“The world needs a lot of help,” sighs Lilian Ajayi-Ore at the other end of the line in New York the Friday evening we speak to her from Johannesburg.
“If we are being completely candid, we have to sacrifice personal moments to do some of the things we all want to,” says Ajayi-Ore, founder of the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W), a recipient of the Best of Manhattan Charity award for three years.
As she speaks, you can hear Ajayi-Ore’s year-old son Alexander Emmanuel in the background.
“As a mom, you never get an off day,” she laughs. “But he is the youngest of all the people I support.”
You can sense the adulation in her voice, both for her son and her other “priorities” – the young people she trains and the women and girls she creates opportunities for through her foundation, which has a reach of 3.5 million people worldwide.
“I am a women and girls global advocate, who believes in the importance of creating programs that provide a unique opportunity to assist them in succeeding in life. I am also a believer in partnerships and collaborations that will essentially create more open doors for women and girls to succeed,” says the 34-year-old go-getter from New York, originally from Nigeria.
The reason for these belief-systems could be her upbringing by a strong mother who was a single parent. She says her mother, Chief Temitope Ajayi – and her contributions to her community – was the inspiration for GC4W.
“She is also known as ‘Mama Diaspora’,” says Ajayi-Ore on her mother, who connects and creates job opportunities for the youth in Nigeria. “I could go on and on about her.”
Currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, Ajayi-Ore is also a Harvard graduate and professor at New York University, School of Professional Studies.
More recently, she says she created and designed “the very first ‘Teach Gender Equality’ course and ‘Planet 50/50’ project on Microsoft”.
“This is to enable a global collaboration that fosters an environment where students can play a role in creating solutions for promoting gender equality and women empowerment,” states Ajayi-Ore.
She previously worked at the United Nations (UN) in New York, representing the Mission of Nigeria. She also spoke to people in the NGO space to see where she fit in.
That’s when she had an epiphany and decided to create a global connection and work to create solutions where inequalities lay. Ajayi-Ore visits Nigeria twice a year and also has plans for programs in Africa.
More Africans In The Diaspora
Iman is a supermodel and entrepreneur from Somalia. One of her country’s most famous exports, when she first arrived in America, people assumed she was “African royalty”. She also started her own line of cosmetics. The combination of her successful business and modeling career has made her very famous and respected.
Lupita Nyong’o is a multi-talented actress best known for her role in the Hollywood hit 12 Years a Slave. Born in Mexico, she was eventually able to move to Kenya. Early in her career, Nyong’o hit lead roles in film productions and movies, taking several awards home, including an Oscar. She is also a film director, having written and produced several of her own works.
Eunice Cofie is an entrepreneur, originally from Ghana, who combines the use of traditional African medicine with modern science to create a brand of products. Using her knowledge in chemistry/molecular biology, and her wits, she founded Nuekie, an innovative health and beauty company for people of color. She was the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader in 2012.
Rebecca Enonchong is a technology entrepreneur who founded the company AppsTech. Originally from Cameroon, she moved to the US in her youth. Her career grew quickly. In 1999, she founded AppsTech serving over 40 countries.
Adiat Disu, honoree of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa 2014 on forbes.com, is an entrepreneur and fashion designer born in Nigeria. Also the founder of Africa Fashion Week New York, as a brand strategist, one of Disu’s goals is to spread and promote African brands and culture to the world. Disu believes helping other entrepreneurs achieve their own dreams is just as important as reaching her own.
– Compiled by Arvind K Pillai