American business magnate, Henry Ross Perot, was absolutely right when he said, “the activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.” For many, problems are nothing but roadblocks to success, which are to be bowed to, complained about and soon forgotten. And for a very few others, problems are themselves springboards to success, sources of motivation and drive.
Adepeju Opeyemi Mabadeje Jaiyeoba is one of the few who stand out in their doggedness against maladies, regardless of the inactions of government, of what society says and of the palpable mockery from surrounding circumstances.
Adepeju is a Nigerian lawyer and founder of Mothers’ Delivery Kit Ventures as well as Brown Button Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation established to curb high mortality rates in the country. Through her social enterprise, she is greatly improving mother and child survival by furnishing them with ultra-sterilised delivery kits while also improving access to quality healthcare services.
By 2015, Mothers Delivery Kits had sold over 18,000 kits and trained over 2,000 birth attendants. And currently, in furtherance of its expansion goals in the area of maternal and child health and sexual reproductive health, Brown Button Foundation is seeking partners in Niger, Mali and Chad to help further its work of improving the health and rights of women in rural communities.
Six years ago, like many people, she lost afriend to childbirth. But unlike many people, she did not shrug it off as “one of those things.” This loss coupled with her experience seeing women give birth on the bare floor and birth attendants using rusty implements to severe umbilical cords triggered her to found her NGO, in spite of her successful legal practice at Aboyade& Co.
According to her: “In 2011, I lost a friend at childbirth due to a delay in getting skilled help. Her death puts a face behind every statistic on maternal death I have seen – and that was my turning point. It made me realise how dangerous childbirth has become and how our best are giving [up] life. Realising that every woman is at risk – and that it could be me anytime if I do nothing about it, I decided to start my own organisation. Unlike many who see death at childbirth as destiny, I see myself and every woman as potential victims.”
Her work has deservedly earned her a good number of feathers to her cap. Top of the list perhaps and one which has, no doubt, placed her firmly on the world map is her recognition by former U.S. President, Barack Obama, in 2015. At a Global Entrepreneurship event in Washington DC, President Obama honoured AdepejuJaiyeoba and four other young entrepreneurs from around the world.
In a White House statement, Obama had said, “Jaiyeoba, who is a Nelson Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders, founded Mothers Delivery Kits in 2013 after losing a close friend to childbirth to address maternal and child mortality resulting from unhygienic and unsafe deliveries in Nigeria.”
A skilled community development advocate, Adepeju is a Coady Institute Alumna and participated in the 2013 Global Change Leaders Programme. In 2014, she was selected to take part in the prestigious 2014 Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
‘Peju, as she is also fondly called, is a White House Emerging Global Entrepreneur, Fellow of the Unreasonable Institute, member of Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), 2015 Young Innovator of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), 2015 Awardee of YNaija Top 10 Most Influential Nigerians Under 40 (Advocacy), 2015 Cordes Fellow among many other honours. Also in March 2017, she was recognised as one of the 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria for the year.
According to the website of Mothers’ Delivery Kit, Adepeju is passionate about making a difference in the lives of women and girls across the world as well as working to ensure Nigeria takes the health of women and children seriously. To her, success is nothing but “the number of women and children we are able to save, the number of women we empower and the wide grins on the faces of families whose lives we are improving.”
She has shown that real impact is made in the society only when driven by passion and an eye for the humanity behind the statistics. “Statistics are way beyond mere numbers,” she says, “they represent real people.” What has always inspired her remains a simple but touching idea: “An incredible urge for a greater Africa, the desire to give every mother an opportunity to watch for her baby grow and give every baby a chance to live his or her potential.”