By Josephine Agbonkhese
Nigeria cannot achieve its dreams of a prosperous and inclusive society without reinventing its approach to how it is treating the overwhelming majority of the women and girls that live in its country.
This was the submission of the United States Consul General, John Bray, who spoke at the 17th Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, annual 2-day conference held last week in Lagos with the theme ‘Unstoppable You: Reinvent and Reinvigorate’.
This was even as the wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, argued that there was need for women in the country to push for better representation in organisations.
According to Bray who was keynote speaker at the event which had over 1,800 women from various walks of life in attendance, increased investment in the education of the girl-child and greater political participation by women in Nigeria, was urgently needed in the country.
“Nigeria is reportedly home to the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, many of whom are girls. If Nigeria properly invested in the education of women and girls, how many more Amina Mohammeds will represent this country on the world stage? If more women and girls are given equal opportunities, how many more Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies will be able to tell stories that enthral the world?
“Women leaders must continue working to promote gender equality in Nigeria. It is up to you to change the tenor of the national discourse and prod Nigeria to place education and health, and the status of women and girls higher on its national agenda,” Bray emphasised as he reiterated that removing barriers to women’s full economic participation was key to an inclusive and prosperous Nigeria.
Osinbajo, on her part, urged women to be unstoppable as the success of others around them, as well as the growth of the country, depended on their own success.
She said: “The argument that women can achieve success in their workplace has been won, the push for better representation and leadership on boards of organisations is ongoing. To be unstoppable is to make a mark. Do the best you can with what you have from season to season, stage to stage. If you are unstoppable and your neighbour, friends are unstoppable from all unstoppable then our nation becomes unstoppable.”
Speaking on the theme of the conference which featured seven plenary sessions, a debate on new technology and several deep dive sessions on ‘Being Mrs Incredible’, ‘The Art of Happiness’, ‘Leading with Emotional Intelligence’, among others, Chairperson, WIMBIZ, Mrs Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi, said it was thoughtfully crafted with the goal of inspiring, encouraging and empowering womenfolk.
Stressing that WIMBIZ’s activities was having huge impacts in the lives of the 105,555 women who had benefitted from it since it was founded 17 years ago, she said: “Former WIMBIZ Executive Council Chairperson, Aisha Ahmad, became confirmed and resumed as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. WIMBIZ Executive Council member, Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, became the first ever female president of the Nigerian Gas Association.”
Drawing from her own experiences, a Founding member and an executive of WIMBIZ, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, First Bank Nigeria Plc., asserted that every woman was unstoppable as long as she was focused on her goals.
Awosika said: “You need to focus on your goals and be willing to discipline yourself in every way required to achieve those goals. My advice will be: just stay with it, keep yourself, do not try to do it alone because you cannot, build a network to support your ability, and be honest with yourself. Bear in mind that there are many different ways your goals will happen. Just find a way around it.”
On how women could draw a line between hard work and stress in the quest to be successful, Hansatu Adegbite, Executive Director, WIMBIZ, said: “Stress and pressure are inevitable in the life of everyone. But the most important thing is to learn how to manage stress, plan effectively, leverage on a support system so that you are not running everything alone, know when it is enough and take a step back, as well as a breather. I will like to say that it is very important to find time to rest and refresh yourself, and at the same time keep achieving that which you have set out to achieve.
Adegbite also urged women to leverage on things like technology to more effortlessly joggle work with family life.
To guard against depression in their pursuits, mental health expert, Mrs Maymunah Kadiri, on her part, warned that every woman must strive to know who she is.
“Know your stressors, have a healthy support system because a good support system can help lift you up when you are down and will always be your cheer leader when you are up there. More importantly, know your numbers, just as when one of the panelists today advised. Your blood pressure, your body mass index, sugar level, etc. are very important for you to know. Health is wealth and if you are not healthy, you cannot achieve whatever level of wealth you have mapped out to achieve,” Kadiri said.
Other speakers and personalities at the event were the wife of Ogun State Governor, Mrs Folorunsho Amosun; wife of former governor of Lagos State, Mrs Abimbola Fashola; Betty Irabor, Founder/Publisher, Genevieve Magazine; Bunmi George, Founder, Shredder Gang; Nkem Begho, Managing Director, Future Soft, among others.