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Young Entrepreneur Of The Week: Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade

This week’s young entrepreneur of the week is a lawyer, social entrepreneur, politician, and many more who challenged the status quo to stand out in a male-dominated field. She is the newly appointed Executive Secretary of Lateef Jakande Academy. Meet Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade.

 

Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade

 

Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade is an accomplished lawyer, social entrepreneur, public servant, and youth and gender advocate. She is committed to finding sustainable solutions to social inequalities through economic development and social inclusion. Her impressive educational background includes a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, a postgraduate degree in International Relations and Democratic Politics at the University of Westminster, and professional certifications from various prestigious institutions.

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Mrs Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade

Ayisat's journey into government and politics began when she changed her mindset about activism. She went into governmental organisations to explore the extent to which she could initiate change from within institutions rather than just being an activist on the outside. Ayisat believes it is even more crucial for changes to happen within institutions rather than through constant external pressure. This has driven her to pursue a career in public service. Her contribution to improving the well-being of people has been significant. One of her many initiatives was pioneering the development of Kurmin Kaduna, a community of over 15,000 people who lack basic infrastructure, such as clean water and healthcare. She also created and initiated the Kaduna Marathon and served as a director and co-lead.


Ayisat's latest appointment as the Executive Secretary of Lateef Jakande Academy by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is a demonstration of her hard work and dedication. The institute offers mentorship to the next generation of young Nigerian leaders, and Ayisat supports the creation of this leadership and fellowship institution under the leadership of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.


In breaking the barrier, her experience in Nigerian politics has made her tough and not succumb to traditional norms and cultural expectations that will hinder her political participation in Nigerian politics. She sorts to take the "bull by the horns." Her representation in the Political domain inspires her family, women, and the youth, including those who believe that politics is not a suitable career for women. However, Ayisat feels young women bring different perspectives and ingenious ideas to politics. Women often have a unique understanding of issues and can advocate for policies that address these concerns. Young women in politics can serve as role models and inspire other young women to get involved in civic engagement and leadership roles.


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Ayisat describes success as a multifaceted concept. She defines success by the positive impact she makes on others and their community. Also, contributing to a cause or making a difference in the lives of others is her indicator of success. Another way she estimates victory is the ability to achieve a balance between various aspects of life, such as work, family, health, and personal interests. She states that;

"success is about achieving goals and objectives that are meaningful to you, and the path to success can be as unique as you are." - Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade

Ayisat emphasises that prioritising the pursuit of your passions and achieving success is crucial. The motivation and dedication derived from a genuine love for your work is a potent driving force. This zeal often brings innovation and creativity, fostering generations of ideas and solutions. The journey of pursuing your passions and striving for success also acts as a motivation for personal growth and the expansion of your skills and knowledge base.


Being a part of activities that align with your passions and contribute significantly to your sense of fulfilment and happiness, infusing your life with joy and a profound sense of purpose. Her sources of motivation are her desire to leave a lasting legacy and create a positive impact that extends beyond her lifetime. She believes she represents those before her, those on this journey with her, and those to come after her. Ayisat owes it to them and herself to emerge as a leader promoting a fair and just society. Nevertheless, her pursuit of self-improvement and personal growth motivates her daily. As a young person, she seeks to continuously learn, acquire new skills, and challenge herself to become the best.


Ayisat advises young individuals to gain an understanding of the political systems, government structures, and the issues that matter most to their community. Getting involved in political campaigns, community organisations, or volunteer work related to their areas of interest is important. She suggests that young people can develop a platform that outlines their position on key topics and communicates their vision for positive change. They should strive to be inclusive and represent the diverse perspectives of their constituency. Listening to and engaging with people from all walks of life is essential.


Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade is an inspiring young woman who has made tremendous contributions to improving the well-being of people in Nigeria. She is a role model for young women who aspire to venture into politics. Her passion for effecting change within institutions is admirable, and her commitment to leaving a lasting legacy and creating a positive impact is edifying. Her work is proof that hard work and dedication can lead to success.


 
Interview
 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. For example: (Your name, what you do, your educational background, achievements, basically everything that makes you who you are today).

My name is Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade. I am a Lawyer, Social Entrepreneur, Public Servant, Entrepreneur, Youth and Gender Advocate. I am committed to finding sustainable solutions to social inequalities through economic development and social inclusion. I have a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, a postgraduate degree in International Relations and Democratic Politics, and professional certifications in Government from Harvard Extension School, Scholarly Research from Transcontinental University, Circular Economy and Sustainability Strategies from the University of Cambridge, and Policy and Strategic Studies from NIPPS, among other prestigious institutions. I began my career in 2014 as a legal and administrative assistant at Kimberly Wayne and Diamond Solicitors in London.


In 2015, I joined the Hyde Group as a project officer in London. Then, the Outreach Associate for Inclusion at NCS the Challenge in Waterloo, London, created successful, long-term relationships with local authorities and community organisations. As an advocate for social change, I believe that it is even more crucial for changes to happen from within institutions rather than through constant external pressure, thereby ensuring there are individuals within the system who represent those ideals. This has driven me to pursue a career in public service. In 2019, I became the Special Assistant to the Governor of Kaduna State. During my tenure, I significantly contributed to improving the well-being of the residents in the state. One such initiative was pioneering the development of Kurmin Kaduna, a community of over 15,000 people who lack basic infrastructure, such as clean water and healthcare. I also created and initiated the Kaduna Marathon and served as a director and co-lead. I am an alumna of the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship.


Still committed to embodying the change I wish to see, I am a political appointee in the Lagos State Government. Lagos State is home to over 27 million Nigerians and is the fourth-largest economy in Africa. I am the erstwhile Senior Special Assistant for Development Partnerships and Economic Planning to the Governor of Lagos State. One of my many achievements in this role is supporting the creation of a leadership and fellowship institution called the Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy under the leadership of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu. The institute offers mentorship to the next generation of young Nigerian leaders.


Now, tell us more about your journey as a young woman in politics and how it all started. You were recently appointed as the New Executive Secretary of Lateef Jakande Academy by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Congratulations!

My journey into government and politics began when I changed my mindset about activism. I went into governmental organisations to explore the extent to which I can change things from within the organisation rather than just being an activist on the outside. I believe I can do both. I must say, it has been worthwhile. Yes, it comes with the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated environment; to add young is like salt to injury. Nonetheless, I am happy about my achievements and contributions. So far, I have been able to contribute to improving two states in Nigeria in many ways. I must say I have gotten a lot of support from the different leaders I have served under, and I am grateful for it. I have worked with several commissioners and permanent secretaries to deliver impact.


Why did you consider taking your career path?

From a very young age, I have always wanted to lead. As a child, my dream was to become Nigeria’s first female president – of course, reality and challenges set in now. So, it is of no surprise to me that I am in this current line of work. My entire being is just passionate about impact, change, and influence. I believe we can live in a better eco-system than what we are living in now. I believe we can serve as our brother’s keepers and look out for one another. I believe a fair and equal society is possible. These are what drive me. So, I feel right at home with a firm belief in the significance of effecting change from within institutions rather than solely relying on external pressure. I committed to becoming the advocate within the system that embodies these ideals.


What have been the challenges and benefits of being a young woman in politics in Nigeria?

Women, in general, are underrepresented in Nigerian politics. This lack of representation can make it challenging for young women to find role models and mentors in the field. Also, deeply ingrained traditional norms and cultural expectations can hinder the participation of women in politics. Young women face resistance from family members or community leaders who believe that politics is not a suitable career for them. However, young women bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to politics. They often have a unique understanding of issues and can advocate for policies that address these concerns. Young women in politics can serve as role models and inspire other young women to get involved in civic engagement and leadership roles.


In your opinion, what does it take for one to be successful at what they do?

Success is a multifaceted concept. What it looks like differs for everyone. As long as you are true to yourself, your being, and your purpose, you are more or less successful that way. Ultimately, success is about achieving goals and objectives that are meaningful to you, and the path to success can be as unique as you are.


How important is it for you to do what you love and be successful at it?

Prioritising the pursuit of your passions and achieving success in them is important. The motivation and dedication stemming from a genuine love for your work can be a potent driving force. This fervour often kindles innovation and creativity, fostering the generation of fresh ideas and solutions. The journey of pursuing your passions and striving for success also acts as a catalyst for personal growth and the expansion of your skills and knowledge base. Above all, engaging in activities that align with your passions contributes significantly to your sense of fulfilment and happiness, infusing your life with joy and a profound sense of purpose.


Ultimately, this enhances your overall quality of life. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that not everyone has the immediate privilege of converting their passion into a career, and not all passions are financially viable. Many individuals discover fulfilment and success in professions that may not perfectly match their deepest passions but still provide meaningful work, financial stability, and opportunities for personal development.


As a young individual, what drives you to always want to achieve more in life? What are your sources of motivation?

My desire to leave a lasting legacy and create a positive impact that extends beyond my lifetime is my powerful motivator as a person with a long-term perspective. I always say I come as one but stand as 10,000. I represent those before me, those on this journey with me, and those to come after me. I owe it to them and myself to emerge a leader promoting a fair and just society. In addition, my pursuit of self-improvement and personal growth motivates me daily. As a young person, I seek to continuously learn, acquire new skills, and challenge myself to become the best version of myself.


In your opinion, how would you measure success?

For me, success is weighed by the amount of impact. I measure success by the positive impact I make on others and their community. Contributing to a cause or making a difference in the lives of others is my indicator of success. Another measure is the ability to achieve a balance between various aspects of life, such as work, family, health, and personal interests. I value well-roundedness.


What advice would you give any young individual trying to venture into politics?

Venturing into politics, especially as a young individual, can be challenging and rewarding. Start by gaining a solid understanding of the political system, government structures, and the issues that matter most to your community. Stay informed about current events and policy developments. Get involved in political campaigns, community organisations, or volunteer work related to your areas of interest. I started by volunteering. Finally, going to networking events paves the way for new opportunities. This hands-on experience can help you build a network and understand the practical aspects of politics. Clearly articulate your values and the issues that hold your passion. Develop a platform that outlines your position on key topics and communicates your vision for positive change. Strive to be inclusive and represent the diverse perspectives of your constituency. Listen to and engage with people from all walks of life. Politics can be a long-term endeavour. Finally, stay committed to your goals and values, even in the face of obstacles and setbacks, you will find peace.


Are you on any social media platforms?

Yes, I am on LinkedIn as @ayisatagbaje, Instagram as @ayisatbimpeagbaje, and Twitter as

 

The team at YEWGlobal wishes Mrs Ayisat Agbaje-Okunade all the best in her next endeavours. We can't wait to have an update on your success journey.

 

We hope you enjoyed this week's edition of the YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE WEEK.

See You all Soon!



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