My name is Rinsola Abiola.
I am a Public Relations practitioner and an advocate for gender equity and youth inclusion in governance. I currently work as a Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and I’m also a member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Congress.
The principles that drive me include justice, honesty and reciprocity, and my greatest aspiration is to be counted among those who gave their all to making Nigeria a better place.
Most of my work concerning youth and women advocacy is done in the political sphere. As a youth activist, I called for the inclusion of young people in governance and the desire to practise what I preached later led me to join a political party.
My foray into politics began in 2013 when I served as the founding PRO of the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF), a youth support group for the All Progressives Congress, which was then still in its formative stages. As months passed by, one thing that continuously nagged at me was the need to correct the serious underrepresentation of young women in the party’s youth section.
Subsequently, under the guidance of the then interim women leader, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, and the International Republican Institute, we founded the APC Young Women Forum. While the APCYWF serves as a support group for the party, it is, more importantly, a mentorship platform and a vehicle for getting more young women to join mainstream politics.
Why young women? You may ask. The fact remains that one of the reasons we have very few women in government today because the interest in politics was not nurtured from a young age. I initially served as the secretary of the APC-YWF, and I’m now the Ag. President and during my tenure, we have established structures in states across the federation and contributed to the mainstreaming of other young women into politics by joining the Young Women in Politics Forum, an umbrella body for all politically inclined young women.
We have also not just limited ourselves to political activities, as we conduct outreach programmes periodically. For instance, last year, we donated learning materials to children in IDP camps and this journey has been one of perseverance and sacrifice, as our activities have largely been funded by members.
In the course of seeking inclusion for young women, I have been threatened with violence. In the course for speaking up for women’s rights, I have been labelled and called names. In the course of demanding justice for women and children, and indeed everyone, I have been told to be quiet because women are to be seen and not heard.
I am here today because I refused to listen to any of that. I am here now because I vehemently refused to have the toga of silence cast upon me and because I knew I had a light within me and felt an ardent desire to light the path for women who would come after me.
I stand before you at this moment because I took charge of my life and relentlessly pursued my dreams; and it has not been easy but it has certainly been worth it. A ship is safe in harbour but that’s not what ships are built for. I stepped out of my comfort zone and set about achieving my goals and while I may not have done much just yet, I believe the future holds beautiful, fulfilling surprises.
Tonight, I call upon us all to come together and press for progress in politics, education and wealth creation…and all other areas where women are grossly underrepresented.