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Adaeze Akpagbula is the co-founder of Farmspeak Technology, an agritech startup committed to eliminating extreme poverty amongst African farmers by increasing productivity, promoting efficient resources use and enhancing farm profitability.

Farmspeak leverages technologies such as intelligent electronic sensors, internet of things (IoT), data analytics, and artificial intelligence to drive data-driven agriculture that reduces wastage and improves overall farm productivity.

Currently, Farmspeak is helping poultry farmers improve their yield with its technology. Its PenKeep device works with an intelligent electronics sensor which when installed in a Pen house collects micro climate data like temperature, humidity, air quality etc and wirelessly transmits the data to a cloud server where advanced computational models help to make sense of what is happening in the pen house. The device gives the farmer total control over the micro climate in the pen house as he/she can monitor and control those environmental parameters.

Farmspeak does not just help farmers get optimum yield, it also links them to the right buyers after harvest, helping them save storage or feeding cost for crop farmers or livestock farmers respectively.

Adaeze holds a bachelors degree in Agricultural and Environmental Engineering from the University of Ibadan. She’s also one of the 200 digital startups selected for Forbes’ first Digital Startup Accelerator program in Nigeria where she made it to Top 15.

We celebrate Adaeze for helping farmers increase their yield and income.

Thank you, Queen.

Dr Jackie Chimhanzi has been appointed as a Board Member of ONE, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030.

Dr Jackie is the CEO of the African Leadership Institute, which runs the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship, in partnership with Oxford University, with the aim of nurturing a new generation of African leaders. She is driven by a desire to see a better Africa, in her lifetime.

In 2012, she was recognised by Forbes Africa magazine as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa – women under 45 shaping the narrative of Africa’s rising. In 2020, she was featured on the “100 Most Reputable Africans” list and in 2019, on the “100 Most Influential African Women” list.

She was, previously, the Senior Strategist of the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and before that, as a Strategy Lead at Deloitte Consulting, she led project teams on diverse client engagements, interrogating and informing the strategies of major entities in the power, oil and gas, steel and brewery industries. Whilst at Deloitte, she was instrumental in setting up the Deloitte Africa Desk and advised clients on accessing opportunities on the African continent.

She is a member of the ONE Africa Policy Advisory Board and also serves as a non-executive board member and Audit and Risk Committee member of the AdvTech Group, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed entity in private education and Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. She is also the Chair of that Board’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Committee.

She holds a BSc (Hons), MBA (with Distinction) and a PhD (Strategic Marketing) – all from Cardiff Business School, UK. As an academic, she lectured and authored and co-authored papers in peer-reviewed leading academic journals and presented her work at various international fora. Her research focused on strategy implementation effectiveness. She is a 2010 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow.

Congratulations on your appointment and wish you every success in your new role.

This article was culled from ONE

On the 8th of August, 2021 and to mark the one year anniversary of the tweet chat #GetTalkingWithEsther, hosted by Esther Ijewere, Kemi Oyesola, a coach, director of How2think Global Consultancy, and survivor of domestic violence was invited to speak on the topic “Leave to live: My Domestic Violence Experience.”

It was a moment of real truth and baring her journey, her mistakes and most importantly, her recovery and rebirth process.

Kemi Oyesola, our guest at the popular tweet chat dropped a lot of nuggets that had attendees reacting in awe.

Here are excerpts from the conversation and how it all went down.

 

This tweet chat was a moment of learning and unlearning and one thing that was constant in our guest’s response is the God-factor and how much role your thoughts play in shaping your life.

Those who attended the tweet chat testified to how much they learned when the Host asked them to mention what stood out for them. Here’s what they have to say about it.

Coach Kemi Oyesola is a living proof that you can rise from any hopeless situation. As long as you can find the strength, courage and determination to do so.

Find out more about the rest of this insightful tweet chat via the Twitter handle of the host or simply follow the hash tag #GetTalkingWithEsther on Twitter for updates on the next one.

The first ever silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games is here, thanks to Blessing Oborududu. This is coming after Ese Brume’s bronze win earlier today. Blessing lost the 68kg final match to USA’s Tamyra Mensah-Stock 1 – 4.

This win makes Blessing the first Nigerian wrestler to win an Olympic medal. Blessing is the first Nigerian wrestler ever to win a silver medal at the Games.

Congratulations, Blessing.

Go win some more

For the first time in Shell Nigeria’s over 60-year history, a woman has taken over the reins of leadership of one of its companies.

The appointment of Elohor Aiboni as the first female managing director of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) is another classic example in the oil and gas sector.

Alboni was unveiled as the successor to Bayo Ojulari with effect from August 1

The oil and gas industry has been traditionally male-dominated, with few women ascending to top management positions. But Aiboni, a “self-motivated person with a strong sense of business priorities,” is one of few women to change the narrative, becoming leader of the multinational oil company Shell’s offshore business in Nigeria.

SNEPCo, a wholly-owned Shell company, has interests in four deep-water blocks; two of which it operates. The company develops and deploys the latest deep-water drilling techniques to reduce drilling times, cut costs and increase production, according to 

It pioneered Nigeria’s deep-water oil and gas production at the Bonga field, a project that increased Nigeria’s oil capacity by 10 percent when output began in 2005.

Here is  Aiboni’s life up till her appointment as SNEPCo MD.

AIBONI: A WOMAN OF MANY FIRSTS

Aiboni has many firsts to her credit — from being the first female asset operations manager in SNEPCo to being the company’s first female MD.

As asset operations manager, Aiboni was responsible for providing leadership in health, safety and environment (HSE), operational excellence and overall asset management of the Bonga deepwater floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel operated by Shell in Nigeria.

The Bonga FPSO vessel has a total production capacity of 225,000 barrels of oil per day and 150 standard cubic feet of gas export per day. 

The height of a 12-storey building, and spanning an area the size of three football fields, the FPSO explores for and extracts oil from more than 1,000 metres below sea level.

TRAINEE TURNED MANAGING DIRECTOR

She has 19 years of working experience in Shell. Aiboni joined the oil company as a trainee production engineer and gradually rose through the ranks over the years.

“Immediately after I completed the compulsory national youths service, there came the opportunity to sit the Shell Intensive Training Programme examination. I made it, and that’s how I got into the prestigious SITP school. After a year of hard work and successful interviews, I transitioned to an employee as a Trainee Production Engineer about 19 years ago,” Aiboni disclosed in an interview with DMG events – a global energy show, in March.

Within the 19-year period, she served as business adviser to the executive vice president, and also managed third-party interface across several Shell assets in Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

Afterwards, she became a senior PtA engineer, then a manager at different tiers and transitioned to asset operations manager of Bonga, and presently SNEPCo boss.

The managing director holds a Bachelor’s degree (B.Sc.) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Benin, Nigeria, and a Master’s degree in Integrated Environmental Management from the University of Bath, UK.

‘A PRODUCT OF DILIGENCE, COMMITMENT TO SHELL’S VALUES’

Under her leadership, the Bonga asset received numerous awards, including the CEO HSSE Awards, Upstream Impact Award, and the Asset of the Year Runner up in 2019, in the Shell Group.

“Elohor’s appointment is a product of diligence, competence and commitment to the Shell ideals and core values, amidst our strong focus on diversity and inclusion,” Bamidele Odugbesan, media relations manager of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), quoted Marno de Jong, Shell’s senior vice president for Nigeria, as saying.

“We take pride in our intention of being one of the most diverse and inclusive organisations in the world, and focus on further improving inclusion and representation in critical areas, including gender.”

‘SELF MOTIVATED WITH STRONG SENSE OF BUSINESS PRIORITIES’

In her LinkedIn profile, Aiboni describes herself as “self-motivated with great ability to work easily without supervision. Result-oriented showing a sense of urgency and can challenge positively. Very good communicator with strong sense of business priorities.”

According to the profile, she is experienced in project to asset handover, operations of oil and gas facilities with HSE, cross-discipline, cross-functional units and multi-operating unit exposure with great interpersonal skills.

She is a certified quality management system (QMS) auditor, trained health, safety, security & environment (HSSE) & control framework auditor.

Source: The Cable

Sarah Kuponiyi is a passionate youth leader whose work cuts across gender equality and sexual reproductive health. She is also a 2019 nominee for 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders, recipient of Sustainable Solutions Africa 30 under 30 2019 and Cohort 15 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) emerging Leaders Program West Africa.

The founder of  A Well-Informed Adolescent  (AWA) Initiative, an organisation where she leads the team in creating and managing Safe Spaces that ensure young people can achieve their potential by enabling them access to essential services. She recently launched Alora Reusable Pads, a social enterprise to address period poverty by creating eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products freely distributed to in school and vulnerable girls and sold at affordable prices to the public. As a Beijing +25 Eagle (women advocate) for UN Women Nigeria, she uses her skills to advocate for upholding of human rights for sexual and reproductive health as the key to ensuring that women and girls can be equal and free to make decisions in all spheres of their lives, without discrimination, violence, or coercion, and with the assurance of their dignity upheld.

She shares her inspiring journey, her passion for development work, and  endorsement of different Government parastatals  in this interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence

No, I don’t think my childhood prepared me in any way for what I do now but I can say it’s part of what inspired me or should I say it is one of my why(s) in doing what I do now.  Growing up, it was awesome experience, had a lovely family, hardworking and sacrificial parents. Life itself was not so smooth not so rough; it was a beautiful as well as hard a journey.  Becoming an adolescent I realized I was a lone ranger hardly had friends, there were issues around self-identification and family challenges I had no one to share with, my parents were not available for those kind of talks and I always bottled them in. I was at the receiving end of my parent’s emotional breakdown when they separated and there were days I felt like running away, if there were safe spaces then that I could trust and go to it would have been helpful but I sucked it all in same with my siblings but in all right now I look back at my teenage self and I can say I am proud of that girl, the woman I have become is proud of the young teenage girl I was, she survived the lassitude of life, rode the rough waves graciously and got ashore unscathed, like not all adolescents could have been strong enough to to pull through without losing hope or sight of the goal.

So what I do now is to provide safe space services I couldn’t get at my time for adolescents and young people alike so as to enable them share their challenges, give a listening ears to them, let them know being stuck in the dark is not forever for those going through challenges and provide them tools and resources they need to make informed choices about their life, health, career etc so that they can transit to healthy adults without letting the light of their mind go dim even as the voyage on life’s journey.

Inspiration behind  “A.W.A” 

So what I went through growing up like I explained earlier inspired me to start A Well-Informed Adolescent (AWA) Initiative, which started as a community based project in 2018 to provide adolescents in rural communities an inspiration to live beyond their present definition, to aim high and think big and not let their background define them. Like the name of the organization, I am eager to have adolescents, who are well-Informed about the stage of life they are in, help them answer all the burning existential questions they have about their life, their overall health, their career, provide them guidance and tools they need to make informed choices by themselves. We achieved this through use of Multisectoral programs that link health to education, recreational activities, skills acquisition, youth club activities, school-based campaign, safe space services, advocacy and peer health education. Over the years the organization has grown to be more encompassing we also work to reduce gender based violence by educating women and young people about harmful gender norms and practices that contribute to Gender Based Violence in our society. We address issues around sexual violence; educate women and young people about their sexual reproductive health and rights. We provide parenting support programs, school-based dating violence prevention programs, & community based interventions to build equitable gender norms & attitudes in boys & girls. We provide sustainable livelihood programs for young women and girls through economic skill training and acquisition program. Nonetheless our primary core focus still remain investing appropriately in the health and development of young people and we continued to strive towards improving the health and development of this unique population sub-group

Inspiration behind Alora reusable pad

As a younger girl who stayed with her father, I could not afford to buy sanitary pads for myself due to how pads were unaffordable for someone like me, neither was I able to ask him for such due to culture of shyness and silence. Likewise, working on school health outreaches made me realized this situation has not change and the Story is what cut across all region of the country; Nigeria is one of the countries that place a heavy tax on menstrual products. Without access to proper menstrual products, many girls miss classes and older women are unable to attend work A pack of sanitary pads cost an average of $1.30, even as an estimated 44% of Nigeria’s population (87 Million people) lives in extreme poverty earning less than $1.90 per day, women and girls may delay urination and defecation but it is not possible to stop menstrual flow. The lack of affordable sanitary products also exacerbates anxiety and stress during menstruation and increases their vulnerability to gender based violence and sexually transmitted infections. Alora Reusable Pads was created to solve Period Poverty by producing and selling eco-friendly reusable menstrual hygiene products from specialized fabrics that are comfortable to the skin, hygienic, and affordable. Alora Reusable Pads are made for every woman and girl. It is affordable, easy to use, comfortable and available in three sizes with varying thickness to fit every woman at all times. It is made of several layers of absorbent fabrics including cotton and water proof fabrics and it has numerous benefits such as  saves you money, very economical, environmentally friendly, safer for the body, fashionably feminine and very affordable.

The reception since we launched

Wow, the reception has been awesome. We have received considerable acceptance in the development space and government parastatas because it is a sustainable way of solving period poverty but for individuals we realized there is need to do more awareness creation on reusable pads in Nigeria, it is still a new niche and awareness about this would help influence mind shift and behavioral change which help increase acceptance. Notably to note is our Alora Pads has been purchased by the following;

  • Cross River State Ministry of Women Affairs purchased Alora Pads for its UNFPA funded dignity packs distribution project in Cross River State.
  • Ekiti State Governor’s wife Her Excellency Erelu Bisi Fayemi purchased Alora Pads for her Keep Girls in School Project for world menstrual hygiene day 2021
  • NGO in Adamawa KPANG SURRI Foundation purchased Alora pads to commemorate World Menstrual Hygiene Day
  • NGOs in Calabar Gender and Development Actions (GADA) and A Well Informed Adolescent (AWA) Initiative Purchased Alora Pads to commemorate World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021
  • Alora Reusable Pads was invited by Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Abuja, Dame Pauline Tallen in commemorating World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 at the Ministry Complex in Abuja.
  • Official presentation of Alora Reusable pads to United Nation Population Funds (UNFPA) Calabar Sub office
  • Discussion on period poverty on HitfmCalabar with Abenmire Ade where we shared sustainable solutions to addressing this menace; one of which is Alora Reusable Pad
  • We are so excited as our founder and team lead got profiled by US Mission to African Union on the celebration of International women’s day 2021.
  • Gate Way Excel Collage Otupka Benue State purchase alora pads for their gate way pad up project
  • Alora reusable pads was endorsed by the UN Women Nigeria.

Being a certified adolescent sexual health professional, running my organisation, volunteering for several international organisations, and managing it all

(Smile) well, let me honest not easy, reward of hard work is more work but because all I do is what I am passionate I enjoy it and I give it my best, I prioritize my schedules and deliverables, I have calendars and to do list, I set reminders, I delegate where necessary and most importantly I work with awesome amiable teams both at AWA Initiative and with Alora Pads.  Our board of trustees, staff, volunteers and supporters are all amazing.

Challenges of my work

Time consuming, Mentally stressing -My life is all about work with little or no time for other things of life but lately I am making conscious effort to live a balance life.

Challenges involves in handling   Gender based violence prevention at the grassroot or community is having to contend with community gate keepers and community strong holds (laugh) let me not go there while for young people it just a matter of them trusting you enough and the work becomes easier.

Other Projects and activities

We have done various projects and here are some of them

  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2018
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2019
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2020
  • A Well-Informed Adolescent Campaign 2021
  • Women Voice Leadership Project in partnership with Child Care and Adult Protection (CCAPI) and Action Aid Nigeria funded by Global Affairs Canada
  • UNESCO/Society for Family Health Spotlight Initiative potlight Initiative Project Activity 4.2.4 which is aimed at ”Strengthening the capacity of youth network (Civil Society Organisation) to carry our peer education and support young people to access Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and SRHR services” in Cross River State

Here are the Programs we run at A Well-Informed Adolescent  (AWA)  Initiative

  • Tackling Gender Based Violence; A weekly program that offers crucial approach to poverty reduction, economic development and a key to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Friday Talk Date: In this event we provide adequate age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents at the youth resource center
  • Safe Space Activities: We provide youth friendly services that cater for the overall development of young people
  • Health Programs
  • Livelihood Programs

 3 women who inspire me to be better and why

I have plenty women ooo but since you asked for 3 here are they

  • Dr. Yolanda N George-David also known as auntlanda, I met her while I was still in secondary school through a radio program tag “Sharing Life Issues” wow she inspires me to do better because despite her own life issues that she could use as a legit excuse to just remain in her corner yet she leaves everything to give her all to total strangers, mehn its wow. And she first exemplified this bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to me mehn Mama has plenty PhDs in Neurology, Obstetrics and gynecology, psychologist etc an OAP, a wife, mother, farmer, business mogul, caterers etc she literally made me believe I could be anything I set my mind on and work towards.
  • Mrs Emilia Eyo-Effa, I met her while working at my first NGO work ever she was the Gender Specialist, currently now works with USAID, seeing her transition from jobs to jobs gives me hope that I can achieve my career dreams in the development sector, all I need to do is work hard and be consistent. She also an amiable supporter of our organization, she is one of our astute board of trustees who always open her arms and doors for me, to advises me using her wealth of professional experience I am so glad to be in her circle and to have as a board of trustee for AWA Initiative.
  • Michelle Obama, reading her book titled “Becoming” gave me a glimpse to her life, her roots, how she came of age, her family, her life as the first lady. Reading about her triumph and disappointment made me realized I am a work in progress I have not arrived or gotten to my final destination and that in every of my life phase I keep working, keep learning, keep living and keep becoming the better version of myself always.

To young women

Self Identifcation, Self-worth, Self-value. I would tell them to work on themselves first, evolve or commence their journey of becoming before getting entangled,  and I would tell them to be strong and not lose sight of their goals not be distracted by society but rather press on and be the best version of themselves that they could be.

Future of Alora Reusable Pad

At Alora Reusable Pads our vision is A World without Period Poverty, were every woman and girl can have their period with dignity. Our Mission: To be a leading producer of affordable, eco-friendly, comfortable reusable pads in West Africa and to address period poverty through distribution of reusable pads and provision of menstrual health and hygiene management programs. We hope to reduce poor menstrual hygiene by 30% in Nigeria (and Africa) by 2025.

Being a Woman of Rubies

I am a Woman of Rubies because contribute to developing my communities; I empower women and girls to become change agents.

Awards and Recognition

National Gender Youth Activist for United Nations Women HQ, Beijing eagle (Women advocate) for United Nations Women Nigeria. A 2019 nominee for 120 under 40 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders, recipient of Sustainable Solutions Africa 30 under 30 2019 and Cohort 15 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) RLC emerging Leaders Program West Africa. Immediate past Deputy Coordinator YALI Network Cross River State, She is part of the Cross River CSO Gender Responsive Budgeting Monitoring Group, Cross River State CSOs Network, and Cross River State GBV/SRHR Network respectively among others.

 

Mary Izobo is the founder of The Amazon Leadership Initiative (TheALI), which aims to empower women and girls, provide support networks, mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development to alleviate gender inequality.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) in French Language from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland; a Barrister at Law (BL) from the Nigerian Law School, Nigeria; a Master of Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and a Master of Laws (LLM) in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University Chicago, USA.

She is currently studying for a Doctor of Laws (LLD) with a focus on International Governance at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She has worked for the United Nations (UN) the African Union Commission (AUC), the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

She talks about her journey in an interview with Women of Rubies.

Inspiration Behind The Amazon Leadership Initiative (TheALI)

I was inspired to start TheALI because of my passion and concern (love) for human rights particularly women and girls’ rights.

Impact on society, andTestimonials since inception.
The Amazon Leadership initiative (TheALI), is a not-for-profit organization. It was established to empower women and girls, provide support networks, mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development to alleviate gender inequality in line with aspiration 6 of the AU Agenda 2063 and goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. TheALI envisions a world where everyone has equal rights and opportunities – inter-generational equity.

The impact of TheALI on women and girls includes the advancement and empowerment of women and girls for the fulfilment of their rights, development and wellbeing. We do this through mentorship, career guidance, education and capacity development. We provide education for young women and girls including career guidance in their chosen career fields. We also currently mentor several girls and young women across continents as mentorship is at the heart of TheALI. We have also been able to educate and provide capacity development for young women and girls through webinars, training and informal meetings. Topics of the webinars and training TheALI have covered, include five of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Women and girls’ education, the girl child, women in governance, gender and generation equality, and gender-based violence. All of these webinars, training and informal meetings were well attended by individuals who are set to change the world around them. You can find the links to these webinars and advocacy work here.

We have also been able to carry out advocacy programmes for the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the girl child using the bottom to top approach to place a girl child at the centre of Africa’s development agenda. In 2020, TheALI collaborated with the Graça Machel Trust (GMT) in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child through an intergenerational dialogue on the theme ‘She is Equal.’ We brought together girls’ representatives from the five regions in Africa (Central, East, North, West, and Southern Africa) to afford them the opportunity to share their concerns and challenges primarily to inform and influence the advocacy agenda for girls within the African continent. With this intergenerational dialogue, we were able to create an interactive platform for these young girls who presented the barriers that prevent them from enjoying and fulfilling their rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as we proposed solutions to these barriers.

You have hosted and organized several empowerment programs and conferences how do you manage it all and what drives you?

On how I manage it all, I am constantly motivated by my passion for human rights, gender equality and equity, the importance of learning, sharing and imparting knowledge, partnerships, and collaborations. What drives me is hard work, commitment, consistency, dedication, passion, and above all networking because as they say your network is your net worth.

What are the important aspects you’ve noticed about Africa as someone who has worked with the African Union? What are the things you wish were done differently when it comes to the female gender?

There are so many important aspects to Africa that I have noticed guided by the values and ideals of the African Union. To begin with, I would highlight African Unity. The African Union is the Pan-Africanist continental organization that we have in terms of bringing African people together and formulating the standards for promoting democracy, human rights and pioneering peer-review between and amongst States in Africa.

Another aspect is the role of the youth in nation-building in Africa – Youths are the cornerstone and bedrock of any society, and their role cannot be underestimated or overemphasized. As fuel is the driving force of any vehicle, so is the youth of any nation. Africa has the youngest population in the world where 60% of its population is under 25 years. This means that the average percentage of the youth in any African country is approximately 30 to 50 per cent. Africa must utilise its youths in the development of its future vision and direction, by engaging them in the decision making processes. It is critical that youths play a crucial role in building social cohesion, economic prosperity, and political stability in any nation. This must be done through inclusivity and democratization. In 2018, Ms Aya Chebbi was appointed by the African Union as the first African Union Youth Envoy. This is a step in the right direction for the African Union as there is the need to do more by including the youth in leadership positions.

 

What I wished was done differently when it comes to the female gender is what I constantly advocate for – gender equality and equity – Give women more representation. In the past few years, the representation of women at the top leadership position in Africa and also at the African Union Commission has improved and increased but we need more women at the top leadership levels. In the history of the African Union, we have had only one female chairperson, Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and for the first time ever, we have our first female Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa. The AU needs to continue to advocate for the inclusion of women in leadership positions.

What are some of the challenges of your work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major restraint on everyone. The work that we do at TheALI involves a lot of outreach, advocacy and travelling. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our capacity, outreach and advocacy programmes. Thus, to manage the present realities given the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to use Zoom and other online platforms as a working method.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have carried out a lot of advocacy programmes virtually by bringing together notable male and female leaders to continue to discuss issues around the achievement of gender equality and equity. We have also carried out work particularly in relation to women and girls in the context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rights of women and girls.

However, because these events are virtual, the actual impact on the ground is not one that we would expect without COVID-19. As a result, TheALI is strategizing and revisiting the work done virtually to assess or measure the impact done on the ground where it matters and concerns all beneficiaries. In addition, at TheALI, we continue to make financial adjustments as adequate funding has not been forthcoming and consequently, the capacity of TheALI has suffered from resource constraints.

Other projects and activities?

We are currently working on two major projects slated for the second half of the year 2021 focusing on empowering women and young girls.

3 women who inspire you and why

Mrs. MOE Agbebaku-Izobo (my mum) is my greatest inspiration. She supports and guides me to become the best I can be. She is a pillar, a backbone and a constant reminder that my dreams are valid. Besides my mum, three other women who inspire me in no particular order are: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization; Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Women (UN Women) and Mrs Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States of America. These women inspire me because they have broken down barriers and shattered glass ceilings in achieving their dreams, pioneering their fields and taking up spaces in male-dominated spheres. These women are strong and phenomenal and bring a realization that your dreams are valid only if you dare to dream. They are the epitome of Black girl magic.

Could you share some brilliant insights from your life experience?

Some of the brilliant insights from my life experience include studying for my law degree, qualifying for the Nigerian Bar, practicing as a Human Rights Lawyer and receiving recognition through numerous awards for my educational and professional experience.

What makes you a Woman of Rubies?

I believe I am a Woman of Rubies because I greatly care for others, value humanity as well as human rights and most importantly, I am a staunch advocate for gender equality and inter-generational equity.

You can follow Ms. Mary Izobo on any of her social media handles below

Email: info.theali.org@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/izobomary/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IzoboMary

Facebook: https://facebook.com/IMaryIzobo

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryizobo/

 

 

Nigerian businesswoman, philanthropist and founder of Flourish AfricaApostle Folorunso Alakija, has announced the launch of a N1 billion fund to promote female-owned businesses in Africa.

Flourish Africa is a female empowerment platform designed to help women achieve their full potential. It is a place for both female millennials and adults to access information and the right networks that will enable them grow in their chosen careers and businesses while prioritizing health and wellness.

According to the statement announcing the fund, Apostle Alakija disclosed that the initiative would focus on supporting the entrepreneurial activities of at least 2500 female-owned businesses through funding and structured training over a period of 5 years.

In her announcement, she said

“I’m happy to launch the Flourish Africa 1 billion Naira fund on my 70th birthday as a gift to hardworking and enterprising women. This initiative will focus on empowering women economically and socially for the benefit of
their immediate families and the society.”

She further explained that a minimum of 500 female micro-entrepreneurs would be trained annually. After the training, 100 audacious entrepreneurs from the pool will be able to access grants to the tune of N2 million each for their businesses from an annual fund of 200 million Naira.

While expressing her enthusiasm about the initiative, she explained that she looks forward to empowering one woman at a time as she strongly believes that women are a crucial part of Africa’s development. She restated her commitment to empowering as many women as possible in Africa as one of the things she would want to be remembered for.

She added that the main objective of Flourish Africa is to create an enabling platform that provides skill development, mentoring, access to marketplace for female entrepreneurs.

This concept of empowerment stems from Apostle Alakija’s assertion that women have the potential to flourish if a community of like-minded individuals who share a common goal and purpose pool together and make an impact in every community they find themselves in.

Also earlier this week, read here     

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) announced Yemisi Edun as its MD/CEO. On the 1st of January 2021, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe assumed office as the MD/CEO of Fidelity Bank Plc.

Check out the list below:

Miriam Chidiebele Olusanya

With over 23 years experience, Miriam Olusanya has a diverse background in banking, including Transaction Services, Asset and Liability Management, Financial Markets, Investment Banking, and Investor Relations.

She graduated from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria with a Bachelor of Pharmacy (B. Pharm) and the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom with a Master of Business Administration (Finance and Accounting).  Read more about her here

Yemisi Edun

Yemisi Edun graduated from the University of Ife in Ile-Ife with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a Master’s degree in International Accounting and Finance from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

She is a CFA® Charter holder and a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a CFA® Charter holder. She is also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers; an Associate Member of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria; a Member of Information Systems Audit and Control, U.S.A; and a Certified Information Systems Auditor.

She began her career with Akintola Williams Deloitte (member firm of Deloitte Touché Tohmatsu) in 1987, with main focus in Corporate Finance activities. She was also involved in audit of Banks and Other Financial Institutions. She joined FCMB in year 2000 as Divisional Head of Internal Audit and Control before assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer of the Bank.

She is now the Managing Director of FCMB. Click here to read more.

Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe

In the last six years, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe has been a key member of Fidelity Bank’s transformation team. She was previously Executive Director, Lagos and South West, where she was in charge of the bank’s operations in the six states that make up the bank’s South West region. She oversaw the Directorate’s turnaround to profitability and continued its outstanding year-over-year growth in key metrics including contributing over 28% of the Bank’s PBT, Deposits and Loans.

She is a consummate professional of over 30 years’ experience across various banks including Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Citizens International Bank Limited, where she held several management positions in Legal, Treasury, Investment Banking, Retail/Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking. She has been involved in the structuring of transactions in various sectors including oil & gas, manufacturing, aviation, real estate and exports.

As an Executive Director at Enterprise Bank Plc, she received formal commendation from the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as a member of the management team that successfully turned around Enterprise Bank Plc.

Onyeali-Ikpe holds Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Master of Laws (LLM) degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Kings College, London, respectively. She has attended executive training programs at Harvard Business School, The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD School of Business, Chicago Booth School of Business, London Business School and IMD amongst others.

She is also an Honorary Senior Member (HCIB) of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu

In August 2020, Citigroup announced Ireti Samuel-Ogbu as its first female Country Officer for Nigeria i.e MD/CEO Citibank Nigeria. Prior to assuming office in Nigeria, she served as managing director of payments and receivables, treasury and trade solutions for Europe, Middle East and Africa at the group’s office in London.

She had been on the Board of Citibank Nigeria Limited since 2015 as a non-Executive Director.

In the last 32 years, Samuel-Ogbu has held various roles across Citi’s businesses in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa, having worked in each of these countries twice. Previous roles have included Relationship Management with Global Subsidiaries Group and the Public Sector Banking Team, as well as TTS Sales, Corporate Finance and leading Citi’s TTS business in two of the largest markets in Africa.

As a champion of diversity and inclusion, Samuel-Ogbu co-founded two impactful mentorship initiatives within Citi – the Sapphire Leadership Program for Middle East and Africa, and the Momentum Program in the UK. She is currently the EMEA co-Chair for Citi Women’s Affinity group and represents EMEA on the Global Affinity Steering Committee at Citi.

She obtained a BA Hons Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University, UK and has an MBA from the University of Bradford, UK.

Tomi Somefun

Prior to her appointment as MD/CEO in August 2015, Tomi Somefun served as the Executive Director overseeing the Lagos and South-West Business Directorates, the Financial Institution Division and Treasury Department of the Bank. She is a Member of the Board Finance & General Purpose Committee, Board Risk Management Committee, Board Credit Committee, amongst others.

She a career professional with 35 years post qualification experience, over 26 of which were in the banking sector, spanning key segments including Treasury & Investment Banking, Corporate Banking, Retail, and Commercial Banking Operations. Tomi had a distinguished career with UBA group where she led 2 major subsidiaries of UBA as MD/CEO including a start-up company, UBA Pensions Custodian where she was the pioneer Managing Director.

Prior to UBA, Tomi worked with two leading consulting firms: KPMG and Arthur Andersen (now KPMG). A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), she graduated with a Second Class Upper degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) in 1981 with a Bachelor of Education in English Language. She was recently conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration (D.BA) by the Redeemer’s University Nigeria (RUN).

Tomi has extensive Executive Education in leading change and organization renewal, strategy formulation & execution, business analytics and development, and financial management from various esteemed business schools. She is an alumnus of the Columbia Business School, United States of America, and INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France, and holds a Certificate of Management Excellence from Harvard Business School (HBS). She is a member of various professional bodies including the Institute of Directors (IOD), Bank Directors Association of Nigeria (BDAN) and Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). In addition, she has served on the board of several quoted and unquoted companies, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

Halima Buba

Halima is a seasoned Banker with over 20 years cognate experience obtained from working in Allstates Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Inland Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc and Ecobank Nigeria Limited.

She holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Business Management from the University of Maiduguri and an MBA from the same University.

Halima is an Alumnus of the Lagos Business School Senior management programme. She is a senior Honorary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants.

She sits on the Board of several reputable Institutions, including those of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) as a Non-Executive Director and Anchoria Asset Management Company Limited.

Halima is a Champion of youth and women empowerment, and consistently makes philanthropic contributions towards the girl child Education.

Kafilat Araoye

Kafilat Araoye

Kafilat Araoye is the managing director of Lotus Bank, a financial institution which was granted a non-interest banking licence by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in June 2021.

The bank describes itself as a non-interest Nigerian bank deeply rooted in ethical banking and committed to deepening financial inclusion and broadening the array of non-interest products available to the banked, unbanked, and under-banked population.

With over 25 years commercial banking experience, Araoye has expertise in virtually all areas of core banking, with emphasis on international and domestic operations, payments, general management, business development, risk management, human resources and strategy.

Other women leading affairs at commercial banks in Nigeria include: Ireti Samuel-Ogbu (Citibank Nigeria), Halima Buba (SunTrust Bank), and Tomi Somefun (Unity Bank).

 

Kulukaya Sadiki is a Malawai-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian, and marketer.

For her business talents, she was chosen as a Young African Leader for the ‘Leadership in Business’ cohort by the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a USA program in 2020.

Kulukaya is also the Founder and Chairperson of ‘Ladies of Influence,’ a recognized non-profit organization that focuses on sustainable development in Malawi through humanitarian efforts, with a particular focus on the female child.

Glo-Ray Designs Sustainable Studio, her clothing line, uses recycled and rejected fabric to create timeless trends, delaying disposal and reducing fabric pollution. She works with female fabric providers in the market, encouraging and empowering them with business skills.

She talks about her journey with Women of Rubies in this interview.

Did your childhood prepare you in any way for what you do now , tell us more about your upbringing?

I was born in 1987 and raised in Blantyre, Malawi and I am a Christian.  My father was a creative entrepreneur, sadly he passed away when I was 12. From there on, we were raised by my mom who did the best she could under the circumstances (Bless her always). Both of my sisters are business women so you see, the entrepreneurial route was inevitable for me. I grew up with and around strong women who taught me how to prepare for the world and survive in it. My childhood was normal, I easily made friends and played a lot. The grown up me is naturally an introvert so you will mostly find me at home, if am out am likely surrounded by nature, having one on one deep discussions or simply writing my heart out. My sisters are extroverts so I guess someone had to be the introverted one and that is me. I have an amazing, creative and intelligent daughter who is literally my world, I thank God for her. We are an inseparable team. When my dad was alive, it was great and normal…well close to perfect like every other family. When he passed away, my mom had to take care of everything and that was not easy but she did her best and was strong through it for all of us. I am forever grateful to her for being both parents to us for the past 21 years. I knew I grew up the way I did to make a difference in the world. I knew it but I did not know how I would do it.

What Inspired you to start Gloray-designs?

I know it is ironic but the moment my daughter was born, something was ignited inside of me and I knew I was created for more. I decided right then and there that I would make a difference in everything I do and I decided to pursue only business for purpose. As stated by the Wikipedia, the fashion industry is one of the major water, air and soil polluting industries of the world and the environmental damages increase as the industry grows. Small businesses are the least supported globally and the women entrepreneurs that sell recycled fabric are not recognized and are easily exploited. Fast fashion promotes discarding usable left over, recycled and rejected fabric and almost new clothes which pollutes the earth and it encourages rapid clothes making. This consumes natural resources at production and contributes to taking from nature. The problems associated with the fashion industry and my passion for women empowerment inspired me to open my sustainable studio and to dedicate my life to helping other people in all aspects of my life.

Kulukaya Sadiki

You also founded “Ladies of Influence”, what is the inspiration behind it?

Ladies of Influence(LOI) is a female managed Non-Profit Organization founded in 2017 whose main objective is to contribute to sustainable development in Malawi through humanitarian effort. The organization’s primary focus is to make a difference in the education and health sectors mainly targeting women and the girl child linked to Sustainable Development Goals in order to achieve women empowerment considering that this is a pivotal area in relation to global development. Growing up, I read a lot about organizations like UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, European Union and more on what they did to help humanity. I admired them from a distance but how was I, a young girl from Malawi, Blantyre ever going to make a difference in anyone’s life? That question haunted me through the years and it never let me go until I started to act on it. Purpose literally hunts you down. Ladies of Influence chose me and it is a part of me. I found amazing partners who work with me in the organization to make sure that all objectives are achieved. They dedicate their time and resources to make sure that we succeed. There would be no LOI without these women so I am thankful to each one of them for volunteering to work with me.

 

What makes Gloray designs unique and a stand out brand in Malawi?

We are a fashion brand that is not only focused on financial performance but also making a positive impact in society by using an important aspect of human existence which is clothes. This is done by reducing wastage in our production, working with marginalized groups and using the three pillars of sustainability in all our supply chain. Our Values are transparency, authenticity, women empowerment, environmental protection, Inclusive employment and attention to detail.

 

You are an advocate, and fashion designer, how do you manage it all?

Focus, discipline, determination and resilience are the four words that best describe me. When I commit to a project, I don’t stop until I see it through. I don’t sleep at the normal times, I jog to think and find inspiration, I partner and delegate. I could put it down to a lot but I think the most important aspect of it is God’s grace really. I am no superwoman but when you walk in purpose and aim to serve, God equips you with what you need through the race.

 

How have your ventures impacted women in Malawi, kindly share some testimonies?

Through ladies of influence we have managed to donate hospital equipment to 2 public hospitals that is helping people up to now. In 2017 we donated food and cash items to an orphanage and disability center owned by a woman in one of the townships in the country. We have a sponsorship and mentorship program currently sponsoring 8 girl children with all important educational needs because we believe in the saying that; ‘when you educate a girl child, you educate a village’.

Through Glo-Ray Designs we have managed to work with a few women who sell fabric at the markets and by becoming friends with them we have been able to share business ideas and I have helped to contribute to their businesses by being a referral and buying from them. My aim is to bring them with me throughout my growth and the chain would not be complete without them.

The clothes that I make bring out the confidence in a woman or a man. I make things that make the personality and authenticity shine through the people wearing them. I want people to be comfortable being themselves and not anybody else. I have received a lot of great reviews for my work and this is how I know that we are on the right track. My contribution to body image, acceptance and satisfaction is what makes me happy.

 

What are some of the challenges of your work?

My own fear of failure was my greatest challenge but with every step I took and the realization that fear is nothing but a feeling I can control, it grew smaller and smaller. Getting my clients, suppliers and customers to understand my sustainable business model is a work in progress but we are slowly getting there. Getting everyone to understand why we should help the less privileged in the society is still a process that is getting better each day. Patience, acceptance, resilience and understanding helps me to get by.

 

Tell us about your other projects and activities?

I am one of the Mandela Washington Fellows of 2021 and through this program, I am learning a lot to do with leadership. We are currently working on forming a fashion council in Malawi and I am the chairperson of the grouping. I am a marketer and one of the shareholders of a housing cooperative in Malawi making sure that people have access to housing facilities and I am a member of the Global Women’s Network. I love to write and motivate so I usually do that in my free time.

 

Mention 3 women who inspire you and why

Dr. Joyce Banda who was the first female president of Malawi for her bravery, she is an educator and a grassroots women’s rights activist. I admire her confidence and sense of purpose in her work.

 

Michelle Obama for her women and girl child empowerment.

 

Maya Angelou for using her wisdom and voice to reach out to people.

 

Could you share some nuggets on how to be a successful fashion designer & humanitarian?

As a fashion designer you have to be authentic in all you do, what you make and in your connection with customers, suppliers and employees.  Be crystal clear about what success means to you and draw your personal mission statement so you do not chase other peoples dreams. because when things get hard, you will go back to why you started in the first place and focus on the goal.

To be a humanitarian, you have to search within yourself and find what makes you happy at the core… for me it was the discovery that making a difference in the world and my community gives me a sense of satisfaction that I don’t feel doing anything else. It is service leadership and this requires a lot of sacrifice and looking beyond yourself and one’s immediate circle. One must have a sense of Ubuntu in them to take on such a humbling role.

 

What makes you a Woman of Rubies?

I am me, I am different from anyone else and they are different from me. My ability to love beyond pain, to work through distractions and to hold on to my values makes me me.