My name is Seyi (Shay-ee) Akiwowo (Aki-wo-wo) and I am an Afropean (British/European Nigerian) living in London. I am a Fellow at Royal Society of the Arts and have had eight successful years working in the social policy and sustainable development sectors in the UK and abroad in places like Kuwait, Istanbul, UAE, Prague, Brussels, India and Bosnia.
Ever since my parents moved to Maryland, East London in the early 90s I’ve always been involved in my local community in some shape or form. I’m sure the local newspaper still have cringe-worthy photos of me in costumes dancing in Chatsworth Estate Fete with the local dance team.
My first engagement with representative positions was at Maryland Primary School where I was a school monitor, and then at my local secondary school in Forest Gate where I was a school council rep. Once I left school I decided to become a member of the local Labour Party and have been a member for seven years. I am now Chair of both my Branch Labour Party and the Women’s Forum as well as Executive Officer of West Ham CLP. As the Women’s Officer I’ve increased young female engagement in party politics, raised local women issues to the Council and has raised funds for charities such as Bring Back Our Girls. There is an embarrassing Young Mayor video manifesto floating around the World Wide Web. This because I ran and was elected to be on Newham Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament in 2009. As an ex UK Youth Parliamentarian and Youth Councillor in my teens I found a real passion for youth rights and addressing social inequalities as a young activist.
Outside local politics I developed a strong passion for UK and international education and subsequently took a few courses as part of my BSc Social Policy degree at LSE. I knew I wanted to and eventually did work abroad for a season in Brussels where I had a fantastic time working for the European Youth Forum, European IYGO (International Youth non-governmental organisation) advocating for youth rights as a Youth Policy Monitoring and Communications Officer. In this role I lobbied Members of the European Parliament on youth issues such as youth unemployment across Europe, informal education and increasing youth participation in democracy.
However, it soon became clear to me that I missed witnessing how policy can improve and impact lives, and so I came back to London to campaign in the hope of being elected as a Newham Councillor in May 2014.
I currently have two roles…
If you split me in half, one side I am a locally elected politician in East London, this makes me the youngest black female member of Newham Council to represent my community. In this role I am able to affect policy and make positive changes for those on the brink of social exclusion in one of the poorest areas of London.
On the other side I am Facilitator and Speaker on active citizenship, soft skills, social integration and sustainable development, this is a fancy way of saying I get to travel around the world working with and encouraging amazing young people to become responsible and active citizens and I support the development of their key soft skills in order to avoid social exclusion in the future.
I’ve both spoken and written for various media outlets including the Guardian on life as a young, female black politician and how we can encourage more diversity in politics. I also write and speak on issues around multiple discrimination particularly women of colour from working class backgrounds social and economic inclusion and methods to improve civic and political participation among women.I’ve recently been appointed a Trustee of a Multi Academy Trust in Forest Gate and a Kay Rowe Children Centre Advisory Board member.
In the future my hopes are to work within the Global Education and Youth Development sector and hope writing about Global education and youth development related current affairs and issues will empower others with knowledge to be able to become active global citizens.
Let’s Change the Game.