Chineze Amanfo is the Public Relations Lead at 9mobile. In this interview with Daily Trust, she highlights how women suffer biases in the society. She also highlights efforts by 9mobile towards ensuring an inclusive and balanced society, while stressing why women have to constantly improve themselves and prioritise excellence
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘#BreaktheBias’. What strikes you about this theme and what biases do you think women suffer at school, work, home and other public places?
From the theme of the year, you can see that the framers, whom I believe are very much abreast of the issues, believe that biases against women still exist; otherwise, they would not be calling for action to #BreaktheBias. It is important to note that bias against women is not just an African problem but a global one and that is why you see that in a developing country like Nigeria, there are only seven women out of 109 Senators and 22 women out of 360 members in the House Representatives. But equally, in a so-called developed country like the United States, women’s soccer (football) players’ pay still lag significantly behind their male counterparts, even though some will point to the issue of sponsorship and revenue value differential in both sports.
Bias against women can be tricky to number because some of these things take subtle nuances these days that it sometimes requires deep thinking and examination to see that it is gender bias that is at play. To speak first to the obvious ones, for example, have you considered why the head girl’s position is beneath the head boy’s in elementary and secondary schools? How many Nigerian tertiary institutions have ladies as presidents of their SUG (Students’ Union Government)? In the corporate space, hiring managers have often been accused of offering lower pay to female candidates for a role they would typically have offered more if a male candidate came top in the process. All these are just on the assumed premise that a woman does not need as much money as a man. Even in the home, the most integral unit of the society, how we raise our children and the roles we assign to them based on their genders betray these biases. Domestic chores are primarily for girls, while boys can play football and drive the family car around. These young people become adults, socialise with their children, and function in society the same way, and the circle continues.
Patrons of these biases may sometimes not even be aware of the impact and import of their actions because it is a cultural thing, and culture is the operating system of the human mind.
So, I believe that this year’s IWD (International Women’s Day) theme calls humanity to pause and rethink these issues. Perhaps a good place to start is to become more aware of how each of our actions contribute to the problems and become intentional in our choices to move towards gender parity gradually.
Why do you think women should be celebrated?
I believe everybody should be celebrated irrespective of their gender. People should be celebrated based on who they are and what they have achieved and contributed to society. That is why I do not see the IWD as a celebration of the womenfolk for the mere biological fact of being women. Instead, the day for me is to canvass the argument that the woman is first a human, just like the man, before being a woman. It is enough to be celebrated for being human, and it is inferior to think that being a woman diminishes a person’s humanity and be considered less in any way than a man. If this premise is valid, then no woman should have to first outperform a man in terms of achievements before gaining due recognition.
Have you faced any barrier in your career because of being a woman?
Maybe I have been one of the lucky ones in the lot. I have been privileged to compete for career opportunities with people of all genders and all walks of life. I have won some and lost some. Overall, I am at a fulfilled place while gearing up to conquer more grounds. The celebrated queen of all media, Oprah Winfrey, famously said, ‘excellence is the best deterrent to racism and sexism’. I could not agree more! In my experience, the more excellence you exude and produce, the more the bias walls and glass ceilings you tend to break.
What is 9mobile doing towards ensuring a more inclusive and balanced society?
9mobile prides itself as a socially responsible organisation that prioritises societal good and progress both in its operational practices and through stakeholder engagements. We execute our CSR policy on three strategic fronts of Education, Health, and the Environment. In implementing these three-pronged strategies, we have had a raft of initiatives that have had a significant impact. For example, we partnered with Girl Effect and iSON on our Girls Connect initiative to provide girls with the information they need to grow, thrive and succeed. This was done by providing a dedicated short code care line that these young women could call when they needed counselling or professional help. We only recently graduated 61 girls in the second cohort of our entrepreneurship and digital jobs initiative in Bichi, Kano State. The girls are students at the all-girls Government Girls Arabic Secondary School, Danbatta.
We are also currently finalising plans to have the second edition of our train-the-trainer Teachers programme to complement government policy on child school enrolment by helping teachers upskill in effective teaching methods and class management as panaceas for sustaining pupils’ interest in school with a special leaning towards girl child enrolment.
Are there interventions by 9mobile targeted at girls and women; particularly, efforts geared towards having more girls and women in the Tech industry?
This is precisely the goal of 9mobile’s entrepreneurship and digital jobs initiative. This programme trains participants in digital skill areas like programming and coding, photography, video production, solar power installation, cable TV, and many more. Upon graduation, the students can immediately deploy their skills for gainful employment. Our flagship CSR initiative, the 9mobile Telecommunications Engineering programme, produced many Masters’ Degree holders, including women thriving in their chosen fields.
Girls and women have remained vulnerable in the face of insecurity, rape, molestation, genital mutilation, and killings for ritual. How do you think women can be protected against evil in society?
Women and girls have always been soft targets for violence and other vices of society. I believe that deliberate policy that seeks to empower women while developing society is the way to go because that is where the evidence points. Every society has its crime and challenges. However, the degree of pervasiveness and frequency tend to vary inversely with the level of development of that society. The current high incidence of these acts of violence against women in our society makes it more imperative to act urgently to arrest the drift. Government must now take decisive steps to provide educational opportunities and gainful employment for young idle hands across the land.
A massive general reorientation is also critical to recalibrate and pivot the Nigerian value system from glorifying wanton wealth and opulence to real value creation and unconditional regard for life and the human person. While all of these can be long-term, we must, in the meantime, empower women to speak up and seek help. Those of us whose jobs situate around the information superhighway must volunteer to draw attention to women’s rights issues, connect sufferers and victims to credible sources of help, and help shame and bring perpetrators to justice. The allure for crime tends to diminish when people are clear that a punitive sanction system is in place.
What message do you have for young women thinking about their careers?
Amongst other random variables, a great career is about the value you bring to the table, and output is a function of input. So, to all the ladies out there, keep adding the correct input value to yourself. If it has not happened for you yet, be sure that your day is coming if you consistently improve yourself. As a woman, you must prioritise excellence. Become committed to not providing the example for anyone to attribute failure or sloppiness to the female gender. That way, women can take the lead and own the fight to #BreaktheBias against women.
Source: Daily Trust