By Isoken Nwabunka
On the occasion of the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) with the theme, “Embracing Equity’, it is pertinent to discuss a subject close to me, ‘encouraging the girl child to succeed’.
The #EmbraceEquity campaign topic for IWD 2023 aims to start a discussion on why just providing equal opportunities are not enough. Every individual has a unique take-off point in life. This is why we must do everything toward achieving meaningful inclusion, fair treatment, appropriate advice and guidance.
More so, there’s need to provide mentorship and collaboration in line with the assertion by Serena Williams that ” every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another “. This will offer the pathway to success for the girl child.
The promoters of IWD have taken the pains to separate the meaning of equality and equity even though the two words are used interchangeably otherwise.
Giving every person or group the same resources or opportunities is referred to as equality.
But in recognising that every person has unique circumstances, equity distributes the precise resources and opportunities required to get equal results. May I add here that equity means giving someone the right encouragement to excel; being an ally to that person.
Let us not put women in stereotypes. Indeed, we need to denounce all forms of prejudice against women and calling out any form of discrimination. But such a change in mindset cannot just be achieved alone. Women don’t have to be the only ones pushing for gender equality. The social, economic, cultural, and political success of women depends greatly on allies.
As I have written in my book, Isoken, I have told the story of how I have been able to achieve so much in life with the right opportunities that presented themselves to me and a passionate willpower to make it in life. But I must add that there were certain people who played their part in seeing that I made it. Without the push they gave me, I would have achieved little.
First among them is my mother, Enegbegbana Stella Igbinigie. Of course, everyone in Africa gets a push from their mothers. But my case was peculiar. My father died when I was just nine. My mother was then forced to scrounge through her petty trading to make sure we could have something to eat. But she did not hold a pity party; she got me to realise the burden of responsibility that I needed to bear for myself. During the holidays, she ensured I had something to do.
“You cannot sit at home,” she would say. “in this life, it is what you fend for yourself that is valuable, not what people give to you.” Another thing she often told me was, “You don’t have to be at the receiving end, you should be the giver, and for you to be the giver, you have to work hard.”
My mother saw what was ahead because she would, before long, have sight impairment which would cause her to slow down considerably in her trade. This forced me to go beyond just hawking petty wares in Benin but to move to seek my fortune in Lagos. And when I could not find a job quickly, I did just what I did in Benin – I hawked Elephant Blue Detergent at Mile 2.
But my encouragement today is not that young girls should go into street hawking, as even that is now against the law, but that young girls should be encouraged to apply the best of their abilities.
The second influence I would mention is my husband. When I met Godwin, all I had was a school certificate. I was already making it as a businesswoman. But he said that was not enough. I needed to go back to school. He admired my can-do spirit but to him it was not enough. I yielded to his superior counsel, and I went back to school.
It was not easy because I was already a mother in my 30s. The way I would have coped with studies in my teenage years would have been a whole lot different from me as a struggling businesswoman and mother at an older age. Most times, I thought of quitting, but his encouragement kept me on.
Mr. Nwabunka’s encouragement was not just concerning my personal education. He would influence my foray into social entrepreneurship, and to effect, incubating microbusinesses through the Grooming Centre, which today has been able to empower over 700 women nationwide through microfinance.
I have taken the pains to tell a bit of my story to buttress the strength of allies. Success is not just achieved by just one’s own strength. One must be encouraged by a solid network of supporting allies.
Such a network includes parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, friends, collaborators, and fellow travellers. When such encouragement comes it gingers the weary spirit to keep going.
In recent times, I have seen many young ladies in despair, giving up their dreams so early in life. At such an age, I could have done the same but I was shown the right path because I had good allies who did not encourage to take the easy way out but to work hard and excel.
To the young lady, I want to be your ally. Let me help you succeed. I have no magical skills, but I can be your friend. It worked for me; it can also work for you. Reach out to me. Let us work together and let’s see you grow.
It is often stated that ” experience is the best teacher”; hence, I offer to provide mentorship and a platform for collaboration for young girls or girl child through the Isoken Nwabunka Foundation.
Happy International Women’s Day.