Friday, September 5, 2014

Creating extraordinary pathways; How YALI program changed my life!

“The Washington Fellowship of the Young African Leaders Initiative has come and gone.  For all the participants it was a life changing event.  One of the YALI Fellows here writes about her experience.”

Until I attended the YALI program which commenced on June 14, 2014, I was just an ordinary girl, contributing my little quota to the society and changing the world from my own little corner. Today, I'm still that ordinary girl changing the world and lighting the path for many others but the YALI program has made my pathway an incredible and extraordinary one. I am a lawyer, a community advocate and a founder of two organisations promoting maternal and child health in Nigeria. I am Adepeju Jaiyeoba.

December 2013 was my turning point. I woke up to an email from a friend with the link to the YALI program application portal.I opened it and contemplated filling and submitting, I had my program scheduled for 2014 already, YALI was not on it and I really didn't want to apply. Today, I cannot imagine being anywhere else at this time but on this program!

I started completing the process and then logged out after a few minutes. I didn't go back to this application form again till the 27th of January, the last day for submission. Some of us are still kings and queens of last minute dot com. From the announcement that I made the shortlist, to the three man panel interview in Nigeria and the final confirmation that I made the fellowship in April, YALI has been an amazing experience.

I was placed at the Business and Entrepreneurship track at the University of Texas at Austin because of my desire to gain more business experience following the launch of my social venture, Mothers Delivery Kit, in August 2013. Texas did not disappoint me! It offered me an incredible learning experience with the best of its faculty members and administrative staff. We birthed new dreams, met business leaders, visited incubators, pitched, worked on business model, had mini shark tanks, won prizes, had fun and most of all, built different collaborations with other fellows across the continent.

Our experience after the institute was crowned with a presidential summit in Washington where we met the president of the United State, the First Lady, the Secretary of State and several top ranking government official. The high point of the summit for me was hearing President Barack Obama call my name (and he did a very good job of it), acknowledge my work and say thank you. It was all so humbling and motivating. It gives a sort of feeling that makes you determine never to give up no matter the challenges and obstacles. In one minute, I moved from being just an ordinary girl from Ijebu to someone whose name was being mouthed on world stage by the most powerful man in world. So you see, I wasn't joking when I said YALI changed my life. (You can watch it here:

I am currently interning with the UN Foundation's Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) Team in Washington where I am working with other team members to put the power of health in every mothers' hand and further develop business scalability strategies. Upon return to Nigeria and with the support of the United States African Development Foundation I will be scaling up my business to other parts of Nigeria as well as looking to build new partnerships.

If you are in Nigeria, be sure to connect with any of the YALI fellows. There are 43 of us spread across the country, in different fields ready to help and inspire other youths around us and behind us so they can get the same opportunities we have or even better opportunities.

I know you have heard people say, 'Never give up on your dreams' and 'Be the change you want to see in the world', well, I'm going to repeat the same thing to everyone reading this. No matter the number of 'NOs' you have received, never give up, continue in your quest to change the world, be ready to fail but fail fast and someday soon, just as you have been the sunlight to many, the sun's gonna shine on everything you do!


  1. You are a phenomenal woman and an inspiration to all! I am privileged to know you.

  2. I am impressed girl...Well done and keep the good work...

  3. Good work Adepeju. Your experience and achievements is worthy of not. Keep keeping on...

  4. We are proud of this great honour. Greater achievements are ahead of you.

  5. wow! very interesting story. Lets see how YALI is gonna change my life too this season.