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This Woman's Work: Forest Gate Councillor Seyi Akiwowo

Seyi Akiwowo is 25 and lives in Newham. She is the elected councillor for Forest Gate North Ward and an international facilitator on active citizenship, soft skills, social integration and sustainable development. Seyi’s work ranges from empowering residents as locally as Forest Gate in East London, to as far as the Middle East.

BB: Describe your profession to me in your own words?

SA: I am a locally elected councillor, which means I represent my ward Forest Gate on Newham Council. I’ve been doing this for over three years and I came into the role when I was 22. As an international facilitator, I also deliver workshops around personal and character development and around active citizenship connecting to your community and employability.

I get to do that around the world, in the Middle East, in Kuwait, and in Dubai. I get to speak in really cool places, I also speak on and provide expertise around youth participation, the participation of marginalised groups, training on getting involved in politics, campaigning and things like that. 

BB: How did your journey to getting into politics begin?

SA: I get asked this question a lot and still to this day am not able to give a clear definitive answer. I didn’t get the burning bush that came to Moses, but I did always ask why? What I mean is I didn’t understand why certain things just weren’t fair. From early on, I was raised to know the difference between right and wrong and loving people, as I was brought up in a Christian home. When I just didn’t understand injustices and didn’t think things were fair or people were being treated equally or right or fairly, I would just call it out. I’ve always been like that.

When I was at one of my old churches, they said something about coming to church with your Sunday Best, and I challenged that and I said: “What if people can’t afford their Sunday Best? The Bible says you should come as you are.” And they were like “Yeah but you need to come in your best clothes” and I was like “I should be able to come in my pyjamas” and they said “No you can’t.” The very next week I came to church in my pyjamas just to prove a point! And I think I’ve always been like that, trying to stick up for people and being an advocate. 

I was a school council rep. I was the youth councillor in Newham and I served on the UK Youth Parliament. I was interested in policy and making society better and I understood that vehicle was politics. So it was just getting involved in different things and different groups and just meeting people and different doors opened and I progressed into becoming an elected councillor.