Oluwafunke Adeoye, through her organisation, Hope Behind Bars Africa, has won the 2023 Waislitz Global Citizens’ Choice Award, 2023.
Oluwafunke Adeoye is a human rights Lawyer and founder of Hope Behind Bars Africa. She founded the organisation after her experience with the ills perpetrated by the justice system on low-income individuals during her father’s wrongful detention without trial.
The Waislitz Global Citizen Awards are annual cash prizes totaling $250,000 that recognise the excellence of individuals in their work to end extreme poverty. The grand prize is $100,000 with two additional prizes at $75,000 each, for a total of three prizes.
Oluwafunke was one of the two winners of the $75,000 prize. Esther Kimani, Founder & CEO, FarmerLifeline Technologies, won the other $75,000 for Waislitz Global Citizen Disruptor Award, while Peter Njeri, CEO, Mega Gas Alternative Energy, won the grand prize of $100,000 for the Waislitz Global Citizen Award.
Speaking exclusively to BusinessDay, Oluwafunke says as someone that comes from a very humble background with very big dreams, she is always on the look-out for such opportunities that align with her vision.
After applying for the Global Citizen Youth Leadership Award earlier in the year and she got a rejection mail in April, she tried again, but this time, it was for The Global Citizen Waistliz Awards opened in May 2023, and she give it a better shot.
“I put in for it because I know I was eligible based on the criteria. We are doing very impactful and innovative work at Hope Behind Bars Africa, and the network and funds that came with the award will go a long way to help us in implementing our recently launched strategic plan.” She said.
Oluwafunke Adeoye appreciates the award, its recognition and how it supports extraordinary individuals around the world for their work to end extreme poverty.
“There were different phases of the process which included an application process where I had to submit detailed responses to certain questions, and a video response (My team worked on this with me),” she said.
“There were thousands of applications which was shortlisted to ten finalists, who had to go through a public voting process, the final selection was made by an independent jury based on 5 criteria, global citizenship, proof of concept, disruption, scalability and adaptability, after which 3 winners were selected.”
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It was during the announcement she was informed that in the over 10 years of the award, she is the first person working on criminal justice issues that has won the award. “I believe that goes to show how compelling the work we do at Hope Behind Bars Africa is.” Adeoye revealed.
According to Oluwafunke Adeoye, “Winning this award further validates the importance of my work. As a person of faith, ‘When I was in prison, you visited me…’ is a part of the holy book that is very personal to me, and after a series of life events, I left everything to begin representing indigent inmates for free, even though I was a 26-year old newly married lady, with a baby in a new city where I had no network, and I also did not have any experience working in the development space.
All I had was the assurance that God wanted me to do this work. In 5 years, I am already working with global names, built a full-time team of 8 persons and a network of volunteer lawyers across Nigeria. So far, we have helped over 7,500 incarcerated persons through our diverse interventions. We are also currently working with the government and other stakeholders to address the problem from a system level.” Adeoye said.
Adeoye sees this award as timely because it comes a few weeks after the launch of her very ambitious strategic plan, and it therefore simply puts an added stamp of approval on their work.
“It helps me to see how important it is to do good solid work that has visible measurable impact, and even some often-overlooked things like strong board governance.
I feel elated because this is a major milestone for the community we serve, for my team who have stood with me when all we had was the vision and our skills, and also for everyone out there wondering if it is okay to follow the road less travelled. More importantly, I am elated because this is just the beginning.” Adeoye stated.
For Oluwafunke, supporting causes like hers does not only help the individuals represented, but it also helps their community and the society by reducing the cycle of recidivism, and promoting rehabilitation and reintegration. Furthermore, in her view, it reduces thousands of taxpayers’ money spent on unlawful incarceration among others.
“In our journey to building a great nation, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.” She passionately expressed.
“Ending extreme poverty is not a choice, it’s an obligation. My hope is that it will inspire many thousands of people around the world to do what they can to improve the living standards of those in dire need,” Alex Waislitz, Chairman and Founder of the Melbourne-based Waislitz Foundation.