Saibatu Mansaray, Founder at The Mansaray Foundation (Source: The Mansaray Foundation)
In September 1997, I lost my aunt. In May 2008, I lost another aunt.
My Aunt, a proud Sierra Leone native, and mother of four, was delivering twins when she suffered a postpartum hemorrhage that not only took her life but also the life of one of her twins. This was in 1997, when my aunt and her baby were lost forever. Her five surviving beautiful children were forced to grow up without their mother. After 23 years, this loss still feels like it was only yesterday and for many more families in my home country, it very well could have been yesterday, or even today.
My family was again forced to endure the aftermath of this crisis in 2008, when a second aunt died from childbirth complications. She, too, went to deliver my beautiful cousin and succumbed to postpartum hemorrhage. Three more cousins of mine were now without their mother: left to navigate life without her loving guidance.
Sierra Leone is an amazing place with incredible people where losses like this have sadly become commonplace. My people, as foreign as it may seem to the outside world, fear childbirth.
When both of my aunts died, my uncles never remarried. They both raised my cousins without a wife, but they were never alone. Our family and the local community rallied to help. The sacrifice, resilience, and the sense of community that Sierra Leonean – and Africans as a whole – have for one another should warrant everyone’s admiration. But they need more, they need all of us to fight with them to affect change and save lives.
Ninety-four percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries like Sierra Leone with 830 women dying every day, and an estimated 300,000 deaths annually around the world from preventable causes. My aunts were two of these women.
They are both just statistics now, but to me, their husbands, and their surviving children they are so much more. While I do not know each of these 830 women who die each day, I know they have families. They have children who love them dearly and will forever miss and long for their mothers.
The maternal deaths are staggering worldwide, but unfortunately most of Africa is far more impacted than the rest of the world.
Women in Africa have, on average, many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death is higher. Due to African women bearing children at an early age, their lifetime risk of maternal death is extremely high and equates to the probability that a 15 year old girl will eventually die from a maternal cause. In high income countries, this is 1 in 5,400, versus 1 in 45 in low-income countries.
Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women. In Sierra Leone, if we do nothing to change our unfortunate circumstances, 6% of our 15-year-old girls will die from maternal causes sometime in the future. Maternal deaths are common in rural and poorer communities and as it stands today, 1 in 75 births in Sierra Leone results in the death of a woman.
The five countries where a woman is most likely to die in a given pregnancy are Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, and South Sudan. As a continent, countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Libya have demonstrated that we can lower the maternal death rates.
Our beloved Mother Africa is suffering most from a health crisis that is preventable and we must all band together in order to solve this rather unfortunate inordinate number of African maternal deaths.
The Mansaray Foundation begins its work in Sierra Leone, but we envision our work spreading throughout West Africa where we are among the highest maternal mortality rates worldwide. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world but the maternal deaths in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia and Nigeria are unsettling.
The main factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth are poverty, distance to facilities, lack of information, as well as inadequate and poor quality of care.
In Sierra Leone, the foundation will focus its efforts on improving access to quality care and ensuring the rural clinics are properly resourced.
We will utilize a simple, scalable and sustainable health-systemic approach to prevent maternal mortality, promote maternal health, and prolong the quality of life of rural women in Sierra Leone through multi-stakeholder partnerships that is in line with global best practices.
Our goal is to help lead Sierra Leone from the highest maternal mortality rate globally, to the lowest five in Africa.
I look forward to returning to Sierra Leone and embarking upon a journey to address and combat Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality crisis, work tirelessly on youth and women’s empowerment efforts and strongly support local innovative and development opportunities for Mother Africa.
Our efforts must begin here, by sharing the stories of those we have lost. If you have a loss to share or would like to join the #fightforourmothers, reachout on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn: @TheMansarayFdn.
We call on the pioneers, the innovators, and the educators, the global health leaders, big tech, journalists and supply chain experts to join us in this fight. Mother Africa needs you, join us:
Visit us The Mansaray Foundation
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Saibatu Mansaray is the President and Founder of The Mansaray Foundation and Host of The Saibatu Mansaray Journey podcast. Mansaray’s life and career has been dedicated to public service seeking to effect positive change in the world and making her home country and the people of Sierra Leone proud. She works now to highlight the community and speak out on the issues and challenges we in the African community face. The Mansaray Foundation initiative is the latest step in the long line of public service by Sierra Leone-native Saibatu Mansaray, a retired United States Army officer after 23-years of service and two tours of duty to Iraq.
Mansaray served as a White House Physician Assistant and Tactical Medical Officer to President Obama and Vice President Biden followed by Director of Medical Operations and Military Aide to two Vice Presidents. Upon retiring, Mansaray joined Vice President Pence’s team as his Director of Advance. Her final assignment was as a White House senior executive and Assistant Director for Public Health at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Funke Felix-Adejumo shines at Commonwealth Africa Summit, Advocates for Gender Inclusion
Funke Felix-Adejumo (Middle)
Funke Felix-Adejumo, a female enthusiast and philanthropist extraordinaire has taken the challenges of African women to the global centre stage stressing the need for a more realistic gender inclusion. The author of the celebrated book, “More Than A Woman”, was at the recently concluded Commonwealth Africa Initiative which was held in London, England. Where she extolled the virtues of African women, and raised other issues affecting the productivity of women among which is gender inequality.
During the Plenary Session 6: Commonwealth women in Leadership During The COVID-19 role in building back better. Felix-Adejumo, alongside leading African voices such as Southern Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Fatimah Mohammed Habib, Founder/Executive director of Advocacy For Humanity, advocated for a more inclusive policy that will engender women participation in policymaking, religious circles, health, education, among other critical subjects.
“Let’s bring more seats and tables to involve more women in policy-making, education, religion, health and in all areas that God has empowered women to contribute to the socio-economic development of Africa,” said the Gender Champion when she mounted the stage as a distinguished Speaker.
Her commitment to promoting values and issues stifling the socio-economic development of women was again brought to bear when the renowned Reverend stressed that over the years, women have been made to sometimes feel inferior by various institutions. Saying women’s self-esteem has been bruised and subdued by forces beyond her immediate control. She referenced her own personal experiences where she suffered prejudice and bias as a woman. And how she was able to break through with support from a rich community of other women and men to be where she is today.
She encouraged women that are placed in positions of leadership by God to not pay attention to noise-making because there will always be criticism. She cited the Wright Brothers, the pioneers of aviation who suffered grave criticism from critics as a case in point, saying, women, and indeed everyone will always be criticized. However, they must be determined to forge forward.
Meanwhile, the reverend who has consistently supported the causes of widows and is regarded as a mentor to women across the country, was decorated with a prestigious Commonwealth Award for her contributions to women empowerment. With the peerless example of the president of Felix Funke Adejumo Foundation, it appears the space is looking brighter for all the women in leadership across Africa and in the Commonwealth. The woman crusader was with Councillor Trish Fivey, The Worshipful the Mayor of the London Borough of Sutton, who was in attendance.
Black Philanthropy Month 2021: An Interview With Dr. Jackie Copeland, Founder of Black Philanthropy Month and The WISE Fund
A social and environmental justice leader, Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland is Founder and President/CEO of Black Philanthropy Month, and The Women Invested to Save Earth (WISE) Fund, an innovation enterprise, supporting grassroots Black and Indigenous women climate change innovators in Africa, Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean, India and the USA. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Dr. Jackie speaks on her career-path into philanthropy, her organisations; Black Philanthropy Month and The WISE Fund. Excerpts.
Alaba: Dr. Jackie, could you briefly tell us about yourself, career-path and philanthropy journey?
Dr. Jackie: I am a humanist, Pan-Africanist, and woman of faith, believing in philanthropy as not just about money, but an expression of love for humanity united for justice against all the odds, including the capacity of Black people to create a better future for their communities and the world. These values have evolved from my upbringing as an African-American from Philadelphia with parents from the South with proud Gullah-GeeChee heritage. These early experiences of giving over the years have coalesced into a life purpose to heal people, society, and the Earth. My vision is a world where all people have the resources (confidence, tenacity, mentorship, sponsorship, education, funding, etc.) to save the planet.
I started this journey with my studies as a cultural anthropologist and urban designer, working in the 1980s on community development projects in Africa, the US, and then worldwide, and earning my various credentials. I continued working as a foundation, bank, fundraising executive, investor, evaluator, professor, and board member, always with a focus on social and environmental justice, including Africa and the global Black Diaspora.
When I did not see vehicles to express and live my purpose, I created them, which is how I became a serial founder. One pivotal initiative was founding the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network, now called Reunity, in 2001 with a diverse coalition of Black women innovators with global ties in Minneapolis. I thought that together we could build a global economy of giving and mutual support. Their example inspired me to create Black Philanthropy Month and its summit series in 2011, celebrating the UN’s International Year for People of African Descent. They organized the first summit with me. Without them there would be no Black Philanthropy Month. I honor them and the more recent leaders, who have help expand Black Philanthropy Month further, making it a global movement.
Reunity was founded 20 years but movements need to change with the times to remain meaningful, In 2020, concerned about the quadruple threat of the Covid-19 health and economic crisis, racial injustice, extreme wealth inequality, and climate change, I created The Women Invested to Save Earth Fund (The WISE Fund) to support diverse climate change innovators with affordable, accessible, quality environmental solutions that could benefit the communities hit hardest by climate change worldwide.
I also wrote a position paper for our partners detailing a enhanced BPM Summit design that would bring together Black funders across philanthropy and business worldwide to answer the question: How can we amass the financial and other resources that will be necessary to rebuild from the pandemics of Covid and anti-Black racism worldwide? Fortunately, partners agreed to move forward with a greater focus on donor and investor funding equity, bringing BPM squarely into a new era of economic and racial justice for these new times.
Alaba: You founded the Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) in 2011. What does it mean to you and the inspiration behind it?
Dr. Jackie: Inspired by Reunity’s ingenious blending of traditional African financing mechanisms with American funding structures, I founded Black Philanthropy Month in 2011 to celebrate the UN’s International Year and then Decade for People of African Descent by highlight Black-led giving as a central part of our global culture and resource for positive, equitable social change and economic justice.
In 2013 and 2014, other key leaders joined us, most notably co-architects, Valaida Fullwood, Creator of The Soul of Philanthropy; Tracey Webb, Founder of Black Benefactors; and Kula Addy, now The WISE Fund’s global programs and operations manager. Although we already had been long-time colleagues supporting each others’ efforts, last year, Thelma Ekiyor, founder of Afrigrants Foundation, officially joined as the BPM Africa Host and Chairperson, solidifying our longstanding African roots. Together, supported by a network of other global chairs, planning and funding equity committees, we have combined networks and talents to build the movement across at least 60 countries, this year highlight Black funding issues and equity in Brazil, the Caribbean, and Canada too (click here for a full list of chairs, partners, sponsors, and co-architects).
Alaba: Kindly share this journey of a decade, challenges and achievements?
Dr. Jackie: Black Philanthropy Month (register at BPM 2021) has continuously expanded the community and is now a global movement celebrating our homegrown giving, while advancing funding equity for Afro-descendant communities across the globe. In large part, it is about reminding ourselves of the power of community giving together as we have done throughout Black history’s funding and leadership of our various liberation movements from abolition to civil rights, independence, anti-apartheid and other movements that have moved us along what Dr. King called the long, universal arc of justice.
But 2020 has taught us that our and allied philanthropy are not enough. There is a $40 trillion global social finance industry. And it is time for philanthropy, venture, and impact investing to start judging Black communities by the content of our character and capacity, just as it does with other communities. The post-Covid recovery will require a massive investment of capital or funding, or our communities will regress.
Recognizing this need, last year Black Philanthropy Month revived the action summit series I founded in 2011 to create a Global Black Funding Equity Principles and a Pledge.
Among our greatest challenges as still a largely volunteer-driven movement is to:
1) generate the capital needed to sustain and further develop our growing movement;
2) devise tools to measure and track funding equity;
3) develop our movement’s organizational capacity in a fast-changing world where new models and skills are required for long-lasting impact;
4) expand recognition of every August as Black Philanthropy Month by more governments and multilateral organizations throughout the US and world, including the African Union; and
5) strengthen the movement’s leadership capacity, as many Black leaders worldwide are overstretched and overwhelmed, especially during Covid.
One way we are trying to build leadership and wellness is through Reunity, our women’s network founded 20 years ago, which will be closing out our BPM series again this year with its Being Well, While Doing Good Summit. Reunity will add to our global funding equity strategy, celebrate Black women leaders’ unique contributions, and revive community and wellness. Scheduled for August 31st, Reunity’s BPM Summit is on August 31st. Register at bit.ly/Reunitysummit2021.
Alaba: How does your organisation measure its impact?
Dr. Jackie: Black Philanthropy Month is a movement comprised of multiple organizations convened with The WISE Fund support as a backbone organization or administrative hub. Our four key impact criteria are longevity, diversity, engagement, and advancing funding equity. From inception, BPM has steadily improved along all these dimensions, using the power of social media and other technologies as national and global community building, and organizing tools along with the support of Black leaders from all walks of life following their networks throughout the US, to Africa and its global Diaspora. It has been difficult, but with the contributions of many leaders, we are still here after 10 years for BPM and 20 years for Reunity, its precursor. So, we proved that we have relevance and staying power.
We have engaged at least 18 million people in 60 countries. The United Nations has recognized BPM twice as an important celebration of global Black culture and innovation, as have 30 governmental bodies that have declared every August Black Philanthropy Month, prompting local philanthropy, civic improvement, and other funding bodies to celebrate the Month with various initiatives that increasingly continue year-round, increasing the movement’s visibility and engagement. The most obvious indicator of our impact is our tenacity and growth. Now we are holding ourselves accountable for enhancing the capacity for our global community to spotlight and advance donor and investor funding equity as a racial and economic justice issue, including Africa and its Diaspora from the Americas and every corner of the globe.
Alaba: The theme for this year’s BPM celebration is “TENacity: Making Equity Real.“ What is the significance of the theme, and how do you see people responding to it?
Dr. Jackie: We spent a lot of time crafting this theme together. “TENacity” has a double meaning referring both to our 10th BPM Anniversary but also reminds our movement of Black people’s resilient capacity to weather the compounding crises of the times to create an even stronger community together. “Making Equity Real” reminds us that celebrating our resilience is needed but insufficient. We have an ongoing responsibility to move to proactive, concerted social action together to create a more just future. Black Philanthropy Month builds our resolve and capacity to make a true difference as a global community everywhere.
Alaba: This year, BPM will be celebrated in other regions e.g., Africa, Canada, Brazil. etc. What should we expect?
Dr. Jackie: Black Philanthropy Month has always been celebrated across the world—60 countries to date, doubling from the 30 countries in the very first celebration in 2011, because its co-organizers were global from the very beginning of Reunity 20 years ago. However, most of the celebrations were organized independently by individuals and organizations within various countries. What is different now is that whole countries and continents are organizing coordinated Black Philanthropy Month celebratory, action Summits in collaboration with our Architects steering committee and other volunteers. This started with Africa in 2020 when Afrigrants became the BPM Africa host, organizing the first ever BPM Africa Summit, featuring leaders across the continent.
Global engagement continued with our convening of a Funding Equity Committee, including several African and Black Diaspora representatives. Also, Reunity continues, now as a BPM partner, further deepening global engagement, including African Americans and others from the US, while uplifting the often less visible role of Black women funders and innovators. This year other global regions reached out to ask how they could join us to organize BPM 2021 in their countries, including Brazil, the Caribbean, and Canada. We look forward to continuing global expansion of the movement, celebrating, and advancing our giving while promoting funding equity overall by donors and investors of all backgrounds.
Alaba: In your words, how would you define philanthropy?
Dr. Jackie: “Philanthropy” is a term used to describe giving in the West, among wealthy individuals, professionals and scholars working in the industry. But giving flows through many community-based and other voluntary organizations and groups of more modest means, including, for example, sororities and fraternities, religious institutions, hometown associations, small businesses, guilds and other professional associations, rotating savings and credit institutions, giving circles to name just a few.
Philanthropy is just one type of private capital used to improve society and develop communities and is primarily donated to qualified nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations, although institutions such as foundations, also can fund cause-related businesses organized for societal or environmental impact instead of profit. Two other primary forms of private capital are investments in businesses that also can benefit the public instead of just private individuals for profit: venture capital funding and impact investing. All these types of giving are now part of a growing funding field, sometimes called the “social finance sector,” estimated to be a $40 trillion US global sector. Black people contribute mightily to the world’s economy and giving. Now we need fairer access to dominant funding to rebuild our communities, still inhibited by legacies of anti-Black racism and colonialism.
Alaba: What changes have you seen in philanthropy in the last 10 years and your expectations for the next decade?
Dr. Jackie: Here are a few distinctive characteristics of Black giving and trends over the past 10 years.
Black giving is organized through diverse organizations. Nigerian and Caribbean esusus or susus; Black Brazilian quilombos; African-American churches; South African funeral associations; Kenyan harambees; Jamaican hometown associations, and much more were all equally worthy Black or Afrodescendant philanthropy institutions that are a basis of civil society equivalent to foundations and other more dominant funding institutions.
Giving is not just about money. It is about the love of humanity and the power of community to create a more just society, supported with time, talent, treasure, voice, and other means.
Giving is a tie that binds the immense diversity of Black people. There is enormous ethnic diversity and other diversity among the approximately 1.5 billion people on the planet that many would describe as “Black” or “Afro-descendant.” But a strong spirit of mutual support through giving is a common cultural feature of most Black communities, although there are contemporary forces trending towards the deep hierarchy, individualism, and paternalistic models of dominant Western philanthropy models now being critiqued by more participatory, “trust-based” giving approaches.
Giving can transform hope to justice. As a basis of identity, Black giving is also seen as a form of energy that sustains hope, helping us replant and remake our culture across eons and tragedy for justice and future generations.
Alaba: How do you see the role of women in philanthropy as a positive force for good?
Dr. Jackie: Women are the key, because traditionally, they have taken on primary responsibility for community improvement, although their efforts often go unrecognized in the annals of history. Both women and men have led Black Philanthropy Month as a movement to uplift all genders. Today our co-architects, who help with strategy and inclusion especially throughout the US are women. Reunity, BPM’s precursor and women’s network, continues to uplift and build women’s leadership especially given the unique challenges we face leading our communities and broader society in the face of racism and sexism. As all the research shows, societies that empower women’s human rights and leadership are more vibrant and healthier. Black Philanthropy Month and Reunity actively include women to advance all Black communities.
Alaba: What advice would you give to black people who want to become philanthropists, or give back to the community but do not know how?
Dr. Jackie: Remember that the basic requirement to be a good philanthropist is to have compassion and empathy for other people. You do not need to be wealthy or prominent. Most of the people reading this article are likely already giving to their school, alma mater, church, community clinics, or some other cause. If you are, then you are a philanthropist. The question is how to make your giving more impactful to make a difference on the issues about which you care most. Here are a few tips;
- Steward your resources to make your community and environment better, which will strengthen the people and natural resources upon which all markets, and future generations, depend.
- Commit to sharing resources and opportunities with others, often called “paying it forward,” a mindset fundamental to a life of giving for a better society that you can teach your children and grandchildren.
- Define the legacy you would like to leave your primary community or the world.
- Identify a cause and reliable institutions through which you can give to advance your legacy.
- Use Black Philanthropy Month every August to self-assess your giving journey and adjust it as necessary for more meaning and impact.
As we struggle against the continuing scourge of racism, a little Love of Humanity, including Black People, can go a long way to create a better world for all.
Happy Black Philanthropy Month! Be sure to join us tomorrow and all-year-round! We are the change and have the power to create a better future from crisis.
Black Philanthropy Month 2021: An Interview With Thelma Ekiyor, BPM Africa Chair & Founder/Chair, Afrigrants Foundation
Thelma Ekiyor, BPM Africa Chair & Founder/Chair, Afrigrants Foundation
As Founder/Chair Afrigrants and Managing Partner SME.NG, Ms. Thelma Ekiyor is a leading voice in women empowerment, impact investing and philanthropy in Africa. Outside of the office, She currently serves as a Board Member on ALL ON, The WISE Fund (USA) amongst other appointment. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Ms. Ekiyor speaks on her career-path into philanthropy, Afrigrants and the Black Philanthropy Month Summit (Africa Region). Excerpts.
Alaba: Ms. Thelma, could you briefly tell us about yourself, career-path and philanthropy journey?
Ms. Thelma: I have spent a lot of time working in the post conflict countries and that shaped my realisation that only African solutions can solve African problems. And as my career progressed I was drawn more and more to indigenous social investment ranging from foundations to non-profit and I found myself working for two large institutions that I was the pioneer executive director and CEO for West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and the pioneer CEO TY Danjuma foundation. Both experiences taught me that very important work, Africans to put resources behind social investment. Not only does this give us a strong position to negotiate with International Actors but it also enables African investors who are more familiar with the problems channel resources towards where they are mostly needed.
Alaba: In your words, how would you define Black philanthropy?
Ms. Thelma: Black philanthropy, interesting we have been scrambling with what is Africa philanthropy for a number of years and I think is a broader question as to what is black philanthropy is better. This is because black philanthropy captures everyone, so far as you came from Africa. For me Black philanthropy is divergence, the culture of giving and the ingenuity that have always existed in our traditional African communities been used to develop contemporary vehicles to address problems that are peculiar to black people.
Alaba: How did Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) Africa come about, and what is the purpose behind it?
Ms. Thelma: Black philanthropy Africa summit is a part of the global Black philanthropy movement that was started by Dr. Jackie Copeland who is a good friend and collaborator of mine personally and supporter of our work in Afrigrants. Black Philanthropy Summit is one of the regions that the global black philanthropy movement is focusing on, I mean black as in Africa. It is important that we have a very strong summit this year. This year, what we are trying to do is to bring together black people who have committed themselves to philanthropy, impact investing or just social entrepreneurship and hear from them how we can improve Black Philanthropy.
Alaba: One of the companies you founded and chair, Afrigrants Foundation is BPM 2021 Africa Partner. What inspired the partnership?
Ms. Thelma: I have known Jackie Copeland for years and we collaborate on different things. She is also one of Afrigrants funders. The WISE Fund is Afrigrants funders so of course when she asked that we partner, to us it was a privilege and also a no brainer because we believe in the principle of black philanthropy. We are one of the signatories and so we are very pleased that we are this year’s Africa chair and we are looking to facilitate a very good meeting. But is not all about Afrigrants, it is really about creating a space where diverse voices can really shape this conversation around what black philanthropy means to African and for Africans.
Alaba: The theme for this year’s BPM celebration is “TENacity: Making Equity Real.“ What is the significance of the theme, and how do you see people on the continent responding to it?
Ms. Thelma: Well we know what tenacity means in life, is just to make sure that you impact it, make sure you are consistent and we are very happy that we are going to be with like-minded people that have the same tenacity, to make sure that the goal of black philanthropy is realized. It is the ten years also.
Alaba: This year, BPM will be celebrated in other regions as well; Canada, Brazil. etc. As the BPM Africa Chair, what should we expect from Africa?
Ms. Thelma: I think what we should expect from Africa is that people are going to talk about issues especially how COVID-19 has affected them. It is important that all of us talk from the advantage point of what is necessary for the communities that we serve. And with our experienced speakers, together we hope to learn a lot and drive the conversation beyond the summit.
Alaba: What are some of the challenges facing philanthropy in Africa and the role of BPM?
Ms. Thelma: One of the problems affecting philanthropy in Africa is Lack of awareness of what philanthropy is and how it operates. Another problem is that we do not collaborate well. There is a lot of competition among players in Africa philanthropy because of limited funding and financing, so everybody feels like we have to compete for it. But actually we will get more funding and financing if we collaborate because we will prove that Africa is the place where people should invest.
The fact that there is very high poverty in Africa is another challenge amongst many other issues to deal with. So many people struggle with where do I start from even when they want to make a difference. We tell them to just start wherever you are and just do your little bit and that little will match up with somebody else little bit. Before you know it we have a wide level of impact. These challenges are the reason why we are having the black philanthropy summit and need to create incentives for people. There is misconception that only rich people give but we need to make it clear that anybody can be a philanthropist and social investor. Once you are part of making change and you put your time, resources, funds into it, you can classify yourself as a social investor either through impact investing or philanthropy. So these challenges are the reason why we feel that this summit is extremely important.
Alaba: How do you see the role of women in philanthropy as a positive force for good?
Ms. Thelma: One thing that we have done very well in Africa is, women are making impact in social investment and philanthropy. I think that’s because women are way ahead of men in terms of wanting to be social change makers. And so we have spare headed this area, but by no means should we be the only ones in these areas that we are talking about. We still need to encourage more women to get involved even though a lot of philanthropy organizations and non-profits are headed by women. This is a very good thing because its one area that we are setting an example of what can be done if there is gender equality.
Alaba: What advice would you offer on how we can cultivate a creative spirit of giving, no matter the level of resources in our possession?
Ms. Thelma: This summit is a conversation starter and it is very important that people attend to make sure their voices are part of the conversation because if your voice is not part of shaping what black philanthropy is, we will be impacted by what other people develop. It is important that people come out with their point of view so that all of us are able to shape black philanthropy and make sure that at the end we are proud of what we have shaped.
Kindly Register to Attend BPM Africa Summit 2021
B I O G R A P H Y
Ms. Thelma Ekiyor has over 21 years experience working in the development sector, as an Impact Investor, donor, philanthropic advisor, and social entrepreneur. She has experience working in 22 African countries. She has pioneered, founded and led a number of organisations and initiatives focused on impact investing and women’s economic empowerment. In 2020, Ms. Ekiyor was listed as one of the 50 most influential women in the development sector in Africa.
Ms. Ekiyor is currently the Managing Partner SME.NG – Nigeria’s Impact Investment Platform, which has set up two impact funds for women entrepreneurs. She is the Co-Founder/Chairperson of Afrigrants Resources and also served as its pioneering CEO. At Afrigrants, she led the establishment of “Market Women’s Quick Cash” – A financial inclusion solution to provide micro-loans to women in disadvantaged communities. She also founded the Afrigrants Foundation dedicated to the socio-economic advancement of girls and women. She also led the conceptualization of “The Ebi Fund” – an impact fund for women entrepreneurs. Ms. Ekiyor is also Founder & Co-Convener of The Funding Space – a mentoring and access to finance platform for social entrepreneurs in Africa.
Prior to establishing Afrigrants, Ms. Ekiyor was the pioneer CEO of TY Danjuma Foundation, and grew an endowment of $100 million. Before that, She served as the Pioneering Executive Director of the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI), which was established by the George Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute for West Africa. She supervised investments and interventions in 15 countries across West Africa.
Ms. Ekiyor holds an MBA (Entrepreneurship & Innovation) from Imperial College London, UK; a Law Degree (LLB Honours) from University of Buckingham UK. She is also a Fellow of Stanford University, USA. Ms. Ekiyor served as Strategic Policy Adviser to UN Women Nigeria (2017-2019). She is currently a Board Member on ALL ON, the renewable energy impact fund in West Africa established by Shell.
She is on the Advisory Board of The WISE Fund (USA). Ms. Ekiyor has received several awards and citations for her contributions to women’s economic empowerment and philanthropy in Africa.