Dr. Titilope F. Ajayi is a pracademic and independent research, training, and facilitation consultant with specializations in gender, conflict, peace and security, civil society, and social movements. Her recent work covers women and violent extremism, gender and humanitarianism, and feminist movements and norm change around gender violence. With 18+ years of experience in international development, she holds a PhD in international affairs from the University of Ghana, where she was postgraduate valedictorian for the 2021 Cohort.

Titilope was a three-time SSRC African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) fellow, having received the Next Gen Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Fellowship (2017), the Next Gen Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship (2019), and APN Individual Research Grant (2018). She founded and co-runs Doing A PhD in Africa —a knowledge and support hub for early career scholars on the continent that offers space for networking, capacity strengthening, career development and peer mentoring.

 

Ajayi, Titilope PhD Graduation
Photo by Paul Koutanyi. Edited by Ivan Acquah.

Next Gen: Please describe the central argument of your doctoral dissertation. What is its main contribution to knowledge in your field?

Titilope F. Ajayi: The motive and main argument of my doctoral research is that we cannot lay claim to complete worldviews and knowledge if our empirical references derive mainly from one part of the world – in this case, and with specific regard to my home discipline of international relations – the global north. My doctoral thesis, titled “New Dimensions of Transnational Activism,” illustrates this through the case study of Bring Back Our Girls, the transnational activism for the return of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014, which underlined two main findings: the growing importance of individual actors and informal networks in transnational activism and the expanding transnational agencies of Global South activists.

 

How did the Next Gen fellowship program impact your doctoral journey?

It was pivotal. The various training and networking opportunities at workshops were instrumental to my access to knowledge, shaping my ideas and my community, and grounding my work in multidisciplinarity. Given the focus of my work and the still comparable dearth of African-owned knowledge on conflict, development, peace, and security, it is critically important that the Next Gen programme is so centered on and driven by thought leaders in this field – from whom I’ve learned so very much from – and that it prioritizes grounded knowledge production. I have gone on to collaborate with fellow Next Gen alumni, and we continue to support each other where possible. The mentoring and peer relationships were nurturing and enriching, and I have many fond memories. I would strongly encourage anyone who meets the eligibility criteria to apply for a Next Gen fellowship. You will not regret it.

 

Now that you have completed your PhD, what are your plans for the future?

I am continuing to build my career as a pracademic with a focus on women, peace, and security, both in scholarship and praxis. In collaboration with diverse partners, I am also reviewing and intensifying the varied support we have been privileged to offer to doctoral and early career scholars across Africa through my platform, Doing A PhD in Africa.

 

What advice do you have for upcoming doctoral students?

I would say know why you want a PhD, because you will have cause to question yourself along the way and your conviction will be an important reason to keep going when it gets tough. Believe in yourself. Trust that your ideas will come together eventually, no matter how unlikely it seems at the beginning. Open your mind to ideas from other people, disciplines, and contexts. Network madly. Work as hard as you can but pace yourself so you don’t compromise your mental health. Lastly, own and travel your path. No two doctoral trajectories are the same, and yours is no less valid because it doesn’t match someone else’s.

 

 

Titilope Ajayi’s selected publications.

Titilope F. Ajayi (2024, forthcoming). Women’s and Feminist Movements and Norm Change around Gender Based Violence in West Africa. ODI.

Titilope F. Ajayi (2023). Africa’s Politics of Incumbency: Reflections on Liberia’s Election Outcomes, WATHI. https://www.wathi.org/opinion-election-liberia-2023/africas-politics-of-incumbency-reflections-on-liberias-election-outcomes/.

Titilope F. Ajayi (2023). The Overlooked Spoilers Beclouding Nigeria’s 2023 Elections, Kujenga Amani. https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2023/02/24/the-overlooked-spoilers-beclouding-nigerias-2023-elections/

Titilope Ajayi (2022). “Nigeria’s #EndSARS struggle endures,” The New Humanitarian. https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/first-person/2022/10/19/Nigeria-EndSARS-police-brutality

Titilope F. Ajayi, Simbarashe Gukurume & Ibrahim Bangura (2022). Strengthening Democratic Governance and Political Stability in Africa: Critical Policy Perspectives. ACCORD. https://www.accord.org.za/publication/strengthening-democratic-governance-and-political-stability-in-africa-critical-policy-perspectives/.

Titilope F. Ajayi (2021). “Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality”, Africa Skills Hub, https://siafrica.online/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/1.pdf

Titilope Ajayi (2021). “What happens to sexual abuse survivors after the headlines fade?” The New Humanitarian. https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/2020/12/10/justice-sexual-abuse-survivors-aid-sector.

Titilope Ajayi (2021). “Nigeria must rethink responses to women displaced by Boko Haram.” The Conversation Africa. https://theconversation.com/nigeria-must-rethink-responses-to-women-displaced-by-boko-haram-150798“.

Nicolas Wicaksono, Titilope Ajayi, Christelle Djouldé Amina & Pamela Chepngetich (2021). “Rethinking Chronic Crises in Africa: Gaps and Opportunities.” Search for Common Ground. https://www.sfcg.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Rethinking_Chronic_Crises_in_Africa_Gaps_and_Opportunities.pdf.

Titilope Ajayi (2020). Women, Internal Displacement and the Boko Haram Conflict: Broadening the Debate. African Security. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392206.2020.1731110.

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