Nigerian Human and Civil Rights Activist
Hafsat Abiola-Costello serves as a member of the Ogun State cabinet where as the Special Adviser on MDGs in 2011 – 2015, she pioneered the use of mobile phones to deliver cash grants to poor pregnant women to ensure their access to health centres for antenatal to post natal care; and as the current Special Adviser on Trade and Investment for a state that is the industrial hub of Nigeria, she is working on programmes to ensure inclusive growth to address high youth unemployment.
Motivated by women’s strength, Hafsat believes that the challenges facing her country and those facing the continent of Africa offer opportunities for women’s leadership to emerge. Through her non-profit, the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), she is working to promote a groundswell of exemplary women leaders and build pathways to public service for them. Along with activities to promote women’s leadership, her organization also offers skills training to thousands of youths across Nigeria; supports nascent organizations working to address development gaps; and promotes the use of theatre and film as means of cultivating responsible civic values across the society.
Hafsat’s commitment to fostering democracy and development also includes work on global governance. She is one of 50 global councillors of the World Future Council, which is based in Germany; and a board member of the Women in Africa Forum, based in France. A recipient of several international awards and recognition, including the Vital Voices’ Public Service Award in 2015, Goi Peace Foundation Award in 2016 and the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leadership community, her work is a tribute to her parents who lost their lives while leading the democracy movement that brought an end to military rule in Nigeria in the ’90s.
Hafsat graduated from Harvard University with a A.B. in Development Economics (Hons.) and received a Master’s in International Development from Tsinghua University. She was also conferred with a honorary doctorate degree by Haverford College. She is married to EU official, Nicholas Costello, with whom she has two children.