January 17, 2019

The accidental activist

Pamela Adie has become a well-known and respected advocate for LBTQ+ rights in Nigeria.

Pamela Adie has become a well-known and respected advocate for LBTQ+ rights in Nigeria.

Pamela Adie’s (’06) work as an LGBTQ+ activist earned her an invitation to the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program and a place on Nigeria’s 100 Most Inspiring Women list

“For most of 2011, I suffered from depression. It was the lowest point of my whole life. I was still married to my ex-husband, but I was living at odds with who I really am. Finally, I decided it was time to come out, so that my ex-husband could live the life he wanted and deserved and I could be free to be who I was created to be.”

These are the words of Pamela Adie (’06) and they mark the moment her life as an ‘accidental activist’ began.

“Many people in Nigeria think homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured. In fact, my mom insisted I was under spiritual attack and went to speak with a prophetess,” she said. “She even brought some concoction home for me to drink so I could be ‘healed’. To tell you the truth, we had a lot of verbal clashes and finally she asked me to leave. We didn’t speak for a long time. I also lost a lot of friends.”

But, despite the difficulties she faced, Pamela began to share her thoughts and experiences publicly on social media, never expecting anything more than a personal outlet to come of it, but people began to take notice.

“I discovered a whole new world of people like me and quickly developed a following,” she said.

“But, when I returned to Nigeria in 2014, I realized the only stories about LGBTQ+ people in the public space were negative — things that portrayed us as people to be feared. So, I thought the only way to change that was to add to it.”

Finding Her Life’s Work

With that goal in mind, Pamela left her job in public relations at Exxon-Mobil (EM) in Nigeria to become a senior campaigns manager for All Out, one of the largest LGBTQ+ rights organizations in the world.

Pamela loved the job, but discovered she wanted to focus on her home country of Nigeria, where she said most gay rights organizations were focused on gay men and AIDS prevention, and weren’t paying much attention to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.

With undying optimism and determination, she started her own nonprofit organization — The Equality Hub — to advance the rights of female sexual minorities in Nigeria.

Pamela Adie

A Leading Lady

Pamela’s optimistic, bridge-building approach, combined with her wit and playful demeanor garnered widespread attention, and she quickly became one of the world’s leading activists. In 2017, she was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum and in 2018 she was named one of the “100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria” by Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit aimed at developing and equipping African women for leadership roles. Recently, she was also named to the Awesome 50 Annual List of Inspirational LGBTIQ Africans.

Pamela said the biggest honor of her life came this year when she received an invitation to participate in the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program. The year-long program aims to inspire, connect and empower emerging leaders form Africa.

“I couldn’t believe it! I had to turn my phone off and back on when I got the message, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” she said. “Over 10,000 people applied to participate and only 200 were chosen.”

Enriched by the Liberal Arts

Pamela said her experience at the University of Wisconsin-Superior helped prepare her for her role as co-founder and Chief Servant/Executive Director at The Equality Hub.

“My time at UWS was really enriching,” she said. “I loved that it was a liberal arts college that gave me exposure to a lot of different things and broadened my horizons.”

“I also loved UWS because it was very diverse and there were people there from all parts of the world. There was never a time I felt out of place or unwelcome. My brother and cousins went there, too, and I’ve been an outspoken ambassador for UWS.

“My advice for students who identify as LGBTQ+ is to live their truth and be their authentic self. Each person brings something to this world that no one else can bring. I tell them, ‘If you don’t share your gifts with others, it’s a disservice.’

“When I came out, I looked around my country and I couldn’t find a single person to look up to or to be my inspiration,” she said. “I want to be that inspiration for others. That’s what motivates me to keep going every day.”

Pamela is producing and directing a feature-length documentary film about her life and her coming-out story, called “Under the Rainbow,” which she hopes will help change public perception towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria. Visit https://bit.ly/2MfcSn0 to watch the teaser. For information about how you can support the film, please email pamela@theequalityhub.com.

Pamela Adie has become a well-known and respected advocate for LBTQ+ rights in Nigeria.

Pamela Adie has become a well-known and respected advocate for LBTQ+ rights in Nigeria.

The Gender Equity Resource Center located in Swenson Hall collaborates with many departments and student organizations to provide programs and resources that empower students of all genders and sexual identities to have a successful college experience.

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