Beauty in Tragedy: How Lola Omolola Started an Active and Strong Community of Women
Last Friday was International Women's Day. The truth is every day is a woman's day, but it's nice that a day is set aside to reflect, recognize and celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women globally.
This year, one of the many amazing women we think should be celebrated is Lola Omolola. We love sharing stories of inspiring women, known or unknown. Why? Simple. There's a Lola Omolola in all of us, and learning about women who are rejecting the status quo and pushing the boundaries around the world, could be the boost you need to thrust you into achieving your goals and dreams.
Lola is the creator of Female IN, a private Facebook group — with nearly 1.7 million members — that has morphed into a support group for women all over the world. FIN originally stood for Female in Nigeria but was renamed to Female IN, once it was clear that the issues addressed pertained to all women regardless of geographic location.
Lola was hailed by Mark Zuckerberg for running a no-holds-barred Facebook community where women can discuss issues ranging from health, marriage, sexuality to gender equality. The group has become a safe space for women to discuss topics they may feel uncomfortable sharing with others in their proximity.
Lola was inspired to create this group after the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram militant group. 1.7 million FIN members later, one can see that some good can come out of a bad situation when we are united. For Lola, the kidnapping represented a severe form of patriarchy and gender inequality- young women being targeted for getting an education.
She started the Facebook group as her way of contributing to her country's healing and promote a speak up culture amongst women on issues such as gender bias and inequality.
Here's a very interesting interview by the hosts of 'The Get Together' with Lola. She shared in this interview how and when she started it all and what sparked the light.
Click the video below and listen to Lola's inspiring story.
I hope you're as inspired as we are after listening to the above interview. We learned so much from it but our greatest takeaways from Lola's story are these:
Beauty and wonder can appear during tragic times. The kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014 by Boko Haram was and is still a tragedy. Yet that tragedy moved Lola to act on something. For her, Nigeria has a society that has built structures —cultural structures, religious structures— that were designed to systemically condition men to think of women as being not worth as much as they are. And women were getting trained to endure their violence and mistreatment and not say anything. For her, it was a structural woman’s issue and she felt that the foundational need to change all this was to get women to speak up. Thus, FIN was born.
One's life experience no matter how mundane it may have looked like when it happened can shape how he/she sees the world just as what happened to Lola at 11 years old. You have to listen to the interview or read the article here to understand how and why. Leading a community requires 1000% dedication, commitment, passion, and love. When Lola first started FIN, she was there right inside the community, virtually holding each member's hands around the clock. She made people feel safe to share their very painful stories for the first time. They knew they're not going to be judged and that they will be listened to, appreciated and helped out. Bailey Richardson, one of the 'The Get Together' hosts who interviewed Lola, hit the point when she said this, "If you want other people to care about something, you have to care about it yourself." We couldn't agree more!
What about you? What did you take away from Lola's story?