Newest member of the supervisory board Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole: ‘I represent the people on the ground’

Article: 28.03.24, Rwanda

In October 2023, Simavi’s supervisory board was strengthened by the addition Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole. With an impressive track record within the International Development sector, she is the perfect person to guide Simavi through a change process where scaling up partnerships and shifting the power are key objectives.

Olutayo Bankole-Bolawole

Why did you decide to join the supervisory board of Simavi?

‘I have known Simavi for a long time because of the player it has been in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. I am passionate about the intersection between WASH, climate, health and gender equality Simavi focuses on. As a child growing up in Nigeria, I noticed the undue advantages given to boys. The unequal access to education for girls. Fortunately, my dad was more liberal. He treated all his kids equally. This woke up the feminist activist in me to make a difference.'

‘I have also worked in various roles in international development at WaterAid, ActionAid and now at Tearfund. I bring my expertise in organisational development, for example in transformational leadership and management, to the table. In what ways can you make your organisation healthier? Identifying those ways and turning them into clear plans of action has been a trait of mine across organisations I have worked at. I think those experiences have allowed me to connect with Simavi in this period of its existence in particular.’

What will your focus be as supervisory board member?

‘We as Simavi are going through a change at the moment. With our Shift the Power approach, we want to increasingly contribute to locally-led solutions. As a result, we are scaling up working with partners. I will contribute to identifying and building partnerships. Finding partners which stand out in their niche areas is critical when we at Simavi want to stand out at the intersection between WASH, climate, health and gender equality specifically. By joining forces, we can make the most impact.’

In Tanzania, Simavi works with organisations including E-MAC to provide female community leaders such as Hellen Mollel (pictured) with training to become WASH advocates.

What is a unique aspect which you bring to the role?

‘I represent the people on the ground. Africa is my home. I have lived in many countries, most of which were in Africa. I will always keep the perspective of the people at the community level here in mind. Because I have lived in these communities. This perspective includes the nuances related to Africa which many people tend to miss. African countries are all very different from each other. Kenya is more progressive around women’s rights and has passed laws which support women and girls in radical ways that I had never seen in most sub-Saharan African countries. Another country Simavi works in, Tanzania, is more patriarchal. This makes its government more difficult to collaborate with.’

‘However, Simavi has the reputation of being able to develop effective relationships with most governments. This includes the Tanzanian one, which has a great deal of respect for Simavi thanks to activities such as its advocacy work with the government for WASH services in schools and communities. I really see it as a privilege and honour to have been allowed to serve on the board of such an organisation. It is not something that I take for granted.’

Esther Oeganda

Everybody has the human right to safe water and sanitation.

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