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IWD ‘24: Cooperating for inclusion

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In my opinion, there could not have been a better theme for this year’s edition of the International Women’s Day (IWD) than Inspire Inclusion. The theme appropriately speaks to the need to promote and intentionally ramp up the record of accomplished women especially in Africa.

It also lucidly triggers the need to channel individual and collective efforts at transforming aspirations to reality by truly inspiring and ensuring inclusion away from a world that hitherto had been feet-dragging on the affirmative action adopted at the famous 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing, China.

Globally and indeed in Nigeria, there has been very commendable efforts by women in breaking the stereotypes of career, cultural, religious, political and socio-economic barriers to attain heights hitherto considered unattainable. The world has witnessed in recent years. These achievements recorded across all spheres of human endeavor are such that could not have been imagined about two or three decades ago. I dare say the phenomenal trend could be attributed to the increased commitment to educating the girl child and advocacy in support of the economic liberation of the women folk thus informing a community of more ambitious, educated, learned, equipped, and resourced to explore uncharted territories.

In Nigeria, examples abound of women who have shattered the proverbial glass ceiling to achieve unprecedented success in their chosen fields. Just a few months ago, Nollywood actress and producer, Funke Akindele became the first Nigerian film producer to gross over N1 billion in cinemas with her blockbuster movie, A Tribe Called Judah. Mo Abudu, the founder of Ebony Television, is generally regarded as the Oprah Winfrey of Africa, regularly appearing as one of Africa’s most influential women by different organizations. Beyond the arts and creative industry, Nigerian has proudly produced more female executives successfully leading corporations and organizations with staggering balance sheet size.

Today, we have more female practitioners and leaders in employment, with many of them holding top executive positions in practically more fields of endeavor, than there were many years ago. There is a growing number of females running consultancies in such areas as law, marketing communications, real estate, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, human resource management, etc.

Outside Nigeria, more women are making history and breaking records in diverse fields. Tyla, the 22-year old South African music sensation, has made history as the youngest African, male and female, to win a Grammy Award. In the United States, Ruth Gottesman, a former professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, has broken the record for the highest donation to a medical school in the country with a $1 billion donation to the school to pay for tuition for indigent students.

A growing and remarkable culture contributing to the advancement of women, as we see in Nigeria, is the growing collaboration amongst women and the willingness by those who have risen to the top to mentor and hand-hold the upcoming generation of women. We now proudly boast of success female owed and led businesses across generations.

For more than 13 years, I have had the opportunity and rare privilege of leading a team of young, talented and committed women at Soulcomms in offering marketing and strategic communication services to diverse portfolio of indigenous and international clients across the West African sub-region. These exceptional ladies defy all odds to excel on every call and charge. Many thanks to the great Udeme Ufot, an inspiring leader and advocate of women inclusion who identified and tenaciously mentored me. He inspired me with same tendencies and I consciously became an advocate for inspiring women.

I am convinced inspirational leadership is a key influence for driving inclusion. It triggers a practice of empowering, supporting and equipping talents especially women who immensely contribute to the growing tide of business successes.  socio-economic independence and a self-consciousness.

No gain say, my experience at Soulcomms came with its fair share of fear and challenges but through inspiring leadership, I thrived, recorded a heightened level of self-consciousness, wins and losses including the capacity to dare and take on much more than I could ever imagine even as I journey on.

The IWD is another opportunity and reminder to press for a more equitable society where women are given due considerations including formal and informal education, regardless of ethnicity, religion, culture, as well as socio-economic background. This years’ celebration also offers an opportunity for leaders, decision makers and the led as well to reflect on how well we have fared in women inclusion across board including on the since the pronouncement of the recommended 30 per cent inclusion of women in governance. It thus serves as a charge on committing to inspiring leadership as prerequisite for inspiring inclusion.

As we certainly need a society where women would be objectively considered for roles purely on merit and not as favor, or an attempt to fulfil required quotas or allocations.

To the women folk, do strive and commit to supportive sisterhood, encouraging the younger generation of women, strive for excellence and adopt the practice of inspiring leadership in their chosen fields. The successes recorded by women in diverse fields can be cascaded across board for a better world. And so, let all onboard inspirational leadership skills as it is the sure guarantee for inspiring inclusion and ensuring socio-economic prospects of all especially women.

Saka is the Chief Operating Officer at Soulcomms, a strategic communications and engagement consultancy in Lagos

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