Susty Person of the Week: Dr Olajumoke Akiode
Dr Olajumoke Akiode is a woman with a deep passion for ethics in sustainability and women empowerment. She is the founder of the Centre for Ethics and Sustainable Development, a professional development policy researcher, advocate for social change, mother and a Nigerian.
She holds a doctorate degree in applied Ethics from the University of Lagos and has just recently concluded an executive course in Public Infrastructure Partnership at the University of Queensland International Development, Brisbane Australia. She is also a mentor, teacher and life coach to many young people.
We caught up with her to learn on the interesting philosophy of sustainability and we enjoyed learning from her. Read below:
Kindly introduce yourself
My name is Dr Olajumoke Akiode, an ethicist, a policy and development researcher. I am the executive director of the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD), a non-profit, non-governmental Think tank. I am just an individual that is wired towards moral imagination – the ability to see situations and the world as it is and the audacity to think of how it ought to be. So my passion to contribute to that change informed my area of specialization and what I do. I am married with children and I live in Lagos Nigeria.
What does Sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability simply means a conscious and proactive plan of human activities such that the economy, the society and the environment are utilized to meet the needs of the present and future generations within the limit of what the ecosystem can support.
What does ethics in Sustainability mean?
Ethics is the foundation of sustainability. It is the discipline that demands reflection on the impact of our decisions, policies, passive and active, conscious and unconscious activities on fellow human beings, the ecosystem, planet earth and the future generation.
Why did you set up the Centre for Ethics and Sustainable Development?
The founding of the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD) is a result of years of journeying through the social change landscape. It is the result of the yearning to produce actionable knowledge through research and connect it to policy so that it leads to social change and sustainable development. And it is the result of collective passion of like-minded researchers and social change agents.
Your focus on the social aspect of sustainability is very interesting; what do you think are the best ways to achieve sustainable development in terms of human development?
There is no way you talk about development and sustainability without talking about people. Human beings are the focal point of sustainable development; all the SDGs are human-centered.
There can be no sustainable development without human development because of the connection between human beings, the economy, society and the environment.
Firstly, only informed and developed minds will reflect upon the impact and consequences of their decisions, activities and policies. They are able to gauge how it promotes sustainability, responsible stewardship of natural resources and consideration for future generation.
Secondly, the quality of life of existing generation of human beings has to be improved within the limit of what the environment can support. And this means improved welfare, meaningful existence, shared prosperity, inclusive governance and capacity development.
Thirdly, human capacity development will aid the expansion of the knowledge economy which will aid sustainable development.
Gender Equality is a core of the work that you do, kindly shed more light on your work around this
Gender equality is a highly misunderstood concept mostly by religious people and men. Gender is simply a term that refers to male and female. Equality there merely recommends equity in terms of representation, access to economic and financial resources, opportunities, provision and inclusion. It advocates the eradication of gender blind spot in our social interactions and institutions. One of the organizational goals of the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD) is gender development. That is, development of men and women; women empowerment and the inclusion of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in Nigeria’s development policy. We advocate for GESI incorporation into infrastructural development policy and program and all capital expenditures.
CESD also has a platform called WEAF- Women Empowerment and Advancement Forum. This is a product of over twelve years of personal grassroots women empowerment efforts. We believe women have the right to participate in leadership, decision making processes, operate on a level playing field with their men counterpart and contribute substantially to sustainable development. To achieve this, they must be adequately equipped with the necessary skill-set and support network. Because even with the purported level-playing fields, women arrive at the starting line feet-bound.
As a philosopher, why do you think the gender gap in developing countries like Africa is more pronounced?
There are many reasons that can be adduced for gender gap in Africa. I will simply name a few. Gender stereotype, that is, inaccurate belief or over-generalized view of men and women in terms of attributes, differences and roles in the society. Others include family institution, other socializing processes and power structure.
Briefly tell us about your doctorate degree and your studies
I have a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Lagos, in the fields of applied ethics and socio-political philosophy. My doctoral dissertation proposed John Rawls’ethical theory as a foundation for corporate governance to ensure corporate sustainability. I have recently completed an executive course on Public Private Infrastructure Partnership (PPIP) from the University of Queensland, Australia. PPIP proposes innovative thinking on infrastructural development that fosters sustainable development.
Do you have a lot of youths interested in your line of research?
I don’t know how to answer this. This is because I see a lot of young people complain about the present situation in Nigeria especially on social media. But I don’t see as much proactive activities geared towards mitigating those distasteful situations. How many of them know the importance of the FOI Act and the kind of power it places in their hands? How are they participating in the governance process? They want positive social change, what are they doing in their sphere of influence to contribute to this change? How much of their unethical practices have they changed? But in the philosophy department of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and other universities, there are certainly students studying ethics and applying it theoretically to various social realities.
What are your other interests?
I love Arts and the African culture as well as nature appreciation. I am passionate about mentoring.
What can people start doing to achieve Sustainability in their daily lives?
Reflect on the impact of your actions on your neighbour and your environment before you do anything. Have empathic understanding of fellow human beings, the ecosystem, planet earth and the future generation as individuals, policy makers, corporate citizens and global citizens
Do you think the SDGs are achievable by 2030 (in Africa) and why?
Yes, I think some of them are if African leaders both the policy makers and implementers are committed to its achievement. Also, there is need for the political will to see them through and citizen collaboration.
What are your favourite SDGS?
My favourites are goals 5 and 9. 5- Gender equality, women and girls’ empowerment. 9 -To build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Both speak to me on a personal level. They are aligned to CESD’s objective and focus area as well.
What is your advice for young people interested in working around Ethics and Sustainability?
Young people are the leaders of today; they have enormous power due to their age, energy, passion, intelligence and their social media savvy. This can be fused into collective power or ability to promote ethical revival and sustainability in Nigeria. They should identify the right questions to ask, the best way to ask and by all means ask. We welcome them to join CESD in promoting human wellbeing and sustainable development through research, advocacy and strategic communication.
How can people reach you or find out more about your work?
LinkedIn – Olajumoke Akiode PHD