On Friday March 10, a gathering was held at Oakwood Hotel in Lekki to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017.
The event was graced by several dignitaries including popular musician Glowreeyah Braimah, renowned movie producer Emem Isong, producer of the famous Lekki Wives series Blessing Egbe-Effiong, former executive director of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) Amy Oyekunle, executive director and founder of Self-Worth Organization and former Senior Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Women and Girls Affairs J. Chinyere Anokwuru, Lead Consultant/CEO of Thistle Praxis Ltd Ini Abimbola, representatives of Mr. Taiwo Adepoju of the Phenomenal African Woman (PAW) Foundation, and a host of others.
The occasion was the unveiling of a non-governmental organisation, Save Our Women and Girls Foundation (SOW&G) by writer and entrepreneur, Ambassador Unyime-Ivy King, a volunteer for the United Nations. The event, organised by her media and communication consultancy company, HTT Communications, also marked the IWD with the theme ‘I am the Change’, derived from the IWD’s global theme of Be Bold for Change.
For many of the participants, it was an occasion when they came face-to-face with the reality of the current mass suffering in the country, especially among women and girls in impoverished communities. It was a time to be inspired for action.
Many were moved to tears when Betty Abah, executive director of the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), an NGO, gave an impassioned presentation about the plight of children and girls in slums and underserved communities. She cited the example of Makoko, a slum in Lagos, where most school children pay daily school fees ranging between ₦30 to ₦50, stressing that many children are out of school because their parents cannot afford that amount.
“The wealth, the resources that God has given you is to bring succour to the widespread suffering in the world. It is not for you to show off or live in unnecessary opulence. A little can make so much difference, giving is the best way to maximise your lives, to inspire hope in otherwise hopeless situations and make the world a better place for all.”
— Betty Abah
Abah also cited several instances of sufferings among young persons that her organisation had worked with. She urged the group to identify with the dream of Ambassador Unyime, a well-known philanthropist, to continue to make a difference.
Famous fertility expert and managing director of Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr Abayomi Ajayi gave a compelling talk about endometriosis, a gynaecological disorder which causes painful menstruation and other discomforts in women. According to him, one in 10 women has endometriosis.
“Women with endometriosis have been mislabelled, mishandled and misdiagnosed over the years.”
He added that though the disorder has no cure, it could be managed. It was a talk that resonated powerfully with the mostly female audience, judging from the responses afterwards.
Funmi Ajila-Ladipo, Chief Executive Officer of Regalia House of Fashion and president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), spoke, among other things, on the need to ‘buy Nigeria’ (patronise goods made in Nigeria) in order to grow the Naira, and the place of women in the society.
The event, compered by Omasan Buwa, former Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) and TV personality, was not all a sombre affair. Hearty and sometimes hilarious health talks were given by Mercy Ezenwa, Managing Director of Kangen Water Machines United, who spoke on the benefits of Kangen water also known as ‘miracle water’. Adanze Oshomonika, a public health consultant, besides speaking on wellness, also enumerated the vision of SOW & G, being a board member of the organisation.
The atmosphere was also brightened by inspirational spoken word rendition delivered by poet Doris Komla, a choreography by a group, Diadems of Liberty (DOL) and moving songs by Nwando Omosebi, a worship leader at House on the Rock Church, Lagos.
For Mrs. Unyime-Ivy, SOW & G was born out of the need to serve as a structural support for work she has been doing informally for many years now. According to her, it is a not-for-profit organization, which was incorporated in late 2016 and is focused on creating social developmental awareness on issues that concern women and girls. It will focus on training, mentoring, educating and building the capacity of women and girls in Nigeria and also raising funds to support credible NGOs that are into gender advocacy, by deploying the method of crowdfunding and strategic partnerships, with a team of respectable men and women to oversee its activities.
Last year, over one hundred women were successfully trained for two weeks in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, via a project tagged: WEST (Women Empowerment Skills Training). It was born out of her belief that individuals must be the change they hope to see in our society. The women and girls were empowered with soft skills in different areas like catering, ankara bags/ankara accessories, soap making/house cleaning products, makeup/gele, and jewellery making. As a result of this highly successful pilot event, a lot of women and young girls were able to set up cottage businesses, which are still running today. A second and 3rd edition of Project WEST are being planned for this year.
For her, empowering women and girls is always a win-win deal for everyone:
“The impact that one young woman who is positively influenced makes, is like a key which unlocks the door for so many others. It is no longer news that from rural communities to corporate boardrooms, women are transforming the world of business. A leadership shift to more women can influence our culture in positive ways. Let’s not take lightly the popular African axiom which says that when you educate/empower one woman, you educate/empower a nation and a generation. An empowered woman empowers humanity.”
The colourful event also featured several exhibitions, mostly women-related items, such as exquisite hats and beads, in addition to medical checks (blood pressure) and a red carpet.