IWD2021: The International Women’s Day is marked annually on 8 March around the world celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for the International Day 2021, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” and campaign theme #ChooseToChallenges, celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Alaba Ayinuola reached out to 20 inspiring African women across the world to share their thoughts on the IWD2021 theme. Here is what they said;
1. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, 6th and First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius: “I have always challenged the status quo. I have never walked the beaten track but made my own. Today 8th March I challenge structures and stereotypes that hold women back. I challenge those women who don’t support each other preventing us to create this great sisterhood of women.. much needed for our advancement..”
2. Oulimata Sarr, Regional Director West and Central Africa at UN Women: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us something undeniable: leadership diversity makes a difference, and the pandemic response in countries led by women has captured the headlines. Yet, research on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” reveals that only three countries in the world have 50% or more women in parliament. Globally 119 countries have never had a woman leader as a head of state or head of government. At the current rate of progress, gender parity will not be reached in parliaments before 2063, in ministerial positions before 2077 and in the highest positions of power before 2150.”
3. Gugulethu Ndebele, Executive Director at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG): “What we see in the world today, the gender bias, inequality, discrimination, patriarchy etc., is because of choices and decisions that have been made over time. The fact that nothing seems to change, in my view, is because there is a collective and individual failure to consistently challenge and call out these biases. The fact that, in 2021, women still experience high levels of violence and abuse is a collective and individual failure to call out the systems that allow it to happen and the individuals that perpetrate these atrocities. And so, it could be that this year’s theme is our Call to Action. Our call to change our future and #ChoosetoChallenge discrimination, inequality, GBV, patriarchy and maybe, just maybe, our children will inherit a better world.”
4. Chinwe Egwim, Economist, Author and Advocate: “Women’s collective voice is still faint when it comes to policy direction and decision-making across Africa. The need to empower women is fundamental to economic development. The influential role of gender equality on economic growth is directly linked to the participation of women in the labour force. When women are excluded from the workforce, economic resources are wasted. Efforts should be made towards supporting female employees at inflection point by assisting with reducing obstacles women face 4-5 years into their careers. High performing female employees should have some level of direction towards roles and functions that have a direct path to senior leadership roles.”
5. Dr. Tebogo Phetla Mashifana, CEO, Southern African Women in Leadership: May we not be blind to the inequalities, inequities, diversity, and social exclusion in our environment and communities. Now more than ever, the world is looking for women who can stand bold at the front line and say it is not only your struggle but our struggle. We will win together, and we will win by carrying each other. Women let us continue to lead with compassion and empathy.”
6. Phumza Dyani, CMSO, BBI, & Founder, PANFID: “I #ChooseToChallenge ‘Enough about policies, we want to see tangible action and results. I challenge the women to use their collective commercial power to make bold statements of change they want to see. We also challenge men who are with us to show bold moves and not just lip service.”
7. Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, Founder & Managing Partner, Aruwa Capital Management: “I choose to challenge the status quo regarding African women accessing capital. We are the most enterprising women in the world but face a $42 billion funding gap in comparison to male entrepreneurs. This funding gap has been further exacerbated by the effects COVID-19 has had on women. Through my fund, Aruwa Capital Management, we are one of the few African women owned and led early stage growth and equity gender lens funds in West Africa intentionally investing in businesses that are for women or by women. By showcasing the outsized returns and immense social impact we deliver through our investments, we aim to change the narrative for African women accessing capital in the years to come. We are challenging the status quo and changing the narrative for women by being a capital allocator. Instead of begging for a seat at the table, we have created our own table where African women are decision makers and capital allocators.”
8. Temi Marcella Awogboro, Investor, Board Director & Advisor: “As an investor in the healthcare industry, I have witnessed first hand how women have stood at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators and as some of the most exemplary and effective leaders in combating the pandemic. It is no coincidence that the countries most successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, have been led by women… Read More
9. Ashaba Faridah, Pilot & CEO Bambino Life Foundation: “My message to the women out there this women’s Day is; Choose to challenge the harmful stereotypes imposed on us by society, believe in yourself and know that you have so much more offer to this world just like everyone else and more importantly by choosing to challenge and standing for what you believe in, you pave a clear path for the generations of women to come.”
10. Saibatu Mansaray, Retired US Army Officer & Founder, The Mansaray Foundation: “A challenged world is an alert world and this International Women’s Day The Mansaray Foundation is challenging our leaders, our supporters, and the global healthcare community to join the fight for a healthier Sierra Leone. 1 in 73 mothers in Sierra Leone will die in 2021 alone from preventable childbirth complications, making Sierra Leone the most dangerous place in the world to give birth. The need to improve access and quality of care is obvious but to bring about that change, we’ll need everyone to raise their hand and take responsibility for the inequalities that exist in our global healthcare system.”
11. Margaret Adekunle, MBA, Banker, Diversity & Inclusion Advocate: “A woman should not have to choose between raising her kids, a family and having a career. As a woman and a Black leader, there are days that I take my kids to work when there sick rather than staying home to care for them because of the fear of loosing my job. As a woman and a Black leader, I have learned a lot from corporate Traumas and Triumphs. Therefore, I speak from lived experiences. My voice is my gift and my advocacy for minorities in the workplace is my calling. I will continue to challenge “The Norm” for the greater good of “The silent Minorities.”
12. Belinda Kendall, Founder of Promise Media Group, LLC: “International Women’s Day The COVID-19 has had profound effects on every aspect of life and one year later, we have yet to shake its hold on our world. It is no surprise that women, especially those from low-income and minority backgrounds, have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. This year’s Choose to Challenge theme is a call to action to address the gross inequality in our within our communities. We must stand together to advocate for women who are on the front lines at hospitals, working high risk essential jobs, and those at home that have been left bear the burden of governmental failure as they support their loved ones through these trying times. Together we can make a change to ensure the safety of our world when we choose to challenge racial and class inequality, government complacency, and sexism.”
13. Dr. Jumoke Kassim, CEO, Naturescape Consulting Ltd: “The 2021 Theme of the International Women’s Day, “#Choosetochallenge” advocates that we stand in to challenge everything against inequality and bias against women. I stand in to Choosetochallenge in several ways against unfair statuesque. In the same vein, we can choose to challenge everything against sustainable living and lifestyle which can improve our health and lifestyle to shore up our immunity against Corona Virus so we can reduce and eliminate underlying illnesses that gives the virus leverage to grow. Let’s choose to live and eat healthy and cultivate a sustainable lifestyle as women and as families. It will be our greatest weapon against Covid-19. Let’s #Choosetochallenge!
14. Najwa El Iraki, Founder & Managing Partner, AfricaDev Consulting: “Celebrating women’s day means celebrating their contribution and valuing their input to better empower them. I take this opportunity to thank Nada Cheddadi, our Business Development Analyst at AfricaDev for her dedication, agility and strong work ethics. It is a real fulfillment to see that across Africa, successful women #choosetochallenge stereotypes, injunctions and gender roles to pursue their own careers and personal / professional endeavors. Let us all support each other.”
15. Oyetola Oduyemi, Director, Public Affairs (Africa Region) The END Fund: “I am really glad to lend my voice to this celebration of women everywhere, on this auspicious occasion of the annual International Women’s Day commemoration, 2021. I celebrate both women winning, and women struggling but pushing through. I identify with women that have borne the brunt of the ongoing…..Read More
16. Elfreda K. Sheriff, MBA, MSc, Founder, KilSah Consulting: “Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world would mean putting women and girls first. Concerted efforts must be made to remove the barriers that limit women’s full participation in the economy. Governments must commit to providing girls access to education, so they can fully participate in our society. According to UN Women, “up to 70% of women and girls do not have mobile devices, Internet, and digital literacy”. We should CHALLENGE THE SOCIAL NORMS that restrict women and girls from achieving their highest potential and participating fully in society.”
17. Meseret Haileyesus, CEO of Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE): “I #ChooseToChallenge Economic abuse and injustice that prevent women from achieving their highest potential”
18. Munwangari Cynthia, co-Founder, Ukosokoni: “The only way to empower a woman is to provide her financial freedom! Happy International Women’s Day to my beautiful Sisters. I #ChooseToChallenge”
19. Masego Moalosi, CEO, Moalosi Media: “For this year’s International Women’s Day, I’ve decided to set a goal for myself to meet more women who share their dreams and thoughts, mentor young women, and make mistakes. The allure of making mistakes is that they have the uncanny ability to turn you into something stronger than you were before. I’d rather be sorry for what I’ve tried than for what I haven’t.”
20. Crescence Elodie Nonga, Founder of WETECH & EN Group: “This theme gives the chance to women to bring a significant change to their conditions, their rights, and their inclusion in the development of their community. In a period of crisis, women should more than ever be considered as big allies and great contributors to the collective efforts aiming to recover from the pandemic. In a Covid-19 world, no woman should be left behind, marginalized, or excluded. Women have to be more than ever encouraged to make their voice count with the assurance of bringing positive economic, social, and cultural changes to the world.”
GSMA Report Reveals The Gender Gap In Mobile Internet Use Is Shrinking, Despite The COVID-19 Pandemic
GSMA Report: An estimated 112 million more women started using mobile internet last year across low- and middle-income countries, despite the onset of COVID-19, according to the fourth annual GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report published today.
Nevertheless, 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet. Moreover, the underlying gender gap in mobile ownership persists and is proving difficult to close.
Affordability, lack of literacy and digital skills, and lower awareness of mobile internet are critical and common barriers for women. Structural inequalities in society and discriminative social norms also remain a challenge. Even when women have the same levels of education, income, literacy, and employment as men, they are still less likely to own a mobile phone or use mobile internet.
The report further revealed that a record number of women in South Asia now use mobile internet services, helping shrink the gender gap to 15% from 19% last year in low- and middle-income countries.
The gains in South Asia, which had the most significant gender gap in 2019 with women 50% less likely than men to use mobile internet, masked the stagnation in other regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Women in both regions now face a similar gender gap in mobile internet use – 37% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 36% in South Asia.
Women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively via mobile in almost all markets surveyed. In Kenya, for example, 63% of male internet users said they only used the internet via a mobile device compared to 79% of females. This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access.
“If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-COVID world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, of the GSMA. “I urge policymakers, the private sector and the international community to take note of the important findings laid out in the Mobile Gender Gap Report because only concerted action and collaboration will enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity.”
The GSMA introduced the Connected Women Commitment Initiative in 2016 to catalyse action to close the mobile gender gap. Mobile operators continued to make commitments during 2020, with 40 mobile operators across Africa, Asia and Latin America making formal commitments to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women since 2016. These operators have already reached more than 40 million additional women with mobile internet or mobile money services.
The GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 is available at: https://www.gsma.com/r/gender-gap/
Further information on the Connected Women Commitment Initiative can be found at: https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/connected-women/the-commitment/
NASME Women Celebrates International Women’s Day 2021 with Empowered Women Event
L-R Mrs Victoria Oluwasanya – immediate past Vice Chairman of NASME Lagos, Mr. Solomon Aderoju – immediate past Chairman NASME Lagos, Otunba (Mrs) Gbemi Oduntan – National Women Coordinator NASME, Sir. Prince Degun Agboade – National President- NASME, Dr. Adams Adebayo – Chairman NASME Lagos, Mrs Wumi Oluwadare – 2nd Vice Chairman NASME Lagos. (Source: NASME/Dr. Jumoke Kassim)
Every March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. An annual call to action for gender parity across the world. These actions range from marches and protests to advocacy and campaigns. This year’s International Women’s Day 2021 theme was tagged – “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” with the campaign theme #ChooseToChallenge. On the 12th March 2021, the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (NASME) marked this year’s international women’s day 2021 with an event organised and coordinated by the NASME Women (Lagos WING).
Due to the global pandemic (COVID-19), the event took place both physically and virtually in line with the government COVID-19 safety protocol. The physical event was held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, Lagos while several guests joined virtually (Zoom) from different parts of the world. The NASME’s topic was on “Women, Family Law & Property Rights”.
Hajia Yinka Paramole-Shabi, the moderator for the day, commenced with an introduction of guests, speakers and how essential it was for NASME to have a women wing. The purpose of which is to have enviable women in business who can stand out among the male gender. She appreciated the support of the NASME president, a man that has been the backbone for the creation of the NASME Women Wing.
The Host and NASME Lagos Women Coordinator, Otunba (Mrs) Gbemi Oduntan in her opening speech explained why women should start challenging the status quo. She pointed out that women are not here to compete with their male counterpart. But are only demanding for a space on the table because it has been proven that what a man can do, a woman can do same, even much better. She believes 75% of what some women do these 3C’s jobs: Clearing, Cleaning and Chores that are not paid, because the world sees them as the weakest link. She gave some examples of women challenging the Status Quo in their respective industry. She mentioned Capt. Agbelusi who was one of the guests at their event in 2019 and her impact in the aviation industry. She concluded by saying “We need a gender balanced society” and left the audience with these three (3) parting words; Be prepared, Make sure your account is alright and Make the man know we are choosing to challenge.
NASME National President, Prince Degun Adeagbo in his speech extols the key roles women play at home, workplace and in the society at large. He said more women should choose to challenge the gender bias, inclusion and parity. He believes their aspirations can be achieved when women work together through different organisations as NASME and urged them to be a part of the community. Prince Degun admonished the Lagos women wing for their impact. On behalf of NASME, he appeals to the Government but at the federal and state to do everything possible to get more women involved in governance by lowering the bar. In future, he wants to see a woman become the President of NASME.
Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle is an industrialist and currently the National Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN). She shared her thoughts on why it is important to choose to challenge the status quo with emphasis on financial inclusion and diversity. Mrs. Oyekunle also spoke about the Passage of the bill on women national business agenda with 5 key focus areas; High rate of insecurity, Gender inequality, power and infrastructural facilities. She encouraged more women organization to work together in pursuit of the common set goals.
The Hon. Commissioner for Commerce, Industry & Cooperatives, Dr. Lola Akande was represented by Mrs. Oluwakemi Ogunmodede, a Director in the Ministry of commerce.
Mrs. Angela EMUWA, Chairman at Punch Nigeria Limited appreciated all the men supporting women who are challenging the status quo. She talked about the challenges and biases women face in the society. She emphasized on the role’s women play and why they should be given a space.
Dr. Adeyemi Agbelusi’s presentation was on the topic “Women, Family Law & Human Right” and how the law does not favour the women in our society. In terms of surrogacy, adoption, settlement after marriage divorce, Right & interest to property. He urged women to pay more attention to Cultural & financial intelligence before going into any kind of relationships.
The NASME event ended with an award ceremony where two of its members were awarded a plaque and some cash to support their business.
The first awardee is Mrs. Adesanya Modupe Olusola who lost everything in her piggery business during the (COVID-19) lockdown, as a result of Swine Flu that killed all her pigs. She said the award came to her as a surprise and the fund will put her back on her feet and appreciates platforms such as the NASME that provides women with so many empowerment opportunities. According to her, one way women can choose to challenge is by challenging their children to do great things. She advises women in a male-dominated industry with this saying, “Whatever needs to be done needs to be done well.”
Mrs. Mitana Blessing Matthew, the second awardee is the co-Founder of Authentic Natural products (African cosmetic brands), a company she co-founded with her late husband. She appreciated the support from NASME and promised the fund will be used to boost her business.
The NASME International Women’s Day event is a true indication of women supporting women and we hope to see more collaborations and not competition among women in business in Africa.
NASME is the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses across all sectors of the economy, creating business opportunities as well as providing solutions to individual member’s challenges to ensure the success of every business venture in Nigeria. Their vision is to be the voice of Nigeria Entrepreneurs advocating for conducive environment while partnering with MSME promoters to ensure the emergence of large pool of viable technologically empowered MSMEs. NASME promotes the empowerment of Nigeria’s MSMEs as a means of achieving sustainable employment generation, economic growth and development in the country.
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Priceless Women Initiatives founded Hon. Oyinda Adegoke
NASME Women… Upwardly mobile!
More Picture from the event
L-R: Mrs. Esther Ebeh, Ms. Oyelola Fadaini, Yeye Dupe Dada, Mrs. Matilda Taiwo & Ms. Yinka
Watch the full event here on YouTube NASME IWD2021 EVENT
Women are Essential to Africa’s Recovery Plan
By Mark Elliott, Division President of Mastercard, Southern Africa
I was having an engaging Zoom chat about financial inclusion last week with a senior female executive when we were interrupted by her charming toddler who had other priorities. After some on-screen introductions and my poor attempt to entertain her child, she shared a personal reflection. Despite her partner being in an adjacent room, the little one tended to knock on her door frequently.
As we are now seeing in the data, the pandemic’s effect has added to the pressures experienced by women. Often women have had to pick up more household chores and childcare duties, and many have had to face unemployment as their jobs are 1.8x more vulnerable as they tend to work in sectors that are hardest hit by the economic downturn such as retail, restaurants etc. According to the UN Women, the pandemic risked turning back the clock on gender equality by 25 years.
But, if we collectively activate the power of women’s contribution in Africa, and encourage them to reach their potential, companies log increased performance, societies become more productive, and economies thrive. In fact, Africa could add $316 billion or 10% to GDP by 2025 if each country makes advances in women’s equality to match the country in the region that has achieved the most progress towards parity (McKinsey 2019).
Amidst recovery, we now have a chance to hit the reset button in all industries – across the board, and across boards. It is time to ask ourselves if we have the balance that Africa needs – and prepare to do what it takes to get there. It will require collective action from corporates, governments, NGOs and communities to make it happen. There is much work to do. Gender inequality in work and society loom large, and interventions are critical.
Opportunities to Advance Gender Equality
Unleashing potential and unblocking much needed growth can be actioned across three priority areas: youth, women entrepreneurs and women in the workplace.
1) Youth – Africa is home to 19 of 20 of the world’s youngest populations which should present a tailwind of productivity opportunity. However, with youth (15 – 24 years old) unemployment as high as 2% in countries like South Africa there is an urgent need to align academic and technical skills with employment realities. Encouraging girls to participate in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects is key to develop critical 21st century skills girls need for their studies and career success. Bringing more female youth into technology fields and achieving gender parity will only make companies stronger and products more relevant to women as customers.
2) Women entrepreneurs – According to the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Africa has the world’s top three countries when it comes to women entrepreneurs (as a percentage): Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%) and Ghana (36.5%). Despite some positive trends, the report also notes the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs around the world, with 87% saying they have been adversely affected. Overrepresentation in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn, the pronounced digital gender gap in an increasingly virtual world, and the mounting pressures of childcare responsibilities are only a few factors that have left women particularly vulnerable.
Despite the obvious challenges, the report highlights a number of opportunities for women in the COVID-19 era, particularly in online shopping and digital commerce. As a non-exec board member of Junior Achievement South Africa – a non-profit organisation that is playing its part in preparing the youth for the 21st century through entrepreneurial training and financial literacy programmes – I have seen how versatile and resilient women entrepreneurs can be in the face of adversity. Shortly after the pandemic started, I had the chance to mentor a woman who pivoted her fashion business to produce face masks and set up an online store. Ensuring access to technology or digital solutions, affordable data and modern trade resources as well as business training will empower more women to succeed in business.
3) Women in the workplace – While Africa has above average board representation of women at 25% (McKinsey 2019) compared to the global average, it lags in executive committee positions and women coming into middle management positions. Gender equality in the workplace requires an adjustment by all of us if it is going to become a reality in the near term. At Mastercard, we have grown our female workforce across Africa by 370% over the last 5 years and across the Middle East and Africa, our team is 42% female. While there is still room for improvement, we have made meaningful interventions:
- We closed the gender pay gap to ensure that women earn $1 for every $1 earned by men.
- Recognising that women may take a professional step back if they have children, we introduced 16 weeks of paid parental leave for both men and women. Eighty percent of men from across the business take their paternity leave, helping us develop a sharing environment, redress the balance between maternity and paternity leave, while also ensuring that same-sex partners aren’t left behind.
- We have a dedicated Mastercard Women’s Leadership Network – a global network with local chapters in South Africa and Kenya that are tasked with developing and advancing women into leadership roles supported with training and mentorship opportunities.
- We have evolved the recruitment process, designing 50/50 gender slates for all roles. The best person will always get the job but the process has been redesigned for greater fairness and opportunity.
Companies must make gender equality a priority, commit to KPIs and measure there progress. Much acclaimed Jane Fraser shattered the glass ceiling a few weeks ago by becoming the first women to lead a major US bank as the new CEO of Citigroup – a ceiling that has already been shattered in Africa. This is a positive step, but we can agree there is much more to do beyond these first milestones.
As we position our businesses for recovery in a post Covid-19 world, we should be doing so with vision and goals for gender parity. We need to provide girls with access to education from an early age so that they can develop the skills needed to be the leaders of tomorrow. We need to provide better access to financial and digital tools, support women in starting and growing their businesses, and foster a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected and empowered to reach their greatest potential. By doing so, we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for us all.