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Conversations with Tope Fajingbesi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tope Fajingbesi.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
After going through a tough first marriage, which ended in a divorce, multiple pregnancy losses, 2 job losses, and the loss of my dad, I felt trapped. Not by the calamities but by a culture of silence that made it taboo for me to speak about these trials and how they showed up everywhere else including at work and in the work I do in my community.

Since I could not find a platform to talk about these things and learn from other women who looked like me and were going through similar struggles, I decided to create my own platform. I first conceived the idea of She-EO while attending a conference at the University of Oxford in 2014, but I was too scared to execute it. I thought there was no way anyone would come to any of my events. I overcame that fear and organized the first She-EO event in Columbia Maryland in August 2017.

And the train has not slowed since then. Not even the pandemic could stop the movement,

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It’s been far from smooth, and the struggles still continue. The greatest challenge I faced at the beginning of the She-EO journey was convincing women who look like me that it is okay to be authentic and vulnerable about our struggles so that we can give hope to others. Shattering that culture of silence and removing the obstacles that many women face when it comes to speaking openly and authentically about taboo topics was (and still remains) a challenge to date.

An equally significant challenge is getting sponsors to invest in developing a community of African women living in the continent or in the diaspora. It’s still not as mainstream as investing in other communities that are seen as “more marketable.” In spite of these challenges, I intend to keep on going because I am laser focused on creating a community of female African change-makers that will redefine what it means to be African by 2050.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I like to describe myself as a social impact entrepreneur because I pursue ventures and causes that provide solutions to challenges faced by people in my communities in Africa and in the diaspora. I organize my work through 3 organizations: United for Kids Foundation (u4kids.org), which I co-founded with my friends in 2002 provides relief for children from low-income families. We create and implement educational, healthcare, and social welfare programs to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Dodo Farms (dodofarmsmd.com), a certified naturally grown farm I co-own with my husband, Niyi in Montgomery County provides food in its purest and healthiest form to customers in the Washington D.C. metro area.

She-EO (thesheeo.org) is a safe platform for women of African descent to have important conversations that matter. We are on a mission to build a strong network of African women leaders that will run the world by 2050.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I always tell myself that if I am not ready to fail woefully, I can never experience mind-blowing success.

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Image Credits
Rebecca Drobis Photo

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