Lola Omolola has created a network of over a million Nigerian women through Facebook. Her group Female in Nigeria (FIN) has become the first place where Nigerian women can talk about their struggles with thousands of other women.
Omolola never thought she would create a Facebook network that stretches to 60 cities throughout the world. As a young adult, she worked in the radio and television industries. She even had a couple of her own shows. After a few years of being successful, Omolola won a visa lottery to come to the United States. She quickly enrolled in college and received a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia College in Chicago. Omolola started working at the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago and that gave her insight to the struggles that many people are dealing with.
"It was a mental health counseling facility and I love working there," said Omolola. "I experienced what it was like to be in an environment where you just give and can make a difference in people's lives, people who really need help."
Along with the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, Omolola continued to work with the television and radio networks in Nigeria during big award shows and events in the United States. She also went on to work for apartments.com but decided to quit when she had children. She and her husband wanted one parent at home with the kids and since her husband was making more money than her, they mutually decided that she would be the one to stay home.
"While I was home, I started teaching myself how to code because well just because I'm home doesn't mean I have to do nothing," said Omolola. "I eventually started my own website, spicebaby.com, that featured Nigerian recipes and I couldn't believe how popular it had become. That's when I really started to get into Facebook."
Much like spicebaby.com, Omolola's Facebook community, FIN, took off from the very beginning. In 2015, she wanted to create a place where women could come together and share their stories, but had no clue that it would gain a million members.
"When you go to FIN, the first thing people notice is how warm and fuzzy it is. It is very supportive and a jarring difference from a lot of the internet where you see insults and snappy comments," said Omolola. "Women come in there and share deep stories about their lives and the first thing you notice is how kind people can be."
When starting the Facebook group, Omolola just looked for quotes and inspiring stories. She read stories about women not being able to rent an apartment without a man. She even heard stories about women not being able to get a haircut without a man's permission. FIN has become a place where Nigerian women can vent and gain support from other women.
FIN has expanded to the world offline as there are now FIN Hangouts. These in-person hangouts are hosted by women in the group and they talk about various topics from careers, to kids, to sex. The group has expanded so much that the name has been changed to Female IN to encompass the many women who are in the group and not Nigerian.
"We highlight the voices of women instead of telling them what they need to do or where they need to go," said Omolola. "FIN is really a collective where women can help each other and find support."
To make sure that everything stays positive, FIN is exclusive to women who know someone in the group already. Omolola wants to make sure that anyone joining the group already knows the values of it so the only way to join is to be invited by someone who is already a member. You can find Omolola on Facbook www.facebook.com/LOLA360.