At 15 years old, I was worried about what to wear and what not to, snagging the locker closest to homeroom and, most critical of all, will John from third period notice me if I wear my hair up or down today? For 15-year-old girls in the United States, schools are promised to us. We take our institutions for granted, viewing them as an inconvenience, a chore in our daily lives that must be completed as soon as possible so we can graduate and begin our lives in the “real world.” For many around the world though, school is a privilege, an opportunity that few have access to due to a lack of resources, social stigmas or safety concerns. Fortunately, one 15-year-old girl has made it her mission to change this narrative.
Meet Zuriel Oduwole. Born in the Los Angeles, California, to parents of Nigerian and Mauritian origin, at just 15, Oduwole is advocating for girls’ education in Africa. Having met 24 presidents and prime ministers, she describes herself as “unstoppable.”
In August, Oduwole was named one of Africa’s 100 most influential women by Forbes magazine. Earlier this month, she traveled to Paris to talk in front of a thousands of young people at a solidarity concert that addressed the effects that poverty has had on girls throughout the continent of Africa and to advocate for why wealthy countries should be allocating at least 0.7 percent of their GDP to developing countries. Today, France allocates 0.38 percent of their GDP to aid. Oduwole stressed the need for “making policies so that girls are able to go to school until at least the age of 18 so they don’t get married when they are 12 or 13,” she explained to the Agence-France Presse.
According to UNICEF, approximately 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18, and 12 percent before their 15th birthday.
Ironically, Oduwole has never attended school herself, having been home-schooled by her parents since the age of 3. At just 9 years old, Oduwole interviewed former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings for a documentary she was making. Oduwole is a film-maker and when working on this specific film, this single event was able to jumpstart her career as a campaigner. When visiting her parents’ homelands, Oduwole shared that she saw “a lot of children, especially girls, out on the streets selling things.”
While next year she plans on attending university, her ambitions don’t stop at just a higher education. Oduwole is determined to becoming the first woman president of the United States of America, following the footsteps of Africa’s first woman president, Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Zuriel Oduwole is indeed unstoppable.