“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men” Proverbs 22:29 (KJV)
Adepeju Opeyemi Mabadeje Jaiyeoba is a lawyer but, rather than argue legalese in the courts, she’s using her advocacy to fight for better and safer maternal and child health in Africa and such has been her diligence that she’s been honoured by the high and mighty.
In 2015, she was honoured by then U.S president Barack Obama at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Washignton DC and the torrent of awards and recognitions has not ceased since then.
Who’s Adepeju Opeyemi Mabadeje Jaiyeoba and how did she go from rocking the wig to bearing the torch of advocacy for maternal health?
Founder of the Brown Button Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation dedicated to curbing the high mortality rates in Nigeria, Jaiyeoba is also the founder of the innovative Mothers Delivery Kit – which produces affordable sterile supplies for women to use at childbirth.
The decision to embark on this advocacy was born of a personal experience for Jaiyeoba who endured the death of a friend during childbirth. For her, even though she was not unaware of the staggering maternal mortality rate, losing someone that close was the point at which she felt she must do something.
“My friend’s death, this was no illiterate village woman but well-educated and brilliant, was it for me. She sought out health care services during her pregnancy yet she became one of the 13 women who die daily during childbirth in Nigeria. The health care system had failed her and her unborn baby.”
This tragedy and the rampant practice of midwives, usually illiterate and untrained, who deliver babies using unsterilised equipment while sometimes severing umbilical cords with rusty blades or broken glass prompted Jaiyeoba to take action and set up the Brown Button Foundation which basically trains and enhance the capacity of birth attendants in remote areas of Nigeria.
While the setting up of the Brown Button Foundation helped to solve a problem, another was soon to rear its head.
Although improved skilled care during delivery helped to alleviate birth-associated complications in rural communities, the challenges of preventing maternal and child deaths also required the right medicines, tools and supplies at the right time for the right prices to prevent deaths.
So, Jaiyeoba put on her thinking cap again and came up with the idea of providing women in rural communities with low cost essential supplies for child delivery which are usually not available or affordable.
And thus was born the Mothers Delivery Kit which provides ultra affordable sterile supplies for women to use at childbirth
Starting out was not a stroll in the park for the 35-year old. She was in dire need of mentors and sought to expand her network.
Capital to kick off wasn’t readily available and she had to recourse to savings from her lawyer’s salary at Aboyade & Co, a legal firm in Lagos, Nigeria. She started with this and depended on sales revenues for her operations until she got support from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF).
Jaiyeoba got critical support through the government of the United States by receiving business education and global health experience to grow her business through the US Young African Leaders Initiative’s Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program.
She was also the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the US African Development Foundation with which she set up storage facilities and supply chain lines for delivery so that more kits can get into the hands of those who needed them faster.
The road may have been rough for Jaiyeoba but the accolades and recognitions have been rewarding of her enterprise.
Apart from winning the 2015 White House Emerging Global Entrepreneur, she’s also the recipient of the following honours:
2014 Mandela Washington Fellow; Fellow of the Unreasonable Institute; 2015 Young Innovator of the World Innovation Summit for Health(WISH); Africa’s Top 10 Female Entrepreneur for Diaspora Demo day; 2015 YNaija Top 10 Most Influential Nigeria’s Under 40; 2015 Cordes Fellow Global Change Leader by the Coady International Institute Canada, among others.
Jaiyeoba draws her inspiration from the desire to give everyone, mother or child, the chance to give birth and be born and then to reach their utmost potentials.
I’m inspired by an incredible urge for a greater Africa, the desire to give every mother an opportunity to watch her baby grow and give every baby a chance to live to his or her potential,” she said.
Eye on the future
Since inception, Mothers Delivery Kit has shipped over five hundred thousand and twelve thousand kits and conducted 347 training and workshops for birth attendants in 186 communities.
Today, her innovative kits containing affordable, sterile supplies are in 30 out of 36 states in Nigeria.
Going forward, Jaiyeoba is working to set up a technology platform to connect hundreds of women to the lifesaving information and quality healthcare personnel at childbirth.
Jaiyeoba achieved success because she believed in the beauty of her dreams and she commends Africa’s youth to toe the same path by not giving up on what they believe in.
Every success has an incredible story of resilience and hard work behind it. Today and always, believe in the possibilities of your dreams.”
So, believe in your dreams and never give up no matter how difficult.