Youth Movement: Amina Oyagbola on Promoting the Success of Women
Philanthropist and Global Business Leader Amina Oyagbola Highlights Why Nigeria Must Focus on Promoting the Success of Young Women
For visionary change agents who firmly believe that Nigeria’s best days lie ahead and not behind, it is widely accepted — in fact, it is axiomatic — that the country’s leadership in both the government and the business community must work together to achieve gender equality; not just because it is morally and ethically the right thing to do, but because it is essential for sustained and strong economic growth.
However, for internationally-renowned philanthropist and global business leader Amina Oyagbola, who has advocated for women’s economic and educational rights in Nigeria for more than two decades, although supporting girls and women is a critical important piece of the puzzle — it is not the full picture.
In addition to providing structured and accessible programs for school-aged girls — especially in northern states, where a combination of deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes continue to block the majority of girls from participating in formal education — we need to go further by actively promoting the professional success of young women, claims Amina Oyagbola, the Founder and Chairperson of the non-profit organization WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers). “The time for talking has long-since passed. Now, we need to take strategic, concerted and cohesive action at both the policy level, and on-the-ground in cities and communities.
According to Amina Oyagbola, supporting the professional success of young women is rooted in three key areas: fostering economic opportunities, implementing mentoring programs, and working to break down societal barriers.
Fostering Economic Opportunities
Research by the World Bank reveals that Nigeria has one of the highest percentages of women in the workforce at 45.5 percent, which is just below the U.S. at 46 percent, and the U.K. at 46.7 percent. However in Nigeria, much of this employment is informal — especially for those living in rural areas.
“In order to facilitate the transition to formal, more stable, safer and more prosperous job opportunities, we need to provide women with economic opportunities to become entrepreneurs,” commented Amina Oyagbola. “Less than half of Nigeria’s women entrepreneurs have access to formal financial services, and just two percent have accessed funding from financial institutions”.
Implementing Mentoring Programs
Many Nigerian women find that their career comes to a standstill — or they are forced to exit their careers entirely — because they do not understand the corporate landscape, do not know how to steer clear of pitfalls, and do not know how successfully navigate their careers. The practical and proven solution to this knowledge gap is through targeted, strategic mentoring programs.
“We need to provide entry level and mid-career professional women with a structured and supportive mentoring platform, which gives them the practical skills and enhanced capacity they need to achieve their full potential — and, in turn, serve as role models for the next generation of successful young women,” commented Amina Oyagbola. “This vision is at the heart of WISCAR. To date, we have trained more than 300 women through our WIN-with-WISCAR program, and over 6,000 women and men have been positively impacted through our workshops”.
Breaking Down Societal Barriers
Even the most progressive programs and projects to promote the success of Nigeria’s young women will be undermined without working at the legislative, policy and on-the-ground program levels to break down societal barriers that, for centuries, have unfairly stigmatized career-minded women from being perceived as anti-family.
According to Amina Oyagbola, Business and Management Consultant at AKMS Consulting Ltd., telling women to choose between their family or career is a completely false and bogus dichotomy that is rooted in a backwards ideology that seeks to control rather than empower women. Establishing a successful career and taking care of one’s family are not mutually exclusive pursuits. They are totally integrated, because strong, confident and empowered women are far better equipped to make decisions that are best for their family and community. We lose nothing when we break down societal barriers that keep women from achieving their professional potential. On the contrary, we have so much to gain on every level.