We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village.” Well, Lilian Ajayi, a native of Nigeria, is making her mark as a social innovator, uniting women to help their female peers in underserved communities around the world. As the founder and executive director of Global Connections For Women (GC4W), she helps women find their voice and equips them with the resources they need to feel connected, educated and empowered.
For her efforts, the Harvard graduate was awarded with the Special U.S. Congressional Award for Outstanding Community Service from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and has been recognized by Applause Africa magazine as one of the “Top 40 under 40 Most Inspiring Africans in the Diaspora.”
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the ambitious trailblazer to discuss why connecting women for empowering movements is so important and how social media plays such a huge role in attracting and retaining a global audience.
BlackEnterprise.com: What inspired you to start the Global Conference for Women Foundation?
Lilian Ajayi: A few years ago, while attending the “Women in Leadership” event in New York City, I wondered why the event only focused on women networking locally. After doing some research, I realized there wasn’t a platform to connect women around the world both virtually and in person.
I strongly believe innovation comes out of an emptiness or desperation to invent something that doesn’t exist. So I thought, ‘What can I do to create a connection with women internationally and make the world better?’
I prayed about my vision. The next day, I woke up with Global Connections for Women as the title of my organization that would connect women globally to help support their peers in underserved areas.
How did you start locating people to support and participate in your program?
Everyone has a purpose. There was no better way for me to start a champion program than to gather the support of my close friends to participate in some local projects.
I also reached out to local organizations like The HOPE Program to provide workshops, training and placement assistance for the homeless. We focused not only on connecting women with information but educating them on how to use it.
What social media platforms did you use to raise awareness about GC4W, and why those platforms?
I used both Twitter and Facebook. I initially tested my idea on Twitter for about two months. I started to receive calls and invites from various organizations and companies to establish partnerships both locally and internationally.
It’s really about the content I provide as well. I’d summarize my followers as people looking to feel inspired, connected, empowered and educated about what’s new concerning women all over the world.
What are your short- and long-term career goals?
I spent part of my career working for the United Nations. Global Connections for Women foundation (GC4W) was created in direct response to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the core of GC4W goals is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. We are striving to enrich and empower the lives of 100,000 women and youth by the end of 2015.
I traveled to Nigeria recently to visit schools and meet with organization leaders. We are working with Nigerian Women Ministry and Social Development on several efforts such as providing additional classrooms for students. Being on the ground enables me to effectively connect US organizations with Nigerian organizations in need.
I am also determined to recruit students for the GC4W campus program. GC4W Junior Champions are expected to inspire and mentor the next generations of leaders while being exposed to several professional development and career opportunities.