Stories of Change: Making History & Leading the Way

Meet Adebola: From winning an essay competition to founding Girls Matter Too and receiving the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Horizon Award. Adebola's journey with HACEY Health Initiative is a testament to the power of mentorship and empowerment.

In Lagos, Nigeria, HACEY Health Initiative—a longstanding EMpower grantee partner that addresses the inequity gap that limits women’s and girls’ access to health care and economic opportunities—set young Adebola on a course that may have been lifechanging. 

In 2018, 15-year-old Adebola entered HACEY’s International Day of the Girl Child essay competition on gender equality—and won. This led to her joining HACEY’s Girl Advisory Board, where she played a pivotal role and helped advise on programmes for adolescent girls.  

As a member of the advisory board, Adebola contributed to the design and implementation of girl-focused programmes. She actively engaged in HACEY’s girl-centred podcast sessions, participated as a panelist at events, and helped to craft the narrative for why greater investment in girls is so crucial.  

She was instrumental in the conception and execution of the organisation’s Platform for Amplifying the Voice and Empowerment of Girls (PAVE) project, which provides vital mentorship and networking for participants. Collaborating closely with fellow girl advisors and HACEY staff, she helped design the programme, which includes a summer camp and safe spaces initiative, funded by EMpower.  

An ardent champion, Adebola was sponsored to attend meetings in the UK representing girls, as part of the global With and For Girls collaborative—the world’s first participatory fund by and for adolescent girls (and of which EMpower was a founding strategic partner). She was a member of the selection committee for the With and for Girls Annual Award in 2019.  

Later, tapping into her interest in writing, Adebola won a scholarship to study journalism in the United States. In 2022, she founded “Girls Matter Too,” promoting and inspiring young women to be leaders and changemakers through multimedia campaigns. And most recently, she received the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Horizon Award. In receiving this honour, Adebola not only made history as the youngest recipient but also as the first African to receive this recognition.  

She cites the mentorship and experience she had at HACEY as a Girl Advisory Board member as shaping who she is today: an advocate for the rights of girls everywhere.  

"HACEY Health Initiative has definitely been the foundation and pillar that still holds my success story today…I consider it a privilege to stand for a cause and be given a platform to share that passion—for me, HACEY was that platform.”  

Adebola’s impact extends beyond borders and much of it goes back to the opportunities, trust, and belief that the organisation offered.  “My character, self-worth and network have greatly increased because of the mentorship and amazing colleagues on the Advisory Board that I got to work with. Thank you, HACEY, for setting the pace. You will always serve as a vital piece in my life story.”

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