Iyabeji Adeyela Bennett

Iyabeji Adeyela Bennett is President and CEO of Women in Training, Inc., a youth empowerment organization that advocates for menstrual equity. She has led the nonprofit into an internationally recognized organization for passage of legislation to help end period poverty in Alabama. In 2024, Alabama Media Group named Adeyela among Women Who Shape the State.

Adeyela is the author of Only the Strong Survive: A Womanist Journey. The anthology is a tribute to goddesses and ordinary women who survived tremendous obstacles to leave indelible marks on history. She gathered stories about these women during her childhood in The Bahamas and 2000 pilgrimage to Nigeria, where she was crowned with the traditional chieftaincy title, Iyalaje Obatala. Adeyela has also studied traditional cultures in Ghana and Mexico, and was a member of the Ausar-Auset Society pan-African spiritual organization in Washington, D.C. In Miami, she managed and studied with the Institute for Yoruba Diaspora Studies. Adeyela lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates for five years, from 2010 to 2015.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Florida International University in 1985, and is an alumni of the University of Florida and Howard University. As the mother of four fabulous daughters, Nuola and Moremi Akinde, and twins, Breanna and Brooke Bennett, she uses the Yoruba honorific “Iyabeji,” Mother of Twins. Her brilliant grandchildren are Akinwale, Eniafe and Iwa. Adeyela is married to Bradley Bennett, the editorial director of a leading civil rights organization.

BPM: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer! Growing up in a large family with five sisters, a brother, my stepfather and mom, I would hide under my shared bed or in the hallway linen closet to find a quiet spot to read one of my countless books. While other children received dolls or toys for their birthday or Christmas, my mom and stepdad almost always gave me books for every occasion. A childhood of reading led to my passion for writing.

BPM: Share with us your work with your non-profit, Women in Training, Inc.
In Women in Training, Inc., we work to eradicate period poverty by advocating for menstrual equity policies, providing menstrual and leadership development education, and giving away WITKITS of menstrual, dental and hygiene supplies to girls and other menstruators in need. Period poverty is not just about menstruating people lacking access to menstrual education and period supplies. Period poverty is about the impoverished ways that we THINK of feminine power and menstruation. Period poverty is also about the ways that patriarchy has made women’s bodies something to be shamed, instead of honoring women as the home of our collective spirituality, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

BPM: What motivated you to write Only the Strong Survive: A Womanist Journey?
While most people view God as a male energy, I have always thought about my mother as my protector. My provider. My guide. On her dying bed, my mother advised me: “Only the strong survive.” I have always looked for examples of spiritually, intellectually and emotionally strong women in my life, and in history.

BPM: Introduce us to your most recent work. What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
It is with great honor that I present Only the Strong Survive: A Womanist Journey. In this full-color, illustrated, coffee-table anthology, I tell the stories of 26 influential women — of flesh-and-blood and also of myth. I explore the core qualities of “feminine identity” throughout history and across multiple religions and cultures. There are women, like Auset, Queen Esther, Hajar and Queen Moremi Ajasoro, who inspired me with how they tapped into their spiritual, intellectual and emotional strength to overcome life’s challenges and leave a mark on human history.

BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
Absolutely! Writing this book has been therapeutic! I conducted research about the sheroes in Only the Strong Survive over a thirty five year period. Well, gathering information for the stories about my mother and grandmother began in my childhood! During, and even after the writing process, I gained a greater understanding of my mother’s miraculous life. She had a remarkably close relationship with God that brought her through several earth shattering experiences that would have broken a less faithful woman. On her dying Mammy whispered, “Only the strong survive.” I am only now grasping the full meaning of my mother’s statement.

BPM: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
The first version of this material was written as an interactive journal for middle and high school girls in the Women in Training, Inc. Leadership Development Academy. It was so well received that I decided to publish the bio statements of two dozen of the women in the original journal. My intent is to engage women of all ages in discussions about the feminine energy that helped to create and sustain life. All of us have that same power within us! I want women to know that from antiquity until the present, women have suffered and struggled; however, the strongest among us survive – and thrive – to leave an indelible mark on our families and communities. I believe I successfully accomplished my goals!

BPM: Can you share some ways that readers can support you?
All proceeds from sales of Only the Strong Survive: A Womanist Journey, go directly to Women in Training, Inc., the youth empowerment nonprofit organization my twin daughters started five years ago on their 12th birthday. The mission of WIT is simple: to end poverty in general, and to end period poverty, specifically.

We have three areas of focus:

  • Advocating for local, state and federal legislation to create menstrual equity for all girls and menstruators
  • Distributing WITKITS of menstrual, dental and hygiene supplies locally, nationally and internationally
  • Training middle and high school girls to become culturally competent, global leaders who care about themselves and the world around them. This happens through the WIT Leadership Development Academy

When anyone purchases a copy of my book, the funds directly impact girls in Alabama and beyond! I am also available for speaking engagements to share my message of gender equity and women’s empowerment!

BPM: What other projects are you working on at the present?
Women in Training, Inc. is in the throes of planning our 5th Annual WIT 5K to celebrate International Day of the Girl! Our 5K and a cultural festival are taking place in Montgomery, Alabama, on September 28, 2024. Everyone is welcome to attend! Registration is HERE!

BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Please learn more about Only the Strong Survive: A Womanist Journey at womanistjourney.com or on social media @womanistjourney. You may learn more about Women in Training, Inc.’s powerful work to end period poverty at womenintraining.org.

Website: https://www.womanistjourney.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/womanistjourney
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/womanistjourney
X/Twitter: https://twitter.com/womanistjourney
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adeyela-bennett-1045a449
Amazon book link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1665303891

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