Forher hosts leadership summit for school girls in Akwa Ibom
…SMEfunds awards N300,000 cash prizes to essay winners
Forher, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to empowering young girls with education and skills in Nigeria, successfully hosted its maiden leadership summit on March 3, 2023 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The conference, themed “Girls and Possibilities”, provided a platform for secondary school-aged girls to gain access to valuable insights and knowledge from accomplished speakers in various fields, designed to enable them to fully discover and maximize their potential.
At the conference hall of Ibom E-Library, in Uyo, Remarkable Mary Akpan, founder of forher, welcomed the students, speakers and guests to the event with a heartfelt speech.
Addressing the students, Remarkable stated: “I just want to let every one of you here know you are the reason we are having this event. In one of my conversations with my team, I mentioned to them that one of the things I need us to do is to have an annual leadership event where we get experts and professionals to talk to young girls, and I wanted my attendees to be secondary school girls from the age of thirteen. The reason is because I believe that this is a very sensitive age in a girl’s life, as a lot begins to happen to them emotionally, biologically, and mentally.”
According to Mary, life became more purposeful for her at the age of 13.
“I remember vividly that I was thirteen when I said to myself that I wanted to be useful and intentional. It was the age I decided to be careful about the friends I kept, the books I read and the places I went to. It was the age I decided to not just be useful to myself alone, but to my family and society at large. I hope every one of you leaves here inspired.”
According to the founder, the theme of the event was painstakingly chosen to communicate the overall purpose of the summit.
“We were so careful to make sure that we got the right theme for this event “Girls and Possibilities”. There is nothing you cannot do. Whatever you set your mind to do, you can do it. If you believe in God, take him along on the journey, and everything will be alright.”
True to Mary’s words, the event was lined up with speakers who overcame numerous obstacles to distinguish themselves in their respective disciplines.
Sonye Allanah, a certified etiquette & image consultant, taught the girls etiquettes that bordered on daily living, dressing and self-confidence.
Allanah said elegance was not about being noticed but about being remembered.
Despite having poor grades in French at secondary school, Allanah went on to be fluent in French and German, became a career diplomat and is currently a public speaker and life coach.
“It is fine to evaluate yourself from time to time but don’t demean your worth no matter how poor your actions were. Pat yourself at the back for every small feat you attend,” she advised.
She concluded her session by pointing out that “the application of good etiquette builds the block for a bright future.”
Mmanti Umoh, executive director, Community Stakeholders for Social Good, and founding curator at Teens Network, pointed out the challenges associated with being a girl and highlighted the need for mentorship.
“In many parts of the world, girls face discrimination, harassment, and violence simply because of their gender. They are often told that they cannot do certain things or that they are not good enough”, Umoh said.
“But I am here today to tell you that this is not true. Girls are capable of achieving great things. They can be leaders, scientists, doctors, engineers, and anything they set their minds to. However, it is not always easy for girls to reach their full potential, especially when they lack role models or mentors to guide them.
“This is why mentorship is so important for girls. Mentorship is a relationship between a more experienced person (the mentor) and a less experienced person (the mentee) that is based on mutual trust, respect, and learning. Through mentorship, girls can gain valuable knowledge, skills, and guidance from someone who has walked the same path before them.”
Another speaker at the event was Hamzat Lawal, an award-winning Nigerian activist and campaigner, who has led campaigns in Climate Change, Open Data, advocacy campaigns and development policies as it affects rural and deprived grassroots communities. Using a succession of personal stories, Lawal taught the girls the principles of decision-making, education, networking, integrity, self-determination and confidence. He encouraged them to defeat self-limitation and achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
Dr. Linus Okorie, a leadership development coach and founder/president of Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI), was a prominent speaker at the conference. Dr. Okorie utilized the KASH acronym (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habit) to emphasize his presentation on “Becoming a Leader of Excellence.” His talk focused on key leadership attributes, including transparency, visibility, growth, self-reflection, and the cultivation of an entrepreneurial attitude. Dr. Okorie highlighted the importance of these characteristics in the development of young individuals into well-rounded adults, capable of achieving their goals and leading the next generation of revolutionaries.
The leadership summit also had in attendance, Rt Hon. Oniofiok Luke, a young and dynamic public servant, currently serving as the member representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, and a former speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. Hon. Luke delivered an inspiring speech on how girls can hold policy makers accountable. He emphasized the importance of utilizing technology in creating systems to monitor and track the activities of federal and state governments, with a view to making policymakers accountable to the people. He urged the audience to cultivate self-confidence, rather than rely on external validation, as a crucial element for personal growth and development.
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Following the lecture sessions hosted by the speakers at the conference, an essay competition was held where representatives from six secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State spoke on the topic, “Digital Generation, Our Generation”, in line with this year’s International Women’s Day Celebration theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.”
Nigerian Christian Institute (N.C.I.) emerged winners with Government Secondary Grammar School, Ikot Akpabio and Government Technical College, Abak coming in 2nd and 3rd with a hundred and fifty thousand naira (N150,000) cash prize for the winners, as well as a hundred thousand naira (N100,000) and fifty thousand naira (N50,000) consolation prizes for the 2nd and 3rd-placed winners respectively.
The summit had in attendance students from Dekis High School, Itu, Etinan Institute, Etinan, Joy Prime Schools, Uyo, Mary Hanney Secondary School, Oron, Mboho Unity School, Uruan, Government Model Girls Secondary School, Abak, and girls sponsored by Trade Union Congress and Land of Hope.
One of the notable highlights of the conference was the highly anticipated debut of forher’s inaugural book, “Stories forher”, authored by the organization’s founder, Remarkable Mary Akpan. The book, which comprises of a collection of stories featuring the journeys of various female characters, was crafted in a bid to inspire hope in the midst of uncertainty, and further forher’s mission to empower young girls through education, skills development, and access to valuable information, with the ultimate aim of transforming their lives. The book was freely distributed to secondary school students present at the event, while other attendees were encouraged to procure copies for other young females.
Official partners of the event include; Smefunds, Legislative Mentorship Initiative, and Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI).