I still have another thirst for development of women and girls despite volunteering for an organization interested in girl child education. I wanted to do more than that coming from the environment I grew up from, I couldn’t find the best words to describe what was in my head. At 17, I was familiar with unwanted pregnancies, violence, and unsafe abortion…..” Iwatutu Joyce Adewole, Gender Equality Activist.
Iwatutu Joyce Adewole is an advocate for gender equality. She is dedicated to creating safe communities for girls and women through policy advocacy, information dissemination and community building to create safe communities for women and girls free from violence. She wants them to be armed adequately to make informed choices. “I think of the part that led me to social service and advocacy.”
“I often wonder when people talk of social issues, if they can ever truly grasp what it means, what crushing poverty entails, what inequality means and even what the struggle of women looks like particularly about sexuality, marriage and childbirth,” Joyce says in a recent conversation.
We often talk about other women making informed choices but women in rural communities don’t see the total light of options they can choose from, says Iwatutu. She grew up fascinated by the prospect of being in a position to assist her people who suffer from the extreme developmental issues.
This goal has dominated her consciousness for many years. When she was 17 years old, she volunteered for an organization; Rhealyz Naija that reaches out to rural communities and provides educational materials and sanitary products to keep girls them in school.
“I still have another thirst for development of women and girls despite volunteering for an organization interested in girl child education. I wanted to do more than that coming from the environment I grew up from, I couldn’t find the best words to describe what was in my head. At 17, I was familiar with unwanted pregnancies, violence and unsafe abortion, which is what girls and women in my community are familiar with where I grew up. I would say the vision became clear in 2015 when I met Martin Mary Falana, founder of a youth-led organization Kids and Teens Resource Centre.”
She joined the Youth Advocacy Group; a group of young people in Nigeria who advocates for policies and budget allocation to support adolescent girls to have access to reproductive health services and pushes for increased commitment for the sexual and reproductive rights of young people coordinated by education as a Vaccine and Kids and Teens Resource Centre. As part of the youth advocacy group, she helped to develop a situational analysis report and was part of an advocacy campaign to extend hours at the youth-friendly centre in her state.
She led the communication team for 20 adolescents to use digital storytelling (Photovoice) to develop advocacy messages to push for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in schools in Nigeria; a project funded by Women Deliver. She is the Regional Winner for the ONE Campaign essay competition for the international youth day, August 2019.
She presently works with decision-makers and organizations on policy and program implementation. Joyce is a member of SHEWE; a coalition focused on HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)- with a common advocacy agenda to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV. She contributed to and reviewed national policies such as the National Youth Policy, national policy on the health and development of adolescents and young people in Nigeria.
She works with women’s rights organizations to mobilize and support girls and young women in rural communities to take leadership for their health, lives, and safety. She formed Agbajowo Wing Girls coordinated to focus on bodily integrity and autonomy by working directly on issues of sexual and gender-based sexual and reproductive rights, areas that need attention in rural communities.
Her quarterly meet up help her to engage and educate adolescents and young people on sexuality, gender, and childbirth. With four year- experience, she has trained over 1000 women on family planning and other reproductive health services, she has reached over 200 community leaders and stakeholders on issues of gender-based violence including Female Genital Mutilation and its effect on the HIV epidemic.
She is currently a Youth Social Media Advocate for United Nations Population Fund in Nigeria to use social media platforms to raise awareness, share impact stories, and connect with peers to advocate for increased sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and young women.
She intends to work with the government to develop policies as well as formulate evidence-based strategies for health systems strengthening and resource management. She has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the motivation to excel; her intense passion for global issues among vulnerable populations, especially in her country. She has an orientation towards public service and a passion for leadership, she cares deeply about this world she lives in, and will continue to lead a life of engagement and action. She looks forward to a long and dedicated career to exert a positive influence in international development, first, in Nigeria, and then globally.