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Connected Women Leaders (CWL) is primarily a resource hub, and in that spirit we want the biographies of our members to be informational about their individual work and the connections that CWL is strengthening for collective problem solving.

Each week, we are posting interviews with our members. This week we spoke with Co-Founder Hafsat Abiola, one of the three Connected Women Leader founders and managing partners.

Read on to learn more about Hafsat’s passion for feminist leadership and her understanding of what it means to be a Connected Woman Leader in Nigeria.

What about our present moment requires the launch of Connected Women Leaders? Was there anything specific about our ‘now’ to you that illuminated the need that Connected Women Leaders fills?

 In her latest book, Own It: The Secret to Life, Diane von Furstenberg offers a collection of words to live by. One of the words she chose is ‘Connect,’ about which she says, 

“To Connect is to use our magic wand to create the human chain of love. It is paying attention to others, understanding their needs, and knowing that a few words or a simple introduction can change their lives.” 

There is consensus that the world is in dire need of a global reset. Considering the past and continuing experiences of misogyny and patriarchy, it takes a lot of courage for women to not only step forward, but to take on the most salient issues of our time – issues that are at the heart of the inequalities and flaws within our global economic, social, and political systems. Yet with humanity living beyond the limits of the material conditions that can sustain human life on our planet, we must have those courageous women that can pull us all from the brink. 

By connecting the leading women of our time, strengthening their leadership, and urging their action on these pressing issues, CWL has the power to change the course of human history, one courageous woman at a time. 

Hafsat Abiola speaking with Women Political Leaders in a conversation regarding racial injustice and gender inequality, August 2020

The CWL cohort spans a multitude of sectors, from the arts to business to government – why was it crucial to you to build bridges across this diverse network of women and roles to fulfill CWL’s mission?

 One of the effects of the modern era is that people have become experts in narrower and narrower fields. The unintended consequence is that leaders can often only speak about limited subjects, and movements tend to work only on their specific areas of expertise. So although the majority of people may be affected by our current reality, they are fragmented into different causes. 

Through CWL, we can provide women leaders with diverse experts, so they can get a complete – or fuller – picture of the current challenges and what must be done to face them. The task at hand is to pull humanity from the brink and set us on a path that is enlightened and responsible, but only the enlightened and responsible can drive the effort, and CWL will enable women leaders to play their part in the effort.

Part of CWL’s mission is highlighting and inspiring female activists. Do you have any specific message to the newest generation of female leaders looking to CWL’s Resource Hub on ways to make an impact?

 My specific message to the newest generation of female leaders who are looking to CWL’s Resource Hub on ways to make an impact is to work with others. When I was an activist fighting for democracy in Nigeria, I worked with activists from Amnesty International. They were interested in our cause because there were political prisoners imprisoned by Nigerian military’s government due to their involvement in the democratic struggle. 

I worked with GreenPeace, who were interested in our cause because the oil pollution in the Niger Delta had led to unrest in the oil-rich communities in Nigeria. 

I worked with the labour unions around the world, who were mobilized by the fact that oil workers had been arrested by the military government for protesting continued military rule. 

I worked with the African American churches, who were themselves organized by the anti-apartheid civil society organizations. Working across the different communities strengthened our campaign, and ultimately, the military returned to the barracks, restoring democracy in Nigeria.

Connections generate power. Power leads to change. 

Connections generate power. Power leads to change.

Can you each speak to a specific issue within CWL’s priority areas or female activist that you are currently following closely? Is there any specific content on the site that readers can go to learn more about that issue or person?

The issue that I feel most strongly about within CWL’s priority areas is feminist activism. It has to underscore all the other pillars. The goal is not to simply have women leaders in equal proportion to men leaders, it is to change the way power is exercised so that it reflects our best values as human beings. It is to ensure there is accountability in the exercise of power. It is to wrest power away from vested interests and ensure that it is deployed in a way that allows for fairness, justice and equity. 

That requires courage. 

Vision. 

Ethics.

Practice. 

These are the elements that feminist activism nurtures. These elements are desperately needed to impact our present and change our future. 

Join the community

Meaningful transformation can only be created when we work together. There’s room for everyone within CWL’s charge for change – as both members and allies to our mission. Find out how you fit within Connected Women Leaders’ goals.

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