Prof. Bolanle Awe

Professor Bolanle Awe, is the First female Professor of History in Nigeria. She graduated with M.A (Hons) History from St. Andrews University Scotland in 1958 and D.Phil History from University of Oxford, England in 1964. Professor Bolanle Awe became a lecturer in the Department of History, University of Ibadan, between 1967 and 1980. At the time of her appointment as Lecturer at Ibadan she was considered one of the youngest academics on the African continent. She was also a Senior Lecturer at (UNILAG) University of Lagos, School of African and Oriented studies where she served as Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of African Studies between 1969 and 1976.

She is the Founding Chairperson, Women Research and Documentation Centre, University of Ibadan (1987). Between 1988 and 2002, Prof. Bolanle Awe was a member of the Advisory Board Africa Journal of the International African Institute London, member of the Founding committee, International Federation for Research in Women’s History, member of the Advisory Board, Gender and History, London. She has also been on the Board of African Gender Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Professor Awe has been Consultant to various Organisations across Africa. Her contributions have attracted recognitions in form of honours and election to high offices. In 1983, she was honoured as Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

3 Lessons We Can Learn From Prof. Bolanle Awe

To abandon the home is to abandon what is most imperative in a woman’s responsibility

Prof. Awe believes that a huge portion of that attitude change lies in the hand of the Nigerian women, and essentially in their attitudes to themselves. As a result, she considers women to be agents of change and a reflection of the larger society.’

According to her, “As mothers we have responsibilities to give social values to our children”

When we become mothers (if you’re not already one), as we go around chasing purpose and fulfilling our destiny via our careers and businesses, we must remember to be mindful of our children as well because mothers in a way can determine whether or not and at what speed their children fulfill destiny.

As you work extra hours in order the get that promotion don’t forget that the potential future president of your country is at home waiting to be raised by his mum. Your purpose and destiny is important, but your child is too. Pay attention

Take all that you do seriously

For those who passed through her during her days in Ibadan, no doubt the fond memory of her still lingers in their memories. Awe in her days took the study of history to an elevated height and made it a no go area for the unserious students in the University of Ibadan where she lectured from 1967 to 1980.

When you leave that Job, what will you be remembered for? Let’s endeavor to leave a mark where ever we go especially in our chosen fields. It should not be business as usual when it comes to you. Even if the place sucks, do something to make it better. Challenge the status quo, make a difference… be the difference.

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Use your opportunities

Prof Awe spoke recently about how she and the other strong Nigerian women emerged very successful in her generation. She explained that “When the women had a chance, they put themselves forward”

In Prof. Bolanle Awe’s days when it was not fashionable for women to be educated, with the encouragement of her father, she went ahead to chart a course in the academia very early in life. At the time of her appointment as Lecturer at Ibadan, she was considered one of the youngest academics on the African continent.

This was many decades ago… Young woman, you can do anything you want if you will only put yourself forward. Take on opportunities, share your views, do your best, applaud yourself, blow your trumpet, volunteer. Live! Shine! Grow! You can. Prof Awe did many years ago when it was even harder than it is now.  We owe it to the generation of strong women before us to be more.

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Some Honors and Positions Held

  1. Founding chairperson, Women Research and Documentation Centre, University of Ibadan in
  2. First female Professor of History in Nigeria
  3. Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), and numerous other portfolios in other Universities across the world.
  4. In the Public service, she was a Commissioner for Education and Commissioner for Trade, Industries and Cooperatives in the old Oyo State Government of Nigeria.
  5. In 1983, she was honoured as Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  6. In 1983, she was honoured with Life member, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
  7. In 1992, Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria
  8. Honorary Fellow of the Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1999,
  9. 2005, Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters.

Prof. Bolanle Awe now age 82 was one of the few to break the glass ceiling in the academia. Mama is known for her unflinching dedication and thorough exploration of the significance of women in Nigeria and their capacity to participate in the Nigerian national project. A Mother, academic, historian and activist, mama is a symbol of strength and an inspiration to many young women who seek emancipation from the restraints that culture imposes on them. In 1960 she married the Late Prof. Olumuyiwa Awe on Christmas Day.

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I personally feel an emotional connection with Mama Awe as she is fondly called. I feel like she is a representative of both my history and my future. For me she represents both my strong historical heritage and the endless possibilities ahead. I know on this column we usually celebrate women making great waves like it’s new but the truth is as a woman, strength and courage is in your genes. Looking at the life of Mama Awe, I’m beginning to understand that attaining lofty heights is not unusual, being mediocre and complacent is. Don’t be a weirdo! You have no reason to fail destiny. I would love to hear from you, what was your most striking lesson? And lesson learnt outside this? Please share it in the comment box below. As usual don’t forget to pay it forward by sharing with someone else.

Your Friend,

Sinmisola NY.

This post was culled from the Thresh woman WCW Column. The ThreshWoman WCW is a column I manage with the goal to celebrate and encourage the successes of women all around the world while inspiring other women to chase their dreams fiercely. 

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