Celebrating #IWD2021: Nigerian women #Choosetochallenge

Today, 8th of March, is recognised globally as International Women’s Day. It is a day chosen to celebrate women’s achievements.

From business to politics, sports, faith, governance and more, women across the globe are recognised, celebrated and appreciated today.

The theme for this year is ‘Choose to challenge’. It is a choice to challenge stereotypes and bias, challenge gendered actions or assumptions and challenge for change of mindset and questionable norms.

For instance, how about challenging the poor representation of women on boards? According to a 2019 report, Women on Boards in Nigeria, by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), there are no specific legal requirements for gender diversity.

However, Central Bank of Nigeria regulations mandate a minimum of 30 percent female representation on the boards of commercial banks. The Securities and Exchange Commission code recommends that publicly listed companies consider gender when selecting board members. And the Code of Corporate Governance encourages boards to set diversity goals and to be mindful of them when filling board vacancies. However, the SEC and CCG codes do not prescribe gender quotas. Despite the setback, the goal to challenge stereotypes is gaining ground.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to note, that despite the daunting challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role women must play even in the pandemic cannot be overemphasised or downplayed. More so, they have been affected the most in the pandemic. Making up the lost ground and levelling the playing field will take time.

Read Also: Nigerian women can lead

“Clearly it will require much more than time. It will take a concentrated effort on the part of policymakers and corporate power-brokers, and it will take courage on the part of women and the men that champion them”, President/CEO, Image Consulting Group and former vice president, Bank Of America, Remi Duyile said.

In choosing to challenge, long standing obstacles that hinder women from being heard or involved in decision making must be removed. For this to happen, they must have equal access to the resources available. For example, an increase in executive and high paying jobs.

Statistics show that there are many women in low income paying careers. This exposes them to harassment because many are desperate to earn a living and contribute to sustaining their family, especially in the pandemic where many women have lost their jobs.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) however proffers a solution, by urging that a worthwhile monthly investment of 0.07 percent of developing countries’ GDP could help 613 million working-aged women living in poverty to absorb the shock of the pandemic.

They say that it would also contribute to the economic security and independence that is necessary for women to engage more deeply in the decisions that could change their future.

In the same line of thought, the Managing Director, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Alfred Olajide, reaffirms the importance of creating an economic model that empowers women and hinges on sustainability.

“Women constitute a significant part of the world’s shared success because we recognise their roles not just as homemakers and influencers but as drivers of economic growth and pillars of their communities and business systems.”

The barriers are there for women, but many are rising up to the challenges and are in the forefront of various social reforms, from fighting to end abuse to demanding inclusion.

“We are choosing to challenge all stereotypical thinking that propagates the maintenance of the gender gap. Challenging biases that consistently keep women in the lower income group, challenging biases that women are capable of less and also challenging career and business stereotypes that box women into what are seen as ‘feminine type businesses’ ”. Founder/CEO GAIA Africa, Olatowun Candide-Johnson stated.
Olatowun insists that we need big action legislation to close the gender gap and especially the huge gender economic gap.

On challenging the stereotyping of women as they take on leadership positions, Founder/Group CEO, Thistle Group, Ini Onuk says “I challenge the unnecessary questioning of our abilities and skills and of course the systemic difficulties that arise whenever women seek to fill leadership positions.”

For Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, Consultant Neuro-Psychiatrist, Founder/CEO, Pinnacle Medical Services “I choose to challenge the discrimination and stigma attached to people living with mental illnesses by changing the narrative, normalising mental health conversations, and creating safe spaces in order to achieve healthier, wealthier and happier individuals for a just and equitable society.”

Toyin Sanni, Founder and CEO of the Emerging Africa Capital Group, is choosing to challenge all biases against women leadership and equality, where to her, an equal world is a non-negotiable imperative for a better world.

“I call on all, men and women alike, to support our vision of achieving a wholesome, super-productive, rich and inclusive world through equitable gender representation.” Sanni said.

Many women across the globe have chosen to challenge their situations by rising up to the challenges they come across on their way to fulfilling their goals.

‘Choose to challenge’ is what Kamala Harris did, as she is the first ever female Vice President in American history.

‘Choose to challenge’ is what Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of WTO, did when she disregarded what Robert Lighthizer, former US Trade Representative, told the Financial Times, “We need a person who actually knows trade, not somebody from the World Bank who does development,”.

‘Choose to Challenge’ is what the Chairman, First Bank and Founder/CEO The Sokoa Group, Ibukun Awosika did when she became the first ever female Chairman of First Bank, since inception of the Bank in 1979.

‘Choose to Challenge’ was what Leah Shuaibu did for refusing to denounce her faith.

Today, in line with the theme, the question for women around the world as we celebrate International Women’s Day is: What do you choose to challenge?

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