SEVEN Global Leadership Awards
“Guard your light and protect it. Move it forward into the world and be fully confident that if we connect light to light to light, and join the lights together…we will be enough to set our whole planet aglow.”
Hafsat Abiola-Costello believes that our world needs more than a few exemplary women leaders, it needs a groundswell. Since age 19, she’s been stirring up activism in fellow Nigerians, fueling movements for democracy, gender equality and women’s leadership in her country and throughout Africa.
Born into a prominent political family, Hafsat embraced her own call to leadership in a time of crisis. After nearly 30 years of military rule in Nigeria, democratic elections were held in 1993, when Hafsat was an undergraduate studying in the United States. Her father Moshood won in a landslide victory, setting in motion a pro-democracy movement that the military had never anticipated. The election was quickly annulled and Moshood was imprisoned. Hafsat’s mother Kudirat began a bold campaign for her husband’s release, and Hafsat rallied support across the United States.
Three years later, Kudirat was assassinated for her efforts. The loss was devastating. Hafsat remembers standing in a circle with her siblings, all holding hands after hearing the news: “I said to my siblings that we won’t let her down, and really since that time we’ve been trying to make sure that we do not let her down.”
Her life’s work is Hafsat’s tribute to her mother. She founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) with the vision of an Africa where women are full participants in the continent’s development. Based in Lagos, KIND advances women’s leadership by removing barriers to women’s political participation and working to eliminate violence against women.
Just two years after her mother’s death, tragedy struck again. Moshood Abiola was found dead the night before his release. Nearly 20 years since the loss of her parents, Hafsat’s commitment to their lega