To all the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” —Hillary Clinton
It’s March 8th, also known as the International Women’s Day. Yearly since the 1900s, this day has been set aside to celebrate the female gender with a specific theme that supports their agenda and aim. This year, the theme is “Press for Progress” emphasising the need for more individual and communal efforts in advocating for gender equality. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but a collective effort of all who came about human rights”.
In times past, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) has taken upon the task of countering the societal thought of women as weak by creating equal opportunities for men and women in the organization and developing a gender policy which provides guidelines to promote gender equality in editorial content and staff recruitment as well as in partnership and cooperation with external entities. In 2015, PTCIJ in collaboration with Free Press Unlimited conducted an analysis on the role gender plays in news reporting with the sole aim of bringing to fore the unspoken gender bias against women in the media.
Today, PTCIJ joins the world in celebrating WOMEN, the lifeblood of any society! And as advocates of gender parity, we bring to you some of the most influential women in Nigeria, who have broken through societal barriers and who continue to lend their voices and hearts towards the cause of advancing women’s rights.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED
This phenomenal woman made history when she became the current United Nations Deputy Secretary General. Prior to this, she was the Minister of Environment where she steered the country’s effort on climate action, protecting the natural environment and conserving resources for sustainable development; and has also worked tirelessly in various positions of authority.
Ms. Mohammed served in three successive administrations in Nigeria, including as a Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, providing advice on issues including poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, and coordinating programmes worth $1 billion annually for MDG-related interventions.
She is also an Adjunct Professor in Development Practice at Columbia University, and served on numerous international advisory boards and panels, including the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the African Women’s Millennium Initiative, Girl Effect, 2016 African Union Reform and the ActionAid International Right to Education Project.
At present, she is viewed as a strong advocate for women and girls rights. In her words, “Our job – as women and as an international community – is to ensure that women and girls can achieve their full potential –socially, culturally, economically and politically…Development is not sustainable if it is unequal. Peace is not sustainable without justice. Let us commit today and every day to work for the well-being and empowerment of women, girls and adolescents everywhere.”
Ms. Ezekwesili has a career and academic history that reeks of excellence! She is a chartered accountant who holds a Master’s degree in International Law & Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, and another Master’s degree in Public Policy & Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. For her career, she has served as Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, Federal Minister of Education during the second-term presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division for six years. She is a co-founder of Transparency International (T.I), serving as one of the pioneer directors of the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin, Germany.
In 2006, Ms. Ezekwesili was given the national award of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR). She is a worthy example of the limitless abilities of a determined woman and as the convener of the widely acclaimed “bring back our girls” campaign, she sometimes treads in dangerous territories demanding government response to abducted women and children. And in 2016, her efforts were recognized when the Government of Argentina awarded the #BringBackOurGirls movement the International Human Rights Prize ‘Emilio F. Mignone’ for work in advocacy towards respect for human rights worldwide.
ITORO EZE ANABA
Mrs Itoro Eze Anaba is an anti-rape advocate and founder of Mirabel Centre, the first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Nigeria. In a country with a high rate of Rape and Domestic Violence, Mrs Itoro Eze Anaba established a free medical services and rehabilitation Centre for rape victims.
The Mirabel Centre is a project of Partnership for Justice where rape and sexual assault victims can access free forensic medical and counselling services. With a growing number of patients, it is believed that there is a rise in rape awareness as she has helped over 4,000 victims of rape since its inception in 2013.
Recently, Itoro Eze Anaba was honoured by the Queen of England with the Fourth Commonwealth Point of Light award for her role in helping victims of sexual assault. The Queen who is the Head of the Commonwealth celebrates inspirational volunteers across the 52 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond. The honor is part of various activities marking the build-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.
For women and girls in Nigeria, Mrs Anaba represents an icon who stands up for the sexual rights of women and girls; thereby lending her voice to the voiceless and steadily creating a culture where sexually assaulted victims are embraced rather than stigmatized.
Popularly referred to as Mo Abudu, Ms Abudu is a business mogul, media entrepreneur and talk show host. She is the founder of Ebony Life TV, a fast growing black African multi- broadcast network. Mo Abudu is undeniably the first African woman to own a pan-African TV channel on DSTV, and in 2013, Mo was recognised by forbes as one of the most successful African women due to her consideration as an industrious and illustrious personality popular within and outside the industry. She was called “Africa’s Queen of Talk.”
Mo is said to be the co-owner of some of known properties in Lagos: Protea Hotel, Oakwood Park among others. She is also the founder of Vic Lawrence and Associates (Nigeria’s most sort after outsourced firm for media). Most importantly, she is a philanthropist who owns a foundation known as Inspire Africa Foundation in partnership with Moreno Construction, The Harbour, which has completed a one hundred-bed home for street children in Lagos.
Nike Davis-Okundaye is a true African and the founder and director of four art centres which offer free training to over 150 young artists in visual, musical and performing arts, compromising over 7,000 artworks.
Finding that the traditional methods of weaving and dying that had been her original inspiration were fading in Nigeria, Davies-Okundaye set about launching a revival of this aspect of Nigerian culture, building art centres offering free courses for young Nigerians to learn traditional arts and crafts.
According to a CNBC Africa live interview, she trained over 3000 young Nigerians for free and she continues to help by funding many poor to establish their small businesses and art workshops in different parts of Nigeria.
She hopes to improve the lives of disadvantaged women in Nigeria through art. She teaches the unique techniques of indigo cloth-dyeing (Adire) to rural women at her workshop in southwest Nigeria. She hopes to revive the centuries-old tradition and the lives of these women.
She was featured on CNN International’s “African Voices” which tells about Africa’s most engaging personalities, exploring their lives and passions. Nike’s painting is permanently featured at The Smithsonian Museum as of 2012, and her work is also part of the collection of The Gallery of African Art and The British Library, in London.
For these and more, we celebrate women all around the world and we would indeed continue to “press for progress”.2