The power of a young African woman

Yetunde (centre) with one of her awards

Dennis Kabatto

4 March 2012

Yetunde (centre) with one of her awards

To say, American-born, New Jersey based Nigerian – Yetunde A. Odugbesan is ambitious and  described as an overachiever, would be a vast understatement. She has been awarded with the prestigious Thomas H. Kean Outstanding Alumni Award, in recognition of her continued support and contributions made to the Education Opportunity Fund Professional Association of New Jersey, Inc. (EOFPANJ) and the Educational Opportunity Fund Statewide Alumni Association, Inc. (EOFSAA).

Yetunde as she is fondly called by her friends and colleagues continues to push herself for more – academically and professionally.

Her latest award came less than two weeks after she founded and launched her Young Woman’s Guide organization, which she said is aimed at providing mentorship opportunities, women empowerment conferences, resources and opportunities to give back and get involved with various philanthropic and humanitarian initiatives geared toward women and girls development.

“I founded Young Woman’s Guide order to provide young women with the tips, tools and resources to live a meaningful, purposeful and impactful life. Our goal is to spread passion, raise awareness and offer solutions to and for young women,” she said during a phone interview from her home in Newark, New Jersey.

Three weeks earlier on March 9, Yetunde participated at the 2012 International Women’s Day and United Nations 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Conference, in collaboration with Women of Nigerians in Diaspora, World Mission Foundation – a UN NGO and Daughters of Africa in Diaspora, at the UN Headquarters in New York City.  She also participated at a high powered Conference, titled; “Connecting Girls Inspiring Future: The Nigerian Girl-Child and Her Future.”

During her speech at the UN World Conference on the Status of Women, Yetunde offered young women and girls hope and encouragement. “My message was in two parts: to make young women aware that they have a responsibility as women and to ensure the healthy development of young girls in their communities and globally.”

She emphasized the importance of “giving a voice to young girls – especially African girls who are growing up in the midst of social, cultural, political and even religious constraints that hinder them from fulfilling their dreams, as well as excising their human rights. I also spoke on the power of youths and how they too have the power to transform our communities and our country.”

At the UN Conference, Yetunde also dared to venture into taboo territory. She spoke on the implications of Female Genital Cuttings and Female Genital Mutilation (FGC & FGM). “FGC / FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. The United Nations has several declarations, counterparts and conventions that address the issue of FGM/FGC practice and the UN’s stance on this issue is clear. “

She also said that; “FGC/FGM is recognized as a violation of human rights. The practice is mainly carried out on young girls, which is a violation of the rights of children. The end goal is to raise awareness of the negative physical and physiological effects of this cultural practice – in the hope that it will be eradicated.

As far as Yetunde’s goals are concern, not even the sky is a limit.  At the age of 24, her next goal is earning her Ph.D at the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

She feels compelled to share this message with young women and girls in general and African women in particular that:

There is a necessary dialogue that needs to take place about the existence and role of cultural practices that infringe upon the human rights of girls and women. These debates should be organized to shed light on the many “unspoken and taboo” issues such as sexual and child abuse, rape, sex trafficking, forced labor, underage marriage, FGM, child-soldiers and more that our young girls go through in African countries and throughout the world.”

“The status of the African women today is two-fold. We have women who have indeed progressed and were able to overcome many of the challenges and obstacles that they faced in Africa and in the Diaspora, but there are still young women who are struggling to be freed from cultural, religious, political and economic bondages – and that’s where others as well as myself have chosen to step up and make some real change. This is exactly what CSW is about and what my passion represents; empowering women and girls to overcome obstacles, become leaders and moving forward.” 

For updates and more information on Yetunde’s work, you can go to:

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