By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
A motivational speaker, Mrs.Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye is a Nigerian who has carved a niche for herself on the global scene. She is an international coordinator of Creators of Peace, a programme designed for women, and Harambee Africa, a leadership training programme for young people across the African continent.
Both programmes are initiatives of the Initiative of Change/Moral Re-Armament, a worldwide network of people from diverse races and creeds. Here, Mrs.Ajakaiye speaks on the leadership role of women in the transformational process.
I hail from Delta State, but grew up in Lagos State and partly in Benin City where I did my A’Levels. I proceeded to study at the Delta State University, Abraka. It was while studying at DELSU that I ran into Moral Re-Armament(now Initiative of Change, IofC) in 1983 through one John Amata, one of my professors in school.
I got involved nationally with the organization, and we did a lot of campaign around the country in the spirit of redefining morals. We expressed ourselves through plays.
I presently live in the UK with my family. Since then, I have been involved with the organization all across Africa. I currently serve on the African coordination team.
Apart from practical teachings, I teach on a motivational platform. This is in my quest to change the attitudes of Africans. I’m also very much involved with women across the continent because I’ve observed that one question whose answer has been a burden to women is the question of “Who Am I?” “Am I here just to cook, nurture children or to be a wife?” I actually believe that there is more to a woman’s life. I encourage women and women in leadership, making them see how the African woman’s voice could be represented.
We’ve not had very good representation of women in leadership. The few women who tried their best in the generations of our mothers were almost suffocated from the system because the men did not see them as equal. My generation is however getting better. In countries like Rwanda, the women are doing very well. In South Sudan, the newest country in Africa, 30% of the parliament consists of women.
The cabinet too is almost like that! But I think that one important thing we could do is to invest in nurturing women leaders.
A lot of my time is spent with women in leadership as a mentor and a friend. I try to tackle those issues peculiar to women that they have to deal with. Some of them turn out to be masculine in their traits because they have to survive by speaking up! But of course, they still have to maintain the sweetness and feminity of a woman; they do not have to lose that edge.
However, I must say that the personal integrity of the individual is what counts; be you a man or a woman. In Nigeria for instance, some of the women are doing well. But I think many still need to ask themselves what they want to be remembered for. For me, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is doing very well. When Dora Akunyili was in NAFDAC, she was doing very well.
Leadership is not only those up there; leadership is you and I. That’s why I advise people who are close to people in power to learn to be their conscience even if it will cost them their friendship with them. I am never afraid to do that.
My advice to every woman is to stand up and speak out. No sitting back to blame another person. Whether it’s a church group, youth group, academic environment or workplace, speak out! That is where leadership starts because every situation is an opportunity to display leadership.
In as much as we encourage women to be economically empowered, I must admit that there are two sides to everything and it depends on the ability of the person concerned. A woman’s primary assignment is her family. But because of the way our society now looks at women, motherhood and at being a wife, more women feel the best they can do is go look for a job.
Without the mother nurturing her children to become leaders and good citizens of a nation, the society suffers! But the truth is that if you do not acknowledge a home maker(some people call them home engineers) and the role she plays, the next thing is that she will go look for a job! It is not a stupid woman who stays back home to care for her children; she is investing in the future of her children!
It is the societal interpretation that discourages many women from doing that. But again, does it make economic sense for one person(the husband) to cater for the entire family? I’m not saying any of these is better than the other.
All I’m highlighting are the good and bad sides. Whether a woman decides to stay back home or get a job outside, there is always a price to pay because she still has to care for her family. For me, my husband, Dele Ajakaiye, is a priority. We have an understanding partnership.
A lot of people say women become arrogant as soon as they rise to the peak of their careers or when they are the breadwinners of their homes.
But I do not think that’s right. Hence, to every woman, I say “What do you want?” After a career, many go home empty. Do you want to go home to an empty nest? This is where wisdom comes in. I come from a family of six girls and a boy.
All around me in Africa, I see women suffer. So, I could have been arrogant to my husband! But as a Christian, I’ve learnt to accept my husband as the head of our home. My husband is a reasonable person actually, and for that, I have no problem honouring him.