Abiola Afolayan


Abiola Afolayan serves as foreign affairs policy advisor for a senior member of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC, who is also the first woman Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. Abiola is a Nigerian American with an international background across four continents and field experience in over 10 countries: the United States, Mexico, Belize, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, France, Algeria, Western Sahara, Japan, Taiwan and throughout northern and southwestern states of Nigeria: Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, Niger, Kwara and Osun.

As foreign affairs policy advisor, Abiola manages a robust portfolio related to trade, energy, countering violent extremism and promotion of the rule of law. Among others, Abiola has worked on legislative measures and initiatives focused on human rights, the protection and empowerment of women and girls, including: a UN Security Council Resolution 1325-Women, Peace and Security Breakfast Briefing Series on Capitol Hill; Support of the Terror Victim Protection Fund (TVPF): for the Victims of Violent Extremism in the Lake Chad Basin in Africa; Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws; Decade of People of African Descent Act; Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls; and a Presidential Special Envoy on Boko Haram.

Abiola is very active in the American Bar Association (ABA) where she currently serves as the youngest member of the Rule of Law Initiative-Africa Council, as well as Vice Chair-Programs for the ABA Section on International Law. She also served as the ABA Chair of the Young Lawyers Division International Law Committee for three years and authored numerous Resolutions which passed, including ones on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Procedural Due Process Rights of Unaccompanied Minors.

A lawyer by training, but strategist and organizer at heart, Abiola has been involved in public service and the social justice movement since she was a youth in Nigeria, West Africa. Her activism was ignited by her viewing on television of Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990. As a college and law student in America, she always worked on the multiple fronts of building political power and capacity for low income people and people of color in order to significantly impact communities, policies and institutions that affect them. Abiola holds an advanced degree in law and has work experiences and a portfolio in: grassroots organizing and development, work on over 20 contract, political and issue campaigns on the local, state, federal and international levels. Abiola has worked on and spearheaded numerous campaigns from Oakland to Los Angeles, California to Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia to New Jersey, the Republic of South Sudan and the Gabonese Republic-allowing her the opportunity to work with various leaders, diplomats, coalition partners, lawyers, agency heads, elected officials and political candidates on various issue, political and contract campaigns. Abiola was also instrumental in the legislative campaigns for the passage of numerous community related bills, most notably one in the State of Maryland that would help create 12,000 good paying jobs.

Click here to return to the full list of 2016-17 Penn Kemble Fellows