The Keynote Speaker at the event, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, the former Minister of Education, former Vice President of The World Bank and Co-Founder of Transparency International, called for the involvement of more women in politics as a means to assuage Nigeria’s leadership deficit. She stated that not having women in leadership positions placed the country at a disadvantage, as it would not function with its full repertoire of skills and talents.
According to her “Men have been in the forefront of political leadership in Nigeria since the new democratic dispensation in 1999. It is clear to all that the Men have not been able to lead Nigeria well enough to the expectation of her citizens, and have not developed the country well enough as to be reckoned with in the comity of nations. It is therefore necessary for women, known for their ingenuity and natural gift for organization, to partner with men change the status quo ”.
She cited instances in the bible where the women had to take over when there were no men to lead the people. This was the case of Deborah and others, she said. She also underscored the fact that other countries in Africa including Rwanda are already taking a lead in this respect by having women occupy 50% political positions. She noted that African countries that have high representation of women in leadership are already reaping the benefits in growth and development.
Dr. Ezekwesili informed the women that occupying leadership positions should not mean sacrificing their roles as mothers and wives. She stressed, if society is supportive of women, they would be able to play multiple roles adequately.
The Forum noted that access to finance was a key impediment to women’s involvement in leadership. Ms. Thelma Ekiyor, CEO, Afrigrants Resources and Mrs. Elizabeth Ebi, GMD/CEO Futureview Financial Services Ltd in their panel discussion, argued that women needed to create value to be able to attract financing/funding. They encouraged women to be strategic about what they are offering and be certain of its value to society, rather than depend on “hand-outs”.
Ms. Ekiyor informed the participants that there are several funding opportunities for women and that most donors prioritize women’s initiatives. However, women need to be able to present fundable proposals or ideas.
Mrs Peggy Anigbogu, the Director of Administration, at INT highlighted the need to organize this forum because “globally, countries that have enhanced gender equality in leadership experience increased growth and overall performance”. She cited the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasis on gender equality and women’s representation in decision-making at all levels, as an important part of achieving the goals.
The Coordinator of the Women’s Leadership Institute, Mrs. Juliet Ovie-Binitie stated that the Institute is a “Women-led” training and policy-influencing arm of INT and is dedicated to building the transformative leadership potential of women in all sectors of society.
She informed the audience that the Institute organized the Consultative Forum to ensure that women’s issues are central in the upcoming 2019 elections. She also encouraged women to collaborate across different sections to enable them influence policy making in Nigeria.
Other speakers who spoke at the event or made contributions on how women can be more active in business and political leadership include Dr. Jumoke Akiode, ED Centre for Ethics & Sustainable Development (CESD), Dr. Nechi Ezeako, ED Institute of Directors, Mrs. Ijeoma Okey-Igbokwe, Deputy Director/Ag. Administrative Secretary INEC, Mrs. Anyadike, Dr. Elishama, Mrs Nkechi Ali Balogun, Principal Consultant, NECCI, Professor Abiola Awosika among others. The one-day consultative forum was well attended by women from all walks of life including professionals, business executives, entrepreneurs, political actors and academics.