President of International Inner Wheel (IIW), an international non-governmental organisation, Mrs. Oluyemisi Alatise, in a chat with select journalists in Lagos, spoke on various issues including gender inequality, women empowerment, financial independence and value of hard work, among others. Abimbola Akosile captures some of her views
Setting the Tone
Sitting quietly in a room in her house located in Ikeja, Lagos, it was humbling to picture Mrs. Oluyemisi Alatise, the current international president of the International Inner Wheel (IIW), an international non-governmental organisation, as the leader of around 120,000 women members located in over 103 countries in all the continents of the world.
Her scholarly mien and regal bearing portrayed a lady with finesse and breeding, and her proudly grey hair provided a nice contrast to her bright and piercing eyes, which were remarkably alert for a 65-year old woman, who once served as a juvenile Magistrate on a five-year contract with Lagos State.
Alatise, who was elected the president of the global non-profit organisation on July 1 this year on a wave of popular appeal (garnering over 1079 votes out of the total 2,300 votes cast), has been championing the cause of women around the world since she joined the IIW in 1978, and she is still an ardent advocate of empowerment and financial independence for the average woman, to enable her lend a helping hand in the home and also cater for her children.
The educationist, who can number 4,000 women spread across three districts in Nigeria among her numerous members and followers, spoke at length on different issues, with main focus on lending a helping hand and an improved livelihood for the average woman around the world.
Alatise, who described herself as a reticent but vocal woman, is a firm disciple of strict discipline and upbringing in the family and the home, and she is proud of the fact that all her six children (four daughters and two sons) were brought up in a simultaneous atmosphere of love and discipline to become the capable and successful adults they are today.
Although she grew up in a polygamous family (third child among 10 kids), she was brought up by a disciplinarian father and taught humility at a young age, and the values she instilled in her children resulted in one of them becoming a professor at the age of 28 years, while another, an architect, went on to become a renowned visual artist.
An advocate of gender equality, Alatise, who was born on December 25, 1951, obtained her primary, secondary and tertiary education in Lagos. She went back to school at the age of 40 years to get a Diploma in Law from the university and she was a contract Magistrate with Lagos State Judiciary for five years.
Currently the Executive Director of Tuntise Investments Ltd, she joined the Inner Wheel Club in 1978 and created the Children’s Transit Centre for Lost and Found Children, which houses over 60 children up till date, with an average turnover of 10 children every month.
Alatise, a widely-travelled woman became the National Representative of the IIW in 2008/2009 and a Board Director in 2010/2011. She initiated the Women for Africa Programme that started the micro- credit programme which is growing the international organisation’s capital base.
The 2016 theme of the IIW, which incidentally falls under Alatise’s tenure, is ‘Touch a Heart’, which is taken from the organisation’s second objective, which is to encourage the ideals of personal service.
According to her, “Touch a Heart’ gives birth to kindness, being generous with your time, money, resources and willingness to help. Your true wealth is the good you do in the world. Be kind to earth, honour the idea of a global community, that we are each other’s keepers, ensuring safety, security, comfort, wellness, beauty and peace. Be kind to yourself; be kind with your words. Words are like a broken egg; you cannot pack it back”.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has hailed the untiring effort of the IIW towards improving the social well-being of the most vulnerable groups in the society.
The Minister made the commendation in Abuja at a recent dinner in honour of Alatise, who was elected to serve as the organisation’s International President for the period of between 2016 and 2017.
According to Mohammed, “The activities of Inner Wheel since I know them have always included preventing child mortality and preventing the spread of communicable diseases. They have been very much involved in providing infrastructure like boreholes, especially in rural areas.
“Without the contributions of Inner Wheel and organisations like Inner Wheel, there could have been more stress on government. Therefore, I will use this opportunity to congratulate the Inner Wheel and what they have done over the years,” the minister said.
Mohammed, who described the members of Inner Wheel as unsung and uncelebrated heroines of the society, said any authentic NGO should be modeled the Inner Wheel, especially in strengthening the moral fabrics of the society and in the provision of selfless service.
The Minister said the present administration shares the vision of the Inner Wheel, particularly in operating an all-inclusive government, which is committed to uplifting the less-privileged in the society.
“This government is a government that also believes in the same thing as Inner Wheel, which is broadening and mainstreaming an inclusive government and this is why if you noticed this year for the first time in the history of this country, we have put in our budget what we call social intervention.
“Before now, the budget of the government will talk about capital projects, recurrent expenditure and overhead. Sometimes they tried to talk about poverty alleviation but the way and manner they implemented it, they always scratched the issue on the surface. But this time around, we decided that we are going to lift millions of people out of abject poverty,” he said.
The Minister therefore appealed to Nigerians to be patient and not to lose hope as the change they voted for will surely materialise through creative policies as well as prudent and judicious management of the economy, which has been crippled by the crash in oil price and unbridled corruption and mismanagement for the past 16 years.
He said there is abundant discipline and the political will on the part of the leadership of the country to turn the economic malaise into an opportunity by diversifying the economy and weaning the country from addiction to oil wealth.
Alatise, who was married for 42 years before her husband, Alhaji Alatise passed on in 2014, believes economic independence is crucial for a woman to take care of herself and her children. According to her, “An empowered woman will believe in herself and her financial independence will help her to build up her home and to bring happiness to her home”.
She described herself as “an individual. I don’t cling to anything. I believe very much in myself and I can keep company with myself. I was revered and respected so much by my husband before he passed on. Respect is reciprocal and I was brought up to respect others”. These are the very same qualities which have propelled her to the very top of her chosen calling, as a leader of women of like minds around the world. That is the calling she has now dedicated her life to.