Zuriel Oduwole was born in 2002, in Los Angeles, U.S to Nigerian father, Ademola Oduwole and a Mauritian mother, Patricia Oduwole. Zuriel is the eldest of four children, Azaliah, Arielle and Ismachiah Oduwole. She was home-schooled by her parents from age three. She is prominently described as ‘a child-philanthropist who is making great strides in an adult world’.
[Tweet “Zuriel Oduwole is prominently described as ‘a child-philanthropist who is making great strides in an adult world’.”]
She made her first film at age 9 when she entered the National Day competition for her school in California with a documentary film about Africa titled ‘The Ghana Revolution’. She requested and was granted her first presidential interviews; she met with two former presidents of Ghana: Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor. This event marked her debut into girls education advocacy.
[Tweet “In 2013, Zuriel was bestowed the honorary Ambassador title for the largest foundation in East Africa by the First Lady”]
In October, 2013, she was invited to Tanzania, and bestowed the honorary Ambassador title for the largest foundation in East Africa by the First Lady, Mrs. Salma Kikwete. This was in recognition of her advocacy work for the Girl Child.
In 2013, after the release of her documentary film titled The 1963 OAU Formation, Zuriel was profiled in Forbes Magazine. Making her the youngest person to be featured on Forbes. In the same year, she made the New African Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People in Africa”.
In November 2014, at age 12, Zuriel carves a place for herself in history as the world’s youngest filmmaker to have self-produced and self-edited a documentary film titled ‘A Promising Africa’ and have it screened in 5 countries. On April 21st of the same year, she is honored as the Most Powerful 11 year old in the world by New York Business Insider in their list of the ‘World’s Most Powerful Person at Every Age’.
In February, 2015, she joins Fed Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen and President of General Motors, Mary Barra, on Elle Magazine’s annual list of ’33 Women Who Changed the World’.
At the 2016 edition of the “New African Women Awards”, Zuriel wins the award for the “Woman on the Rise” category.
In August, 2016, at age 14, Zuriel makes Forbes Afrique’s annual list of 100 Most Influential Women. Conde Nast, the American global media and magazine giant, featured Zuriel as part of their Black History Month edition annual celebrations, as one of Americas future leaders to watch, for their February 2017 Teen Vogue.
[Tweet “UNICEF Nigeria reports that about 60 per cent of out-of-school children are girls. Mostly, for the reason of low perception of the value of girls’ education.”]
An Avowed Girl-Child Advocate
UNICEF NIGERIA reports that Nigeria still has 10.5 million out-of-school children – the world’s highest number. Sixty per cent of those children are in northern Nigeria. About 60 per cent of out-of-school children are girls. Many of those who do enroll drop out early. Low perceptions of the value of education for girls and early marriages are among the reasons. Some northern states have laws requiring education of girls and prohibiting their withdrawal from school. Girls’ primary school attendance has been improving, but this has not been the case for girls from the poorest household. In North-eastern Nigeria, conflict has deprived many children of access to education. Teachers have been killed and schools burned down or closed for security reasons.
Zuriel champions the Girl-Child education advocacy. She has initiated talks with no fewer than 24 African Presidents and Prime Ministers about creating policies that favour Girl-Child education till they reach the age of consent and can make decisions for their future rather than be barraged into early marriages or saddled with diseases or end up pregnant.
Zuriel believes that “Africa and the youth can change the world. I really believe it more now, that if someone wants to do something, no one can stop them, unless they did not really want to do it before”.
The former U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry calls her a ‘powerful Global Force’ for Girls Education and Women’s development.
Her campaign for the education of girls began in 2011 with emphasis on taking more rural girls off the street and into schools and giving girls from the poorest homes a future better than what they would have had without education. She tells the African stories through her documentaries. Through her ‘Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up’ initiative, Zuriel hopes to empower young girls and rebrand the image of Africa.
She Leads with her DUSUSU Foundation
In December 2015, she formally launched her “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” Foundation aimed at building partnerships with corporation and individuals, to develop the education capabilities of children, most especially the girl child, across the globe.
At the ceremony to commemorate the 11th annual festival of Mauritius, Zuriel attends as the special guest and as one of the judges for the film competition. There she seizes the opportunity and educates 150 underprivileged children on basic film making skills.
In February, 2016, Zuriel’s first 101 film class workshop held in, Windhoek, Namibia. By March, 2016, she launched her film making 101 Initiative for youths in Windhoek, Namibia, and in Lagos, Nigeria in June 2016; teaching some of Africa’s poorest children basic film making skills, so they have practical skills they can use in gainful or self-employment, as young adults.
A student from her first ‘Film Making 101’ class series workshop in February, 2016, Anna Kanola, becomes the first of Zuriel’s student to create and produce her first documentary 9 months later. On the 6th of December, 2016, Anna Kanola from Northern Namibia, is honored by Zuriel and presented with some film production equipment and a check for $1000 to encourage her future film making projects.
She was honored with an Award and Citation for her global work in the area of Education Development and Girls Equality advocacy by the city of Pachuca, in Hidalgo.
The Goodwill Ambassador
Earlier in September 2015, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Zuriel demonstrates an early flair for foreign politics when she launched a peace mediation initiative between Guyana and Venezuela, over the disputed Esquabos Oil territory, for which Venezuela was preparing to invade her smaller neighbour.
In September, 2016, at the 71st United Nations [UN] General Assembly events in New York, Zuriel speaks on how the effects of climate change is significantly affecting the education of children in the Pacific Island region. Shannon meets with Prime Minister of Samoa, H. E. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, H. E. Enele Sopoaga. She was invited to meet the new Jamaica Prime Minister H. E. Andrew Holness, to understand how Global Warming is affecting countries in the Caribbean.
In October 2016, she met with her 23rd World Leader, the President of Malta Her first venture Louisa Prevalent, to share her ideas on building a network of female world leaders to tackle the issue of “out of school children”, especially Girls from around the world.
She was made a Goodwill Ambassador by the Founder of the Rainbow Book Club at the UNESCO World Book Capital Port Harcourt in 2014.
Le Devoir, describes her as a future Larry King, because of her ability to meet with Political Leaders and discuss critical and pertinent global issues that affect children and youth development.
Unrelenting in her strides to align World Leaders with thoughts and acts of peace and goodwill, Zuriel is an inspiration to children and adults alike.
Asma Khalifa is one of the 30 Extraordinary Voices featured in the Women’s Month Series by AWLO. Click on your favorite social media button below to share if you have been inspired by Zuriel Oduwole.