t till my older brother, Tolu, introduced me to the founder of EDP IT Audit, Christian Ekeigwe, that I took the leap of faith to go down the path of computing.
Working in the IT audit firm further sparked my interest in computers, and I immersed myself in the industry, deciding to become a computer programmer and data analyst.
Throughout my journey, I couldn’t help thinking of others like me, women who were also interested in computer science but simply lacked the means and mentoring to push their interests.
That’s why I decided to create Pearls Africa Youth Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers women and girls in underserved communities to reach higher and achieve economic advancement through hands-on activities and education in IT.
Tips on how you started
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a solid network.
Especially when I was first starting and didn’t have the required funds to start up smoothly. It was my personal relationships and network of friends that provided me with technical support and partnerships that eventually led to having more experience and a trustworthy track record.
I’d also like to point out that your connections should be varied and don’t have to always be established in your field.
I remember often making visits to rural communities, having discussions with parents and community elders, and also visiting orphanages and public schools.
This gave me ample footing and foundation for those that I would serve in my organization.
You are a force to reckon with within society, how did you grow to this level?
That’s an interesting question. I believe that one cannot become such a force without the support of members of society to help you.
I am thankful to our partners for their trust in the cause of empowering the girl child, I am thankful for the great team and volunteers.
Thankful for the parents of our beneficiaries for believing in the image of their daughters that we painted for them. Without all these drivers of change, there’s no way we could have achieved much.
Above all I will forever be thankful to God for this vision of knowing what exactly to do and being consistent in the work, even in the face of obstacles.
How do you define success?
I think Maya Angelou’s way of defining success resonates with me the most, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
As I’m growing older, I’ve increasingly realized the importance of understanding oneself. In the past, I’d often find myself structuring my life towards things I thought others would find impressive, but I’d feel like I was missing something.
After all, what good is achieving “success” if you don’t feel happy while doing it. I now take a more balanced approach to life and seek work and experiences that give me a sense of purpose rather than looking for the validation of others.
And it’s made me immensely more content with my life.
If you’d had the chance to start your career over again, what would you differently
I wouldn’t do anything differently. While I can look back and think of experiences that weren’t positive or cringe at some of my actions, I believe that the sum of every experience I’ve had, both good and bad, are the reason I stand here today.
And without them, I probably wouldn’t have matured in the way that I have or become the dynamic person I enjoy being.
What sets you apart?
It’s the knowledge that at my core I’m no different from the most and least successful people that I know.
It’s simply a mindset and once I’ve chosen a mindset that serves my goals, I can achieve virtually anything I put my mind to. I’ve always had a never-give-up attitude, I’ve kept forging ahead and it has kept me going over the years, even when I was not sure where my life was going to end up.
I believe in the concept of “Kaizen” a Japanese word for “constant and never-ending improvement”.
I have held on to this concept for over a decade and I still believe it.
You are an inspiration to many, who/what inspires you?
I’m heavily inspired by my family and friends. I’ve been blessed to meet people throughout my life that have always been willing to help me improve myself.
I know that if I am deemed an inspirational woman today, it’s because I’ve been surrounded by inspirational men and women who’ve refused to give up on their goals.
What motivates you?
As cliche as it may sound, seeing the positive impact that my work has had in girls’ lives has been my driving force.
It’s just amazing to watch girls who once had very limited information, exposure, education, and enlightenment, transform into their own forces to be reckoned with.
Witnessing their struggle and seeing those young women grow and improve has pushed me to continually show up as a better version of myself.
If you were to write a book about yourself, what would the title be?
As fate would have it, I already have an autobiographical book!
It’s called “I Woke Up At 30”, and it details my ups and downs as I struggled with feeling like I had underperformed in life and how I decided to pick myself from my bootstraps despite being at what I considered to be an ‘advanced’ age. Highly recommend it (lol)
Please kindly share some of your secrets to becoming successful?
I like to say that success (as you define it) isn’t about secrets but consistency.
Once you define what’s important to you, it’s your responsibility to show up for yourself time after time.
Engaging in something and not getting the result you want when you want it can be very disappointing, but I believe that with consistency, the result will come eventually.
What advice will you give you to youths with the zeal to grow?
Stay true to yourself! The world will always try to define your wants and dreams for you.
So, it’s absolutely imperative that you remain self-aware enough to be selective about the people and ideas you use to define yourself.
That way you won’t ever feel like you’re being carried away by life but actively choosing to carve your own path.
Also, trust your own growth process, the fact that life may not be working out based on your set timelines is not an implication that things will not eventually fall into place.
What an insightful read, you can know more about her via her social media handle @ Msabisoye On Instagram