Our #OnePerson for the month is Adepeju Jaiyeoba, a 40-year-old Lawyer, Activist and Social Entrepreneur.
Adepeju Jaiyeoba is a law graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and holds a certificate in Global Change Leadership from the Coady International Institute in Canada.
After losing a close friend due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications in 2011; she began to wonder what was happening in rural communities if her friend who was informed, had access to good healthcare services and was financially empowered could still lose her life to such complications. This curiosity was further fuelled by her experience with women giving birth on the bare floor and birth assistants severing umbilical cords with rusty blades or broken glass.
That same year, she started to look for ways to ensure that mothers and traditional birth attendants were provided with both the skills and tools to deliver their babies safely. This birthed the Brown Button Foundation (BBF), a non-governmental organisation working to improve maternal health care in Nigeria by providing maternal health care services in rural regions and slums by recruiting and training volunteer doctors and nurses, advising women about reproductive health rights, supporting women during pregnancy, training traditional birth attendants and advocating for improved maternal healthcare in rural areas.
Within four years of being founded, it had helped train about 8,000 traditional birth attendants who went on to train others.
In the process of carrying out her work in a community in Zamfara state in 2013, she had seen a sick baby brought in with his umbilical cord severed with a rustic blade. The baby eventually died before her exit from the community.
Adepeju realized that the problem was beyond just training birth attendants and this inspired the launch of a sub-branch of the foundation called Mother’s Delivery Kit. The kit consists of sterile supplies for childbirth and was sold and distributed at a price of N 2,500.
Since its inception, the company has sold over 50,000 sterile kits and set up distribution points in central and eastern Nigeria through financial grants from the U.S. African Development Foundation.
In 2015, she was one of the five emerging entrepreneurs invited to pitch her idea at a White House Event showcasing the impact of U.S. government initiatives.
The scope widened once more in 2020 when she launched Colourful Giggles Nutrition, a for-profit company that produces baby cereals with local grains and fruits to combat child malnutrition. The goal is for children who survive at delivery to then live beyond their fifth birthdays. The proceeds from both businesses are used to run the Brown Button Foundation.
So far, the Brown Button Foundation has trained 15,000 birth attendants and distributed sterile kits to 500,000 mothers across 30 states in Nigeria.
Adepeju has spoken at some local and international events like the TEDx in 2017; Social Media Week in 2018; The Platform Nigeria – Beyond Politics in 2018; and the Africa Shared Value Summit in 2020.
In her words “If we really want to change where we are right now on maternal health, we first need to make some fundamental decisions. A lot of it will be in the rural communities, where well over 50% of women of childbearing age live. When mothers die in the cities, it is mostly due to medical negligence, but in these communities, access to healthcare facilities is an issue. So the government needs to pay more attention to access and staffing those facilities with qualified people, working with the traditional birth attendants, whom the people trust.”
Awards, Fellowships and Recognitions
It is exciting to note that Adepeju’s work has not gone unnoticed. She has been awarded and recognized by local and international bodies.
In 2013, she received the Global Change Leader Award and secured the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2014. She was given the Young Innovator Award at the World Innovation Summit for Health in 2015.
In 2016, she was an honoree at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and was shortlisted among the 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria by YNaija in 2017.
In 2018, she bagged three awards. The Unilever Young Entrepreneur Award; the Sustainability Entrepreneur Award by the Prince of Wales and the Queen’s Points of Light Award.
She recently received the Oby Ezekwesili Award for Women Advocacy in 2022.
We are proud of you, Adepeju.
Keep being a solution provider!
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