Why I fight for girls’ education
My journey from a Nigerian kindergartener to Nigeria’s first Winter Olympian.
Education and sport have always been inseparable for me.
Long before I became Nigeria’s first Winter Olympian and the first African woman to compete in skeleton at the Olympics, my parents instilled in me the value of education and made sure school always came before sport. Education became the gateway to unlocking my full potential as an athlete. To win on the field, I had to win in the classroom.
As a rambunctious kindergartner in Ibadan, Nigeria, I let my imagination run wild in the classroom. My teachers championed my individuality and encouraged discovery. It was in this supportive atmosphere that I gained the confidence I needed to become a trailblazing Olympian.
I’m so grateful for the education I received. But not every girl has the same opportunity.
Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, yet more girls are out of school in my home country than anywhere else in the world. Poverty, violence, discrimination, early marriage and poor quality education prevent girls from learning. These girls dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers and even Olympians — but they won’t get there without education.
That is why I work to unlock every girls’ potential by supporting organizations like Malala Fund. More than 130 million girls are out of school around the world and Malala Fund is breaking down the barriers that hold them back. I’m proud to join Malala’s fight, especially to support the work of education activists in countries like Nigeria. Malala Fund’s Nigerian Gulmakai Champions are helping girls who live under the threat of Boko Haram go to school and campaigning for new policies that support 12 years of free, safe, quality education for all girls.
In the fight for girls’ education, I know we must also provide girls with role models to remind them of what they’re capable of achieving. Through my signature leadership and sports master class for girls, I hope to inspire the next generation of leaders in Nigeria. I work with students to build their leadership skills and to motivate them to think big. Girls needs to know that no matter where they’re from, their dreams are valid.
I had a dream of competing in the Olympics. Because of the confidence I gained and the encouragement I received from my education, this year that dream became a reality. Whether it is competing in the Olympics, making a discovery in the science lab or getting elected to office, girls have great hopes for their futures. I am fighting to ensure that every girl has the tools and resources she needs to achieve those incredible ambitions. I hope you will join me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simidele Adeagbo competed in skeleton at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, becoming Nigeria's first Winter Olympian and the first African woman to compete in skeleton at the Olympics. She recently was recently selected to be part of the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program.