‘I believe in the agency of a woman, the right to make decisions for and by herself’
A poet of revolutionary intent, activist and feminist Ololade Ajayi has launched her new collection of poems titled The Rheavolution at the Writers Interactive Network Literary Festival (WINLITFest 2023). The festival, which held on November 8, 2023 at Happiness Centre, Lagos, had ‘Evolve’ as theme. Described by the poet Ajayi, as her style of launching rockets of hope into mental spaces already overcrowded with trauma, The Rheavolution explores the experiences of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, who share their stories on ‘DOHS Podcast’, the author’s bibliotherapy podcast to encourage other survivors to speak up against abuse and any other forms of violence against women and children.
According to Ajayi, “The Rheavolution is not just a collection of poetry; it’s a communique between advocates and victims on resisting abuse, a call to arms for budding feminists and activists and a therapeutic approach that explores the power of words to bring about change. The collection can be found on Amazon and other e-book platforms.”
The collection also features poems written in Ololade’s Ekiti dialect. The titled poem The Rheavolution was written in memory of the youths who died at the tollgate in Lagos in October 2020. Students from Bola Ige Memorial High School, who are members of Club Therapy, an initiative by the poet’s NGO, DOHS Cares Foundation, presented a dramatisation of the connection between gender-based violence, menstrual and mental health at the WIN Literary Festival. They were also inducted into the WIN Young Writers Club.
The Rheavolution poet, Ololade Ajayi
Ajayi explained her poetry collection’s ‘rhea’ coinage for her title is taken from her nick name with which she decided to “disguise ‘re’ (in revolution) a bit, so we can hit the nail on the head… A sort of satire,” say, however, that her ‘re’ or ‘rhea’ in revolutionary poetry is her way of playing up her activism when it comes to feminist issues, adding, “But mostly activism and feminisms themed poems.” Here then is a woman whose writing is consciously political in her feminist vision to lend a helping hand to vulnerable members of society – women and children, who are at the receiving end of gender violence in whatever form.
Ajayi says social justice is the fulcrum of her feminist vision, as society is tilted unfairly against women, saying, “I’ve always been about social Justice… There’s an obvious imbalance in our societies that feminism amplifies. I identify with people who can solve this. I am a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) and I was a victim of sexual harassment as a child, but that wasn’t what informed my activism. I chose the feminism path because of its belief hinged on fairness and equal rights for all sexes. I believe in the agency of a woman, the right to make decisions for and by herself.”