Toyin Saraki: Leading the Global Fight on Violence Against Women

March 6 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Global Crisis

One of my good friends discovered that her colleague had been charged and pled guilty to domestic abuse. The details scared her, but the company dragged its heels to react. Some wondered why domestic violence would affect this guy’s thriving professional life. If you’re a person, which I think you are, you probably understand that nothing is that compartmentalized. One report has determined that more than half of mass shootings are carried out by individuals who have killed a partner or relative. It’s a harrowing fact, so why are we still hesitant to speak up about our safety in the workplace?


Across the world, women and girls are recipients of violence. In fact, a 2013 study found that 1 in 3 women will experience it. Intimate partners account for more than half of women’s murders, compared to 6 percent of men being killed by partners. Some identifying characteristics of an abusive relationship include coercion and threats; minimizing or denying a situation; using jealousy as justification; and using children to manipulate or control.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Toyin Saraki, Founder & President of The Wellbeing Foundation ofAfrica

While we often think violence is something that happens to other people—not in our neighborhood, our family, our workplace—it does happen everywhere. Being aware and advocating on behalf of yourself and others is critical to protecting and empowering women.

When Toyin Saraki started The Wellbeing Foundation of Africa 15 years ago, her mission was big: to improve the health outcomes of women and their children. What that means is in her country of Nigeria, Toyin must improve education, tackle issues of violence and discrimination, and lower maternal mortality.

It’s a big, big job. There’s a reason why she’s been doing it for years: it’s working. Toyin is often described as the wife to the President of the Senate of Nigeria and the mother to four children, but she’s making her way to being one of the world’s most tenacious philanthropists. She had a royal upbringing, as the daughter of an aristocrat. Following an education in the UK, she returned to her home country.

Now, Toyin is advocating for healthcare for all, as Nigeria’s population grows and health challenges emerge. An international social enterprise called Devex has called Toyin as a “Health-for-All Champion,” a title and role that Toyin doesn’t take lightly. For example, one of The Wellbeing Foundation’s most effective advocacy campaigns was simply a hashtag: #MaternalMonday. It helps stir up a discussion about immunization, bonding, breastfeeding, and how to raise a baby into a child free of the risks of diminished health or child marriage.

Toyin is doing big stuff. Away from the computer, she offers weekly MamaCare Antenatal Education classes led by a midwife. The class helps Nigerians learn how to prepare for birth and support a mama who’s making it all happen.

Toyin’s push to take care of mothers is part of her nature and part of her role as the global ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives. Toyin says that for the rest of her life, she will dedicate efforts to supporting midwives, who are some of the most key players in improving health outcomes. Let’s follow in Toyin’s path and speak up for our most vulnerable.


Toyin Saraki said:

“Women must take part in creating policies and legislation that reflect the society they want to live in. …There needs to be a mentality change on what spaces a woman can or cannot occupy.”

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