There has been this debate about women supporting each other to successfully excel in things they are passionate about. The age long agreement has been that women constitute the greatest opposition to themselves. I had unconsciously fallen into the trap of adopting this as the truth but as I became more aware of the various partnerships and collaborations that are women driven, I have thankfully rejected this erroneous thinking. When you take a detailed look at the great work the duo of Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei have done with She Leads Africa, enjoy the exquisiteness and highly impactful work being done by Aishah Ahmad and the superb women at Women in Management, Business and Public Service, and then come to terms with the sheer brilliance of Inspired Women of Worth, championed by Udo Okonjo, you will agree that women are increasingly supporting women in all spheres of life.
In conjunction with US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s visit to Nigeria, the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Catherine Russell hosted eight women with discussions focused on both the challenges and opportunities facing women and girls in Nigeria. I was privileged to be one of the eight women that got the invitation to be a part of the meet-up. The thrust of the conversation centered on agriculture, energy and technology. It was an opportunity to learn first-hand, the great effort that women embrace to scale their businesses and the place of collaboration with other women in building a support system. In the cause of listening to the brilliant conversation from across and around the table, I quickly made a mental note to share the key talking points.
The conversation commenced with me communicating the amazing work that my team and I have done in some select projects powered by Digital Media Development Initiative. I name-checked the Summer Internship Connect Project which saw 16 kids paired with partner organizations for a 4-weeks internship program in August, 2016. Next was Hannah Kabir who accidentally embraced the solar energy provision service. She opined that product costing and affordability posits a key challenge for customer retention but her organization, Creeds Energy has succeeded in consistently improving on product quality.
Working with women in rural communities in Abuja, Titilope Ojo seeks to inspire them to see the comparative advantage that they have in their agro-business. Ambassador Catherine Russell recommended that she informs them about the KIVAproject which can help them scale in their various agro-businesses. Saidat Shonoiki, who has recently founded a Sustainable Agricultural Training Centre was of the opinion that developing leadership development trainings and mind re-orientation programs for rural women and girls involved in agro-businesses is key to encouraging them embrace new trends in the sector.
Mosunmola Umoru who has become known as the pretty farmer, had so much to say based on her over one decade experience in the field. She currently works as a public servant on weekdays and rolls her sleeve to provide leadership on weekends in her agro-business. She enthused that her job as the Technical Adviser on Youth and Gender to the Minister for Agriculture in Nigeria, affords her utility to shape and influence workable policies and programs. What about the urban dwellers? Angel Adelaja has a Fresh Direct solution to how these set of people can embrace agriculture while still retaining their upwardly mobile attitude. The Container Farm System developed by her organization is aimed at providing an incubator for farming of mostly high end vegetables which has an off-take arrangement that the container owner can key into.
The technology enthusiasts in the room had so much to say. Chioma Chuka had incidentally developed a project that Angel Adelaja immensely benefited from. TheTech Her Project led by Chioma started from a fun hangout to becoming a leading women network for training women on software development and website design. The next phase is to implement the Continuous Learning Development Programme which will see several people like Angel benefit from technology solutions for business. Simi Olushola’s AboCoders has the desire to raise an army of female coders within the country which will in turn reduce the poverty level in the country. They are focused on improving and empowering women and girls in Northern Nigeria.
This is just a short-list of women that are doing amazing things that they are passionate about, inspiring and impacting women and girls in their community and leading change. I believe that if we consciously switch the conversation to what happens when women collaborate to do big things, there will not be room for age long misconceptions on how women don’t support each other. The focus will be on how the power of collaboration can become better harnessed and deployed for the greater good.