Chairman/Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Lady Maiden Alex Ibru, (MFR) and Nigeria’s first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Folake Solanke, (CON) will be chairpersons for the Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) conference billed for the 4th and 5th of November, 2021.

The 2021 conference which also marks its 20th anniversary aptly themed ‘Celebrating Legacy’, also features an interesting line-up of iconic events and other legendary personalities to grace the week-long celebrations specially curated to spotlight the non-profit’s 20-year contribution to elevating the status of women in Nigeria and Africa.

Other personalities for the conference are Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Economist and Founder, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside, CON; former Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika, as well as founder, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (now GTCo) and FATE Foundation, Fola Adeola.

For the first time in the history of WIMBIZ, five pre-conference events will be rolled out as part of its 20th anniversary. They include Legends Ball, Art and Fashion Exhibition, Golf Tournament, Virtual Masterclasses and a special edition of its Big Sister (a corporate social responsibility programme).

The Chairperson of the Executive Council WIMBIZ, Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo at a recent briefing stated: “We are excited to reflect on the WIMBIZ story and our journey thus far, it has been an awesome run; but where do we go from here? We are still very challenged. When we look at the numbers of representation, particularly in politics, we are still significantly underrepresented. So, on the one hand, we are celebrating progress, on the other hand, there is still a lot to be done. We encourage everyone to join us so we work as a collective to build a new narrative for women; the power is in our hands,” she enthused.

Speaking to the WIMBIZ legacy and its impact on the wider community, Executive Director, WIMBIZ, Hansatu Adegbite, said, “WIMBIZ is focused on nation-building and one person or group can’t build a nation, we all have a role to play in the development of our nation especially as it concerns gender parity and inclusivity.”

The 20th WIMBIZ Anniversary and Annual Conference will tell the stories of pacesetters and celebrate women who have shattered ceilings, overcome adversity, broken stereotypes, enabled empowerment and creating opportunities for all. To be a part of the exciting activities follow our online platforms, more importantly as a hybrid conference you can register to attend online or offline on www.wimbizannualconference.com.”

Source: Guardian NG


Cancer Survivor and life coach Eden Adaobi Onwuka shocked many when she revealed her ordeal with the dreadful disease few weeks ago. On January 7th 2017 , Eden was diiagnosed with cancer and for eleven months she went through intense treatment while also still trying to keep up with her daily activity. In her gripping memoir, I am More Than Body Parts, Eden writes of her experience in real time, right in the middle of her Cancer diagnosis and progression. She shares her daunting journey and how the mindset of being an overcomer has kept her spirit-woman at ease. Eden believes it is possible to be ‘Cancer-ed’ and not cancelled, and like any negative experience life brings, the response of the human spirit plays a pivotal role in restoration.
In her words “After a year of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, physical therapy, hormonal therapy, countless needle pokes, hospital visits, side effects etc, I realize that daily choosing Joy kept me sane. Empowering others even as I fought the biggest battle of my life has revealed to me the unbreakable strength of the human spirit.
In commemoration of the world cancer month, I bring you the inspiring and life changing story of Courage in despair and Hope in adversity.

My Childhood
It was a beautiful closely knit family with brothers and sisters, born to parents who placed a high premium on education. Dad worked for Unilever, while Mum was an Educationist. Typical post colonial middled class family in Lagos State. I recall Fun trips to the Bar Beach, Amusement park and Trade fair. Then boarding school in a Federal Government Girls College in Kwara/Niger state.

I am the middle child in a family of seven, I have a twin sister and I pretty much love to read, travel and volunteer. I’m easy going and friendly but love my quiet times, that is where I refuel as a creative person. I like to describe myself this way; I am from the East, born in the West, schooled in the North and served in the South, and i now live Western. Funny, but true plot twins. I begun my career with a brief stint at Shell Petroleum and have about 15 years corporate experience in financial services and consulting. Currently with a fortune 500 company and have my own Coaching business, having been certified by John C Maxwell.

The Cancer Journey
On January 7, 2017 I got a phone call which changed many things.
“We’re sorry to inform you that your Biopsy came back for Cancer…”
One word that was very alien to me. With no previous family history of cancer, and being relatively healthy, I was very surprised. I was a new Twin mum, my twin babies were just nine months when I had noticed a Lump and went to the for a routine check-up. A series of consultations later, then the shocking results. Can-cer? I was totally blindsided. Then angry, then sad, then confused. I honestly didn’t see this coming.
“Dear Lord, Why me?”
I let myself internalize this and it didn’t feel good. What do you do with a news like this? When the reality you see as a Positive person has no iota of Positivity in it?
After a few weeks I encouraged myself. I said Eden, ” Your perspective determines your narrative. What you magnify grows, what you simplify goes”. I asked God for strength to help me ‘find’ a Purpose in it. I remained focused on my assignment, hard as the next phases of my life was, I was going to walk in integrity before God regardless.
Today, I stand in awe of God’s grace, strength and power. I stand for everyone who was unable to live beyond their pain. For everyone fighting a secret battle, for everyone shamed by their scars, for everyone overwhelmed by sickness, for everyone silenced by affliction, for every warrior who gained (untimely) heavenly wings.

I decided to write about my journey in REAL-TIME, while going through an intense treatment (Tough): To show through my Story how finding and focusing on Purpose, helped me overcome. And to lend a voice to demystify the stigma attached to any cancer or breast cancer. Because anyone can write after they’re out of a storm, only revelation will make you write in the storm. I wrote to encourage you that you can feel helpless sometimes BUT you must never be hopeless.
After a year of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, physical therapy, hormonal therapy, countless needle pokes, hospital visits, side effects etc, I realize that daily choosing Joy kept me sane. Empowering others even as I fought the biggest battle of my life has revealed to me the unbreakable strength of the human spirit.

Living and Thriving…
Restoration is a process, so some things take time. I humourosly say, it takes a while to put humpty dumpty back together again. Seriously though, I still have a few residual side effects from treatment like intermittent fatigue, hot flashes, born aches now and then. Then for any survivor of anything not necessarily cancer, surviving is the first aspect, living and thriving is the most important next phase. You grapple with one of the biggest ongoing mental battles, like Joyce Meyer calls it the ‘Battlefield of the mind’. It is in those silent moments when negative thoughts creep in or the enemy whispers to you that you’ll never be whole or pain free or have a full abundant life, that’s when you cant be silent. Therein lies the greatest battle- To embrace a ‘New normal’, and refuse to call it abnormal. Because after you survive, you gotta Thrive!

Inspiration behind my “tell it all” book
So after I received my shocking diagnosis from Kelsey Siebold hospital in Kingwood Texas, I got a second opinion from MD Anderson Cancer center Woodlands Texas, and the reality of it all dawned on me. I started looking for resources, like a book on this journey. Not just the medical info, that was everywhere on the internet, all kinds of fearful info. I was looking for encouragement from someone like me-African, Nigerian who had gone through it and at the time I didn’t find any. Some people blogged about their experiences, others mostly told their stories after everything had become perfect or cancer FREE and they were mostly non Africans like Tiffani Rose and Makosi Musanbasi. I decided to become the answer to a need I had which I believe countless others have or will have. In the early moments of adversity, after their diagnosis, for them to have a resource from someone who understands their journey and is connected to the similitude of their pain. Not theories but a lived experience. A book that peaks to the emotional aspect of this journey that is often ignored: how the mindset of an Overcomer can play a strong role in restoration. That is the why of the book. And i wrote it while going through treatment and battling cancer, when all i had was faith that I would prevail. The title came from a low moment in the beginning of the cancer treatment when the oncologist and surgeons has discussed the possibility that certain genetic results may mean bilateral mastectomy or double boob loss. I had a discouraging moment in the shower where in response to a negative voice of fear I boldly declared “I am more than Body Parts!” Which was based of the scripture that says ” man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out from the mouth of God, I kept saying to myself, I am more than boobies, I am more than my hair etc. And I believe that we all must get to the place in our identity where nothing external, additional defines us. Our identity must become based on who God already says we are, in alignment to our Purpose regardless. We must work it from inside out. An unbroken spirit, a vibrant soul and hopefully a healthy body. Any other thing is an accessory. Eventually, genetic results were negative and the treatment plan didn’t require a bilateral so we had a segmental mastectomy.

Greatest Reward
Changed lives. People who try again after they had given up before. In the past 12 months, I have received inbox messages or private calls from four people who changed their minds about ending their lives because they read my Book, or a write up or listened to me speak. Precisely on my last birthday, a lady I haven’t even had the privilege to meet all the way from Nigeria wrote to me, in her words ” Eden, you talked me out of suicide”. That for me is the most compelling reason why I pour into people, coach, mentor or write.

Giving Up
I’ve experienced delays. After youth service 16 years ago waiting for a dream job that didn’t come for 2 years, waiting for a good man when i was in my thirties and the immediate prospects seemed like a joke. Being tempted to adjust my ambitions because of cultural pressure for marriage, thankfully I didn’t. I went abroad for my MBA which has been a long time personal goal, and in a stroke of God’s grace and serendipity my husband met, courted and married me towards the end of my post graduate program, exactly the kind of person I desired who got attracted to the very thing (goal getting/ambition) I had felt pressured to tone down. Last year, I almost ended my treatment when the side effects were uncomfortable. The temptation to give up is part of life. But we never give up because generations are tied to our rising.

Women who inspire me
I have a few, my mum Lady Oby Ike-Udemgba would be number one. Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Pastor Bimbo Odukoya, Bimbo Awosika, The women at Wimbiz and many others who are breaking frontiers in their industry’s. Joyce Meyer and Sherly Sandberg are people whose messages connect with my soul. I recommend them.

I am a Woman of Rubies
A rubies woman is anyone who uses the very things that was meant disempower her, to empower others. One whose confidence comes from a cause greater than herself.

To every woman going through same ordeal…..
Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t tone down your strengths, don’t make it easy for the glass ceilings or age old barriers to stick, you can have it all, it may require patience, unpopular decisions but walk in the truth of your beliefs. If you fall, get up, if your heart breaks, break boundaries. Whatever happens don’t stay down. Remember, no one can ‘use’ you without your consent, use what used you by learning from it, and growing imspite of it. Cancer survivors or those in the journey, I salute you, stay the course, your purpose is Greater, well beyond your pain. Ladies, please don’t ignore your bodies and mammograms, be proactive about health check ups.

A facilitator/management trainer, she is also a consultant on non-profit management and strategy. A Sustainability Expert and Speaker, she is the founding curator, Global Shapers Forum Nigeria. Owing to her experiences, Osayi sits on the board of several organisations that includes Immediate past Chairperson Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), House of Tara, Chairperson Zapphire Events, Culinary Academy and Global Dignity, an affiliation of the World Economic Forum in Norway impacting the lives of over 100,000 students over the last five years. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about juggling several responsibilities, why women are not doing well in business and her plans for the future.

Tell us about yourself briefly
I am Osayi Alile, CEO of ACT Foundation, a subsidiary in partnership with Access Bank. I have been doing this for 18 months and before taking up this position, I was CEO at FATE Foundation for nine years. Before joining FATE, I worked at Junior Achievement where I was the Vice-President of programmes. I have always been in this sector: non-profit community development and it is something I have enjoyed doing over the last few years.

I had my primary school education in Lagos before moving on to FGGC, Warri for my secondary education. For university education, I have a degree in Sociology from the University of Lagos and a master in Public Administration from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Notwithstanding, I have done several courses and executive programmes at Yale Univeristy, Harvard Business School, Stanford and so on. I believe it is necessary for everyone to try as much as possible to always continually take themselves to the next level and that is what I have been trying to do in the last few years.

Do you think that is where you are now? The next level?
Life is a journey and you never know where you are going to but I just feel I am practically just starting my life; it’s still at the beginning stages and we will see how it goes from here.

How has your journey been like, getting several educational qualifications, sitting on the board of so many companies and industries?
It has been very eventful and interesting and I have learnt a lot, faced a lot of challenges, and had some successes and quite a few failures as well along the way. I have never told myself, “This is exactly where I want to go,” but when the environment throws different things to you, you learn to cope. Gathering knowledge and education I believe is necessary. I was once asked at a conference if it was necessary to keep getting and education and learning and my answer is: learning is continuous, it doesn’t stop. No matter how much you think you know, there is always something new to learn. I have been CEO of a company for nine years, but this is a new challenge and there are new things to learn here. Education and knowledge is constant.

You mentioned challenges you face; how do you handle them?
I always take a step back. In the past, when things happen, I rush around, trying to find solutions, but now I take a step back and think things through. Challenges would come and you have to be ready because things cannot go smoothly forever. In my mind, I know they will come, I might not know which challenge or where it is coming from but my mind is prepared that if it does happen, how will I manage it? You also need strong people around you and I always employ people that I think are smarter than me, a bit more knowledgeable than I am so that when challenges come, you can have the right people around you to get ideas from.

Also, it’s always good to have a strong board that you can go back to and mentors that can help so you can run to them for help. Even on boards I sit on, we are always available to help because we are not in the grind constantly and they can come to us for another perspective.

You talked about mentoring and truthfully, a lot of women going into entrepreneurship have mentioned the difficulty in getting good mentors. How can female entrepreneurs access good mentors and how can it help them grow?
Mentoring is key and I cannot talk about my success today without talking about all the wonderful people that have walked with me and held my hand. Of course, the major foundation for me is God but there have to be people around you that guide you along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have people guiding me. With FATE Foundation, I had Mr. Fola Adeola and he was such a great mentor to me and he still is. So many things happened in my eight year journey with him, so many mistakes I could have made but he guided me and pushed me to do things I never thought I would be able to do. It is essential, especially if you want to get into leadership position, to have someone you can speak to. You need to have a critic and a coach at all times. A critic would tell you what you’re doing wrong and your mentor can be both to you. However, you must be mature enough to accept correction and work with them and plot the direction you want to go.

After your exit from FATE Foundation, is it still serving the purpose for which it was set up?
Yes. I am still close to FATE and still relate very well with the founder. The present CEO is someone I talk to constantly. I believe it is one organization that has pushed itself out there, constantly working with entrepreneurs. This has been my field in the last few years, building businesses, working with entrepreneurs and helping businesses to be sustainable long term.

Tell us about ACT Foundation and the purpose it is serving?
We just started recently and it is my new baby. We are working in four major areas of health, environment, leadership and entrepreneurship. We are trying to work with communities, give them grants and see how they can improve the communities they’re living in. in a few months, we are hoping to expand and push it out more, work with other NGOs and other community based outfits and see how we can improve communities based on those four pillars.

You’re a facilitator and management trainer as well, what does this aspect entail?
It is not my full time job but something I love to do. In a week, I teach at one or two places, schools, conferences, seminars and so on. I would describe it as a calling because I believe there is so much to share with people and also an avenue to learn. There is no way you can sit in a room with thirty people and you’re speaking to them about something and not get something in return.

How do you joggle all your responsibilities: sitting on several boards, being a full time CEO, teaching and mentoring?
(Laughing) I am a very organized person and like to plan everything. Also, I have a passion for small businesses and once you have a passion that you feel obligated to, it becomes easier, doesn’t feel like work. I sit on several boards and enjoy seeing them grow, I enjoy seeing them enjoy what they do and this doesn’t feel challenging. I will put it down to organization, preparation and time management. Relationships are key as well; I can’t work with you or sit on your board if I don’t have any form of relationship with you. We don’t necessarily have to be best friends but we need to have some form of understanding, the same values system, be on the same page to some extent. It is necessary and easier because when you’re saying something or trying to make changes, they know it is coming from a good place.

A lot of women are going into businesses now but several fold up quickly. What do you think they can do differently to change this?
I believe there are several factors responsible for this. I have been involved with small businesses and enterprise for 14 years now and I am happy to say many women are going into businesses and from my observation over time; women tend to enter businesses from passion or a hobby. Most don’t realize that though it is a small business, the foundation has to be in place from the onset. Just like building a house, you have to ensure that the foundation is done properly. Even if it started out as a passion, once it becomes a business, you have to do things properly. A lot of women don’t know how to handle the financial part of their business, taking it day by day. There are no defined structures or plans in place and it is difficult for an investor or bank to take this kind of business serious.

Also, women find it hard taking risks and so you see a business a man and woman started at the same time with the man’s own doing better after a while. However, I wont say it is all bad because things are changing steadily. You sit in a room with ten women, seven are running businesses and at least four are doing exceptionally well with strong foundations in place. Any woman that wants to venture into business must realize that every business is a risk but must ensure the foundations are in place from the beginning.

The ratio of women to men taking advantage of available opportunities like loans, grants and the likes is still very lopsided and poor. In your experience, why is it so?
It still boils down to the risk factor mostly when it comes to loans. Out of 10 people looking for loans or grants, eight would be men with two women. Women are sadly averse to taking risks and it is sadly being passed from generation to generation. Women can take loan from friends and family members but when it comes to structured loans, they are absent.

Regarding trainings, sometimes it is lack of information; women are not following and reading what they should be reading. When I was chair at WIMBIZ, we had so many opportunities available but we had to consciously make noise about them to get the women to follow through. Even with the YouWin programme then, I can tell you confidently that 85% of the people that applied were men and the government was puzzled. This was free money, there was no repayment needed and still women didn’t apply. They had to do another programme for just women alone and WIMBIZ had to get involved to ‘force’ women to apply. I tell women that the same force they use in bringing up children, they should apply it to their businesses and the difference would be clear. Happily, the younger women coming up are pushing and trying to change the status quo.

You’re affiliated to the World Economic Forum (WEF), tell us how it applies to Nigeria and what benefits can be derived from it?
It is an international body and I became a member and Young Global Leader several years ago. It is a platform for coming up with suggestions on how the world should be run. In it, you find private sector, government, non-profit, everyone is there, coming up with different solutions with issues and it affects every single country. Nigeria hosted the WEF Africa four, five years ago. I started the Global Shapers Forum here in Nigeria and it is mostly for youths, to come up with unique solutions to issues peculiar to them. We have a few YFGLs and Global Shapers and everyone is doing their own thing. I have a forum, Global Dignity and it has held in 13 states, reaching over 100, 000 students in the last six years. This is my pet project and it is affiliated to the parent WEF.

What has been the impact of Global Dignity so far?
Global dignity is all about dignity of labour, of life, and trying to push the students to think outside of the classroom. We try to open their minds to think big, to think beyond where they are presently. We teach them on the dignity of working to fend for themselves, to be independent and innovative. We have set up clubs in different schools called Global Dignity Club and we now have ten in the different schools we work with.

How do you think we can make the economy more appealing to foreign investment?
The world has become a global village and no country can work in isolation. Over the last few weeks, some changes have been happening and I’m hoping it continues like this. It is a slow process and everyone is feeling the pinch. There are opportunities out there and despite the recession, people are becoming billionaires daily, new businesses are taking off and doing well. Things are hard but there are opportunities and we have to remove our eyes from problems and think on managing available opportunities. This is where foreign collaboration is good because nobody can do it alone, you never know what can happen.

How can SMEs and startups be encouraged in doing business, as the environment and present infrastructure is not exactly favourable?
I believe this government has started making little efforts in this regard. The amount of days to register a business has gone down and things like that. The process would take time and there are several new policies in place now to help SMEs; the government is thinking in the right direction and we need to remain patient but insistent on what we want.

What can be done on the issue of double taxation, which is crippling a lot of startups?
Not to support the government but when you go and find out, a lot of people re not getting their information from the right places. Someone says he has six taxes to pay and the next person beside him says the same thing or even increases the number. If you do diligent checks, it is not as much as people claim they are. I always tell entrepreneurs to check everything for themselves and not depend on word of mouth. Once you pay all necessary and legal taxes, anybody that comes to you asking for extra money, bring out your phone and record the transaction. Ask questions, find things out for yourselves, do your own research so that you don’t fall victim to thieves.

On another note, how do you relax?
I’m a spa addict, I like massages and going to the spa. Every person has to take time out to wind down. Lagos is stressful, Nigeria is a stressful country and you wont realize until you leave the country and come back. I either go to the spa or watch series all day; it helps me de-clutter my mind.

What legacies do you want to be remembered for?
I am a helper; I don’t believe that because one door has been opened to me I cannot now take other people along with me. One of the things I want to walk away with is looking back and saying to myself that along my journey, I helped X number of people and they themselves helped others. I want it to be like a ripple effect and I tell others this as well. When my time is up, I want people to be able to say I was gracious to them and I opened doors for them and their lives and businesses became better by virtue of meeting me. In another ten years, I might think differently but at the moment, I believe God has called me to help and to work with people.

For women that look up to you, what would you tell them?
I haven’t started yet so they shouldn’t look up to me (laughing), I’m just starting my life. This generation thinks things must be immediate and fast but it is a journey, there is no easy way to get things and we all have to work hard to get what we want. Of course, there would be challenges but always put your best foot forward and do the best you can. I will tell women: life is a journey and as you journey along, enjoy the process, enjoy every moment and live in it. You don’t want to look back and begin to have regrets of what you wanted to do but were afraid of doing.

Culled from : Guardian