Hafsat Abiola entered Harvard University with little interest in political life on campus. But when she encountered a protest against the imprisonment of the Nigerian president — her own father — student activism struck a personal chord within her.
Not long after, Hafsat’s mother was assassinated for protesting the dictatorship that refused her husband’s electoral mandate. Three years later, her father, Chief Mashood Abiola, died in prison on the night before his release.
Hafsat has resurrected the Abiola family’s legacy of freedom-fighting. The Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, which Hafsat named for her mother, campaigns to end violence against women in Nigeria and trains young female leaders — 1,300 women and counting. Transforming a toxic leadership culture that excludes them, the young leaders Hafsat works with hold untapped talent and limitless potential for reforming the government.
Hafsat’s civil rights activism stretches beyond her country’s borders. She helped found the State of the World Forums Emerging Leaders Program and Global Youth Connect, and was appointed a Fetzer Fellow. She also serves on the boards of a number of youth and female empowerment organizations.
Hafsat’s many honors include the Cambridge Peace Commission, the State of the World Forum Changemaker Award, the Association for Women's Rights in Development Woman to Watch Award, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader of Tomorrow Award in 2000, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Global Award in 2001, among many others.
She travels around the world to speak about justice issues and has written articles featured in the international and Nigerian press, including the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. She is a familiar face on CNN, BBC and Worldnet
Currently, Hafsat focuses her advocacy on collaborations between Chinese and African women to further development on the continent. Her remarkable story is featured in our documentary play, SEVEN.