Ajirioghene Evi-Cobbinah (She/Her)
BA, BSW, MSW
Ajirioghene Evi (pronounced Ah-Jiri-Or-Ganeh) (she/her) is the Executive Director at Kind Minds Family Wellness and the Community Engagement Specialist at the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Ajirioghene holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Social Development Studies and a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from the University of Waterloo. She also has a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Western University.
Her Child Welfare background started with direct child protection work with survivors and perpetrators of domestic and intimate partner violence. However, it was not long before she started working with Black and racialized service recipients due to the culturally inclusive lens and approaches to her work, especially with Newcomers to Canada, via a proactive and preventative engagement in the community.
Ajirioghene volunteers in an inaugural role as Executive Director of a Black-led Not-For-Profit
organization, Kind Minds Family Wellness (KMFW), nominated as a 2022 Agency of Excellent by the United Way Waterloo Region Communities. As the Executive Director, she oversees the administration, programs, and strategic plans of KMFW.
In 2022, Ajirioghene was selected as a recipient of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch from the Canada International Black Women Excellence. An award for her outstanding achievement and a great testimony of the impact she, her work, and her accomplishments have on the people who witness this around her. In 2021, Ajirioghene was recognized and nominated for the Master of Social Work Field Instructor Award by Wilfrid Laurier University. This award was for her invaluable mentorship of Master of Social Work students and contribution to field education.
What led you to your current (career, art, activism)?
As a Black-identified social worker passionate about working with individuals, families, groups, or communities that are culturally diverse and not necessarily the celebrated norm, I depend on this dynamic force mixed with action to ensure that I am sitting in spaces to speak to gaps, identify needs and work with systems to bring about the change in a timely and effective method. I achieve this via the cross-cultural leadership skills that allow me to assume several roles in the community, from working and supporting grassroots work and initiatives for deserving equity groups to engaging and educating private and corporate entities on how to dismantle systemic racism and promote equitable outcomes for their clients and service recipients.
Who are some of your influential authors or books to read?
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Recently, it would be founding a Black-led and Black-serving establishment during the pandemic to address the immediate and long-term needs of Black-identified communities in the Waterloo Region and being recognized as one of Canada’s 100 Black Women to Watch of 2022.
Why do you think it’s important to be an ally to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community?
As a cross-cultural leader (acting as a bridge in the conversations needed to increase awareness and acceptance of 2SLGBTQ+ issues) of African descent who had to start my learning journey as an international social work student many years ago, I have appreciated that being an ally and co-conspirator to the 2SLGBTQ+ community means being susceptible and openly acknowledging that I do not have all the answers and that I do not have the experiences of members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This means having empathy rather than sympathy, which goes a long way toward improving behaviours and creating a supportive community. Learning about the 2SLGBTQ+ community is essential to unpack all the historical baggage(s) associated with sexual orientation and gender identity!
Everyone should use their voices and opinions to support members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community who are targeted by oppression. As a Black professional, understanding the plight of Black-identifying members of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities is also where I use my positionality and access to ensure that I speak to solidarity, collectivity, intersectionality, and identity, as well as resistance to discrimination and violence.
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