Inspirational Person: Toju Adelaja, Equal rights advocate

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Toju Adelaja is only 14, but is already a strong voice for gender equality. She believes this topic is of utmost importance, not only to women, but to the world at large. She currently lives in England, but grew up in Nigeria.

Toju, at such a young age, you seem to have really explored the issues facing the world today, and have been courageous enough to tackle some of them, such as gender equality. Where was your passion for gender equality born?

 

My passion for gender equality was born at home. Although I love my family, I was told that I should move and compromise my life – all for one ultimate purpose, to get married. That was the spark. I simply couldn’t (and still can’t) understand why that standard wasn’t held for my brother.  I will devote as much as I can to help with women’s rights, because it is the right thing to do.

 

What is one success story that has inspired you recently about gender equality, and why did it inspire you?

 

The story of Margaret Keane, which was recently featured in the film Big Eyes. She was an artist in the 1950’s whose husband took the credit for her work. After many years, Margaret decided to expose this deception, going through both a divorce and lawsuit in the process. It made me realize that, in a time where women standing up for themselves was unheard of, Margaret had the courage to push forward for what she believed in. I’m growing up in a generation which is much more progressive (although certainly not perfect). Who am I not to stand up? I have nothing holding me back.

 

What are some initiatives that could help to encourage gender equality

 

Schools could educate about human rights and gender based discrimination. I go to an all girl’s school, an environment where you would think that women’s rights would be at the forefront, but this isn’t the case. I remember an instance where we were taught some rapists go without charge because their victims were wearing short skirts (in an attempt to influence students clothing choice). To encourage gender equality, girls should be educated about their rights and working towards solutions to real world issues that will affect them. Equally important is boys education in gender equality, sexual respect, and expression of emotions. Inappropriate sexually aggressive jokes are still socially acceptable, education is essential to help them understand the implication of their actions.

 

Who are your role models, who are making a big difference for gender equality, and what do you appreciate most about them?

 

I have quite a few role models actually:
  • Emma Watson recently was the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launching the HeForShe campaign. Prior to this, she inspired me as despite her great success as a actress and model, she decided to go to renowned Brown University, unlike many of her peers.
  • Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate (17). She managed to turn a tragic situation around. Instead of being a victim, she used her situation to inspire so many including young women like myself. She is just an ordinary girl, who wanted to make a difference, so went ahead and did.
  • Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie: is from Nigeria, like me, novelist and short story writer, as well as well known for her TED Talk on why everyone should be feminists. I lover her approach, as well as her collaboration with Beyonce which helped to make feminism a global topic.

 
Finally, if you could imagine a world where gender equality was achieved – what would it look like? How will we know we’ve gotten there?
 

It would be more peaceful and balanced, I think. Women would be encouraged in politics, more respected in society, better represented in media, achieve equal pay, and have the same educational opportunities. When we get there, there will be no need for campaigns, as each gender will respect and support one another.

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{Interested in other Q&A’s with Inspirational People? Check them out here}

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