Zuriel Elise Oduwole is an American girl education advocate and film maker best known for her works on the advocacy for the education of girls in Africa. She is of Nigerian and Mauritian descent Her advocacy has since made her the youngest person to be profiled by Forbes. In November 2014, at age 12, Zuriel became the world's youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited work after her film showed in two movie chains, and then went on to screen in Ghana, England, South Africa, and Japan.
Oduwole has met with 23 Presidents and Prime Ministers in line with her education advocacy work. Some of these include the leaders of Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Liberia, South Sudan, Malta, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Guyana and Namibia. She has also appeared in popular television stations including CNBC, Bloomberg TV, BBC and CNN. In 2013, Oduwole was listed in the New African Magazine's list of "100 Most Influential People in Africa".
Early life and career
Zuriel Oduwole was born in Los Angeles, U.S to a Nigerian father and a Mauritian mother. Her first venture into media and advocacy was in 2012 when she entered a school competition with a documentary film about Africa titled The Ghana Revolution. For this she conducted her first presidential interviews, when she met with two former presidents of Ghana: Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor.
In 2013, after the release of her documentary film titled The 1963 OAU Formation, Zuriel Oduwole was profiled in Forbes Magazine. As part of this second documentary, she interviewed the President of Malawi ( Joyce Banda ), the President of Tanzania ( Jakaya Kikwete ) and the President of Mauritius ( Rakeshwar Purryag ). In March 2013, Oduwole formally started a project called "Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up", a campaign which was first launched at the Lagos Business School's Pan-Atlantic University, for the advocacy and promotion of girl-child education in Africa.
In 2014 at age 12, her self-produced documentary film titled A Promising Africa was screened in five countries. On 21 April 2014, Oduwole was listed as the most Powerful 11 year old in the world by New York Business Insider's in their listing of "World's Most Powerful Person at Every Age". In February 2015, Elle Magazine listed her in their annual feature of "33 Women Who Changed The World", alongside Fed Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and President of General Motors, Mary Barra.
The University of Pretoria in South Africa [aka TUKS] invited her to speak to their student body in March 2015 as a film maker, to give the students an insight into how to communicate and tell the story of global events, from a specific perspective – as part of their Humanities series. A few days later, she spoke at the Liberal Ashesi University in Ghana, and shared her film making story in a question and answer session with the students body, who saw a private screening of her film – A Promising Africa, before public release in Ghana.
In April 2015, the Ivy League's Columbia University in New York, U.S invited her as a featured speaker at their African Economic Forum conference, as well as a segment panelist, to speak about the potentials of the new Africa.
President Alpha Conde of Guinea met and spoke with Zuriel in May 2015, as part of an information documentary she was doing on the Ebola Virus, which started in his country Guinea [before ravaging Sierra Leone and Liberia] to understand the impact on the economies of the region, as well as the effect on children's education. President Conde was her 15th world leader she would meet to talk about pertinent and pressing issues.
As part of their global #LikeAGirl campaign to shore up girls confidence as they entered adolescence, global giant Procter & Gamble engaged Zuriel in June 2015 to create a short documentary about the education of girls about puberty, and the support needed during this period of their lives. She wrote, narrated and produced the video for the campaign with the theme Unstoppable Like A Girl.
While attending global events during the 70th United Nations General Assembly session in New York in September 2015, she became a global peacemaker, when she met David A. Granger, the President of Guyana on the sidelines of the General Assembly, to make peace between the leaders of Guyana and Venezuela, over the disputed Esequiba Oil territory.
In December 2015, she formally launched her DUSUSU Foundation aimed at building partnerships with corporation and individuals, to develop the education capabilities of children, but especially the girl child, across the globe. As a film maker, she launched her film making 101 Initiative for youths in Windhoek, Namibia in March 2016 and 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.
In April 2016 at age 13, she was invited as the keynote speaker at the annual Maryland State Department of Education's Early Childhood Educational conference at Ocean City, Maryland, addressing more than 600 adult delegates on how she sees the education of future US leaders developing. Later in June 2016, she was invited as the featured speaker as well as a panelist at the annual Women in Entertainment Luncheon, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.
The Guardian Newspaper in late June 2016 signed her on as a Columnist to share her insight on issues as seen by a younger generation and giving her a section and segment for periodic writing. She became a TEDx circuit speaker when she headlined the TEDx Gbagada event in July 2016 as the featured speaker, talking about the inter-connectivity between the past and future generations.
At the 71st United Nations [UN] General Assembly events in New York in September 2016, Zuriel was invited to speak on how the effects of climate change is significantly affecting the education of children in the Pacific Island region, an area she is focusing on currently. She met to discuss these issues afterwards with the 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 region also
TRT World news interviewed and featured her on their Newsmakers section after her participation at the UN events
In October 2016, she met with her 23rd World Leader, the President of Malta Her Excellency Mary Louise Preca, to share her ideas on building a network of female world leaders to tackle the issue of "out of school children", especially Girls, around the world.
As part of activities to commemorate their 11th annual Kreole festival from November 22–25, the government of Mauritius invited Zuriel Oduwole to be the special guest for the years events. To show their warmth and pride in her as a Mauritian descendant, she was welcomed to the country at the airport by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Adrien Duval and the Chairman of the Mauritius Tourism promotion Authority Arnaud Martin. Apart from being a judge for the film competition during the festival chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Xavier Luc Duval, she taught 150 underprivileged children basic film making skills from the Port Louis municipality as a film maker herself, and was a guest at the African night concert at the country's Citadel center in Port Louis along with Zambian First Lady, H.E. Esther Lungu
On December 6, 2016, Zuriel returned to Namibia to meet with Anna Kanola from Northern Namibia, who earlier in the year had attended Zuriels 'Film Making 101" class series, and became the first student to create a film project. She was honored by Zuriel and presented with some simple film production equipment's and a check for $1000 to encourage her future film making projects. Apart from trying to empower youths on the African continent, Zuriel launched the Film Class series to show what an educated girl can do, in support of her Dream Up, Speak UP, Stand up initiative. Her film class series has also now been delivered in Nigeria [Abuja & Lagos], Mauritius and Kenya.
Sauti Sol, the hit making Kenya Afro-Pop music group and winner of the Best Group 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards, met Zuriel in Nairobi on December 12 to explore a collaboration about Educating Africa's children. Their Soma Soma initiative started in 2012 by the groups four members is seen as a way to collaborate with Zuriel's DUSUSU Foundation, to get a greater number of rural children to read more
Before embarking on his last foreign travel [across 4 countries] on January 13 as the United States Secretary of State to Hanoi [Vietnam] for US-Vietnam bilateral issues, London [England] for a meeting on Syria, Paris [France] for the 70 nation Israeli-Palestinian Middle East peace summit, and finally Davos [Switzerland] for the 2017 World Economic Forum, the Rt Hon John Kerry met in Washington DC on January 11, 2017 with Zuriel Oduwole. Secretary Kerry commended her for what he called her 'clarity of purpose' in recognizing a major global developmental issue - Girls Education, and taking on the challenge head on. He also lauded her film making class for unemployed youths, which he said was making a tangible difference. Having now taught a basic film making class to more than 305 youths across 4 African countries - including Namibia, Kenya, Mauritius and Nigeria, Secretary Kerry said he was very impressed that a student from her first film class workshop in February 2016 - Namibian Girl Anna Kalola, produced her first documentary just 9 months later, in November 2016 in Windhoek. The Secretary of State called her a 'powerful global force' for Girls Education and Women's development.
Awards and recognitions
In October 2013, Oduwole was bestowed with an honorary ambassador title in Tanzania by Salma Kikwete, and a computer lab in one of the country's schools was named after her. Also that year she was listed in the New African Magazine's list of "100 Most Influential People in Africa". On 21 April 2014, Oduwole was listed as the most Powerful 11 year old in the world by New York Business Insider's in their listing of "World's Most Powerful Person at Every Age". In February 2015, Elle Magazine listed her in their annual feature of "33 Women Who Changed The World", alongside Fed Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and President of General Motors, Mary Barra.
On 12 March 2016, Zuriel won the "Woman on The Rise" category at the 2016 edition of the "New African Women Awards". In August 2016 at age 14, Forbes Afrique which is distributed across all 23 Francophone African countries as well as France, Belgium and Switzerland, featured her in their annual Africa's 100 Most Influential Women's list, alongside the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ameenah Gurib, President of Mauritius.
- The Ghana Revolution (2012)
- The 1963 OAU Formation (2013)
- Technology in Educational Development (2014)
- A Promising Africa (2014)