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International Women’s Day 2021: US Consulate, UN Women, NGOs partner on women empowerment initiatives

Adeze Ojukwu

No fewer than 200 top female leaders and accomplished professionals will storm a high-profile summit, organized by the US Consulate General, Lagos, to mark this year’s International Women’s Day(IWD).

The initiative, which is hosted by the American corner, is a partnership between the Public Affairs Section of the United States(US) Consulate General and Co-Creation HUB(CcHUB) as well as Boundless Hands Africa and Imara Foundation.

Ondo State First Lady Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu

‘The American Corner at CcHUB is an American-style cultural centre and cooperative learning environment, which offers programs, activities and resources such as books, makerspace equipment and Internet access.’

The U.S Consulate’s Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Foltz will deliver the opening remarks, while the keynote address will be presented by the United Nations(UN) Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey.

American Corner Director, Stephanie Adesanya, in a statement, made available to www.devcomradar.org  said, the virtual conference holds on Wednesday, March, 10, 2021 by 3pm, on Zoom platform.

The theme of the programme is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal future in a Covid-19 World.’

In Nigeria, this year’s edition is being widely celebrated with seminars, conferences, workshops and media activities by several women activists and organizations.

Mrs Peace Nnabugwu

President of the United States Government Exchanges Alumni Association(USGEAA), Dr. Jude Ememe described the theme of the anniversary as ‘germane and inspirational, saying ‘USGEAA has aligned with this theme in marking the date.’

In an interview, Dr Ememe announced the association’s plan to celebrate female members, who had made significant impact through their various social enterprises.

According to him women across most societies were pivotal in driving social and economic transformations in many communities.

Therefore this global anniversary ‘affords us the opportunity to celebrate the laudable initiatives championed by distinguished female alumni.’

‘Many USGEAA have consistently demonstrated leadership and are impacting lives in their social entrepreneurship endeavours.’

‘This unique commendation programme tagged ‘Celebrating USGEAA Women Achievers,’ is billed to honour deserving women leaders in the association.’

Speakers at the IWD event held at FSD VTE Academy

‘It reflects the ethos of the global campaign to  promote females who have shown remarkable courage and resilience in leadership, politics and business.’

According to the USGEAA leader, the award will stimulate more interest in gender issues and encourage more women to support the international campaign for women participation in all spheres of leadership and economy.

Similarly, the African Women Industrialization Awards was hosted in Ikeja, Lagos to celebrate 30 women achievers and 30 young mothers, excelling in business and entrepreneurship.

The prestigious award of excellence was organized, under the auspices of  Women Empowerment for Leadership and Longevity Cooperation(WELLCO) led by Mrs Peace Nnabugwu.

Ondo State first lady, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu was among 60 top women that were honoured at the occasion.

The grand ceremony was supported by the US Consulate, WEMA Bank Plc and Mrs. Tope Ande, Chairperson of OneAfrica, committed to youth development.

Award-winning journalist and Fellow of US-sponsored Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, Mrs Adeze Ojukwu published outstanding newspaper articles to highlight the challenges facing women in Nigeria.

Ojukwu, the publisher of the magazine said this year’s edition is particularly significant, because women bear a disproportionate burden of financial responsibilities and caring for the sick, in several homes due to the socio-economic hardships triggered by the deadly infection.

Cross Section of Participants at the IWD Event held at FSD

As a serial newspaper columnist and development strategist, the focal areas of Ojukwu’s publications and news coverage include issues and challenges related to implementation of Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in Nigeria, health, environmental sustainability, gender equality, youth empowerment, social justice and good governance.

According to Boundless Hands Africa, one of the program’s partners the main objective of its forum is ‘to address the challenges that women are facing due to the pandemic and highlight resilience strategies to improve their living conditions and achieve sustainable progress in the journey towards gender equality.’

It was also designed ‘to celebrate women for their resilience through the challenges of the past years particularly their efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Furthermore, the forum is meant ‘to empower young women with the tools and skillset to challenge systemic inequality and gender biases in order to ‘sit at the table’ and achieve gender equality.’

In the statement, Adesanya said ‘the International Women’s Day celebrated on the 8 March, each year was established to recognize the social, economic, and political achievements of women.’

The statement reads: ‘It also aims at highlighting the importance of creating conditions that are favourable to women for their full and equal participation in social development.’

‘Today, despite major contributions that women make to economic and social development, they are disproportionately impacted by poverty while their efforts are undermined due to cultural norms and systemic barriers.’

‘These limits their full participation in leadership and key decision-making processes, including decisions that affect them primarily.’

‘Unfortunately, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated poor socio-economic status of women and threaten the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal(SDG) 5 ‘achieving gender equality and women empowerment.’

‘Women have deployed their skills and knowledge in various sectors to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.’

‘They make up a large percentage of frontline workers, healthcare givers, innovators and community organizers. Also, the countries that have shown effective response and control of the Covid-19 pandemic are under women-led leadership.’

‘This emphasizes why women’s right for full participation in leadership must be upheld and their perspectives must be included in the formulation and implementation of policies according to UN WOMEN, 2020.’

This goal, it noted ‘can only be achieved if women take actions by having their seats on the decision-making tables. Everyone at all levels must #choosetochallenge all forms of gender inequalities and stereotypes, to give women the space they deserve in economic and social development.’

Highlights of the  programme include a keynote speech, a virtual panel discussion event, question and answer session, as well as a  resilience activity contest and celebration

The panel session will feature discussions on ‘Sitting at The Table, while the keynote speech will highlight the systemic barriers women face.

It will also discuss ‘how Covid-19  has added to the barriers, the roles of women in responding to the pandemic and why women’s leadership is imperative for world’s progress.’

‘It  is not meant to be some theoretical exhortation, rather we envision a thriving female leader speaking through their stories on how they have challenged gender norms and found their seats on the table,’ she added.

‘Our aim here is to motivate young women that their sit is at the decision-making table and nothing should stop them from aspiring to leadership positions,’ she explained.

Another panel session tagged ‘Tale of Resilience,’ ‘is to engage various sector leaders, who have through their expertise, skills and knowledge fought through the obvious challenges of the pandemic, in their businesses or professions to discuss and share with the participants their experiences to inspire and empower the participants.’

A side event will feature  a resilience story contest.

‘We want young women that have started a venture during the pandemic or expanded an existing venture to write a short story about it and share the links of their work,’ Titilayo Ogunbambi, Executive Director of Boundless Hands Africa stated.

‘Five inspiring business initiatives will be given a grant to invest in their business. Those five participants will be asked to tell their stories in two minutes, during the event.’

The highly interactive programme will  include questions from the audience and presentation of gifts to the winner of the online contest.

The business sector panelist for the occasion, is Dr Kaffy Shafau–Ameh, who pioneered the business of dance in Africa and is popularly known by her stage name Kaffy.

‘She is a Nigerian dancer, choreographer, dance instructor and fitness coach and owner of Imagneto Dance Company.’

‘She is currently a dance instructor, who has developed innovative visualization-based methods for teaching dance fitness in an accelerated-learning format.’

She created ‘The Dance Workshop’ ‘a dance convention aimed at training and mentoring professional dancers as well as promoting cultural exchange within the Nigerian dance industry.’

‘She is an alumni of the US Department of State Academy of Women Entrepreneurs program (AWE).’

Head of Customer Experience at Airtel Networks Nigeria Olubunmi Abejirin, was selected, as the private sector panelist.

Prior to assuming this position, she was the Retail Head, South Region, Airtel Nigeria.

As a pioneering staff of Glomobile Nigeria, Bunmi has over 16 years’ cognate experience in the telecommunications industry evolving from retail, marketing, channel distribution, credit risk management to Postpaid and high value segment management in Glomobile and Airtel Networks Nigeria respectively.

She is currently responsible for customer experience transformation in Airtel and has over a short period successfully harmonized OMNI channel customer interaction with the brand.

She has worked in four of the six geopolitical parts of Nigeria combining with international exposure and is versed at working in culturally diverse environments and skilled in creating/managing strong B2B and B2C alliances.

She bagged a Bachelor of Education in Economics Education at the University of Ilorin and later obtained a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ibadan.

‘She has attended several leadership coaching and  development programs and is holder of a Certificate in Building Strong Alliances and Organizations from Harvard University in Boston, USA.’

‘In fulfilling her passion for youth leadership development, Bunmi volunteers, as the Director of Marketing and Communications for AIESEC Alumni Africa.’

‘She is also President AIESEC Alumni Nigeria, where she is deeply involved in executing youth development programs as well as mentoring initiatives.’

The founder and CEO of CouldYou? Ms.Christine Garde Denning, will feature as the social sector panelist.

Her mission is to partner with African leaders, NGOs, and governments to incubate, prove and scale solutions to poverty.

Her current focus is on a girls’ health initiative to end poverty Prior to CouldYou?

She had worked with Young Life and Steadfast Properties, envisioning and overseeing multiple learning centers across California that served thousands of low-income families.

As a precursor to CouldYou?, Christine adapted and implemented an experience based program called NYC Urban Plunge, which gave college students an immersion experience of life in the South Bronx.

Through this initiative, ‘she encouraged students to look at broken systems and social justice, helping students envision how they could become agents for change.’

In 2016, ‘she was chosen, as one of Forbes’ 40 over 40 Women for reinventing, disrupting and making an impact globally.’

‘Ms. Denning has devoted her life to caring for the poor and trying to make the world a better place.’

‘After receiving an International Business degree from Pace University in NYC, she began her career by approaching Housing and Urban Development (HUD), suggesting that she become a community police officer, living in public housing in order to address gang activity on their property.’

‘She  spent 10 years living/working for HUD at the San Diego/Tijuana border area. Her efforts resulted in significant decreases in gang tagging and violence on property, while investing in the lives of hundreds of teens and families.’

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