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From Preacher’s Daughter to Champion for Women: The Journey of Rantiade Benson-Idahosa

When Rantiade Evon Benson-Idahosa was growing up, she must have thought that her life was meant for the spiritual path because she was the daughter of the famous Archbishop Benson Idahosa and his equally influential wife Archbishop Margaret Benson Idahosa. However, things took another turn, and she became a lawyer of no mean repute in addition to being an advocate for women and girls.

Ranti’s upbringing involved powerful presence and instructions from her mother and father. In one moment of introspection, Ranti said: “I grew up with two amazing parents. Many people think our father was always casting out demons and creating a very spiritual atmosphere, but my childhood was relatively normal. In addition, I used to go to boarding school when I reached nine, although we attended morning prayers daily at church.”

Jos was a turning point for Ranti as she attended school there. According to her words “That’s where I really started to understand more about myself and the impact of my parents. Living in Benin felt normal, but going outside that context made me realise my parents were doing something significant with their lives and for Nigeria,” she said.

“The number of people that I’ve been able to support… that’s what’s most important.”

Growing up, Ranti and her siblings were taught by their parents to be responsible and humble. “They always emphasised that success comes not just from hard work, but from knowing who you are and staying grounded. It really shaped how I see the world,” Ranti shared. As her parents took her on trips within Nigeria and abroad, she witnessed firsthand the income disparities, mistreatment of women, and other inequalities that exist in life. These experiences had a profound impact on her perspective.


For Ranti, the choice to pursue a career in law seemed almost predetermined in her household. “My parents used to line us up in front of the church and give us two options: lawyer or doctor. Anything else was out of the question,” Ranti chuckled. Since her older brother had already chosen to become a doctor, she decided to go for the other option, even though she didn’t fully understand what being a lawyer entailed. “I was always questioning things, arguing, and standing up against injustice. So, in a way, it was kind of destiny that I ended up in this field.”

Ranti’s transformation from being the daughter of renowned preachers to becoming a legal advocate was fuelled by her strong desire to make a positive impact. She explained, “Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the injustices that exist in the world, and that shaped my perspective and inspired me to fight for women’s rights and justice.” Her career in law and her dedication to advocacy are a testament to the values and teachings instilled in her by her parents.

From Privilege to Purpose – A Path to Justice

Ranti’s early years were eye-opening for her, even though she grew up in a world of privilege. “I had a lot of advantages, but I also understood that not everyone had the same opportunities. It mattered more who you were born to than where you were born,” she explained. These experiences during her childhood, combined with her unwavering sense of justice, shaped her perspective and fired her determination to fight for equality.

Her path to advocacy was further influenced by personal experiences. “When I was around 16 or 17, I was physically assaulted by a young man. It made me feel helpless and made me realise how vulnerable I was,” Ranti shared. This traumatic event, along with the valuable lessons she learned from her parents, especially her mother’s work in empowering women, guided her towards a life dedicated to ensuring justice and fairness.


“I live my life in a way that’s transparent. I live my life in a way that it’s integrated, right. So the same person that you see on social media is essentially who I am.”

As Ranti became more aware of the systemic barriers that hindered the success of many individuals, her compassion for those born into less fortunate circumstances grew. “I started to empathise a lot more with people who were simply born into situations beyond their control,” she said. This understanding boosted her resolve to make a difference, striving to provide equal opportunities and access for as many women as possible.

Her journey led her to a successful career as a lawyer, eventually becoming a partner at a law firm in New York. “By society’s standards, I was considered highly successful, especially as a black African woman in a predominantly white male environment,” Ranti acknowledged. However, deep down, she knew her true calling was in Nigeria. “I felt a strong pull towards Nigeria like that was where I was meant to be,” she explained.

In 2013, Ranti made a courageous decision to resign from her law partnership and return to Nigeria, where she founded the Pathfinders Justice Initiative. This organisation focuses on delivering justice and creating opportunities for women and girls who face systemic barriers. “I asked myself, what can I do to ensure that as many women as possible have equal opportunities and access?” she shared.

A Mission Rooted in Compassion – Fighting for Women’s Rights

Ranti Benson-Idahosa didn’t have a specific plan in mind when she made the decision to come back to Nigeria and establish the Pathfinders Justice Initiative. She simply had an open heart and a strong desire to help. “To be honest, I didn’t have any specific goals,” she admitted. “All I prayed for was to have my eyes opened so I could see where the needs were specifically.”


Upon arriving in Nigeria towards the end of 2013, Ranti found herself drawn to assisting women who had fallen victim to sexual exploitation and rape. She wanted to dig deeper and understand the underlying causes of these issues. “It’s one thing to use quick fixes to address the immediate situation, but it’s another thing entirely to uncover the root causes and take them head-on,” she explained.

“When you do the work that you love, success and recognition tend to follow. My focus is on just getting the job done.”

Ranti’s work revealed that many injustices were deeply ingrained in the culture, traditions, laws, and even religious beliefs. “These are longstanding and deeply rooted factors contributing to the subjugation of women in many ways,” she stated. Understanding the complexities of these issues made her realise just how monumental the challenge ahead of her was. “When you add that to the mindset of many women who have been beaten down, it becomes a lot more challenging than I initially expected.”

Fighting Injustice – Pathfinders Justice Initiative

One of the big issues Ranti takes on through her initiative is modern-day slavery, especially sex trafficking. She’s heavily involved in the “Not for Sale” campaign, which is all about fighting human trafficking in Nigeria. When she thinks back on the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, Ranti points out how complex it is to define success in such tragic situations. “At first, 276 girls were snatched away… and now, there are still around 100 of them unaccounted for,” she said. While some may focus on the majority of the girls who were rescued, Ranti stresses the ongoing pain and loss. “Whenever a child is taken away and stolen from their life, it’s an absolute atrocity.”

“My hope is that it starts to inspire hope in a country and for people who have lost a lot of their hope.”

Ranti also works tirelessly to tackle gender-based violence. She explains how deeply rooted issues are often at the heart of these problems. “It’s one thing to use quick methods to temporarily deal with the situation, but it’s another thing altogether to figure out the underlying causes and try to tackle them,” she said. These causes go way back, woven into the culture, traditions, laws, and even religion, making her work especially challenging but absolutely crucial.


Despite the difficulties, Ranti has achieved significant successes, especially when it comes to reducing sex trafficking in Edo State, her hometown. “Our reputation had been tarnished… seen only as a place for prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls,” she sadly shared. However, they’ve made real progress through joint efforts with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), other non-governmental organisations, and supportive government officials. “The fact that Edo is no longer in the top five states in the country for trafficking is a huge accomplishment,” Ranti proudly declared.

Advocating with Authenticity and Power

A key part of Ranti’s work involves helping women who have been victims of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking. Reflecting on her legal background, she downplays traditional success metrics like prosecution numbers. “To me, those numbers aren’t really significant,” she says. “What’s more important is the number of people we’ve supported… over 3000 women find their way out of slavery.” Her focus is on empowering survivors to reclaim their lives and seek justice on their own terms.

“Regardless of what has happened to you, you are in a position to be able to change your mind because that’s where your life begins to change.”

Ranti’s efforts go beyond direct intervention. She uses media platforms, including appearances on CNN and the BBC, to spread her message and raise awareness. Her social media presence, marked by candid storytelling and unfiltered honesty, has received mixed reactions. “I live my life in a way that’s transparent… I’m not pretentious,” she shares. This authenticity, though sometimes met with criticism, resonates with many who understand her mission to empower others.

Navigating societal expectations and diverse audience feedback, Ranti stays true to her approach. “I’m very grounded in who I am… I show up as my most authentic self,” she affirms. Her courage to challenge societal norms and speak out against injustices has made her a target for criticism, yet she remains undeterred. “I recognise that it’s in my authenticity that my power lies,” she declares, highlighting the importance of self-acceptance and inner strength.

A Champion for Change

Ranti Benson-Idahosa is an inspiring advocate committed to making a difference in Nigeria through her organisation, Pathfinders Justice Initiative. Her journey has been marked by recognition and impact, both locally and globally.

Three years after starting Pathfinders, Ranti was nominated by the United States White House as a changemaker. Reflecting on this honour, she humbly notes that awards are not the core of her work: “When you do the work that you love, success recognition tends to follow.” Her focus remains on changing systems to create better opportunities for women and girls affected by violence.

Besides international accolades, Ranti is proud of being recognised by Nigerian governmental agencies for her efforts against human trafficking. “That’s something that I’m even more proud of,” she admits, stressing the importance of local acknowledgement.

“My 11-year-old niece said to me, ‘How can I have hope in a country that has no hope for me?’ That was very telling from a child’s perspective.”

Looking ahead, Ranti’s goals extend beyond her organisation. “My focus is on… ensuring that everybody that I come across awakens to their divinity,” she explains. In a country facing economic challenges and widespread disillusionment, Ranti aims to inspire hope and empower individuals to realise their potential.

Discussing her hopes for Nigeria’s future, Ranti recalls a conversation with her young niece who expressed doubt about the country’s prospects. “How can I have hope in a country that has no hope for me?” Her niece’s words highlight the urgency of restoring faith in the nation’s future.

Despite challenges and criticism, Ranti stays true to herself and her mission. “I live my life in a way that’s transparent… I’m very grounded in who I am,” she affirms. Her authenticity resonates with her audience, inspiring them to embrace their own strengths and values.

  • R. Evon Benson Idahosa spoke to LM’s Nkanu Egbe

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