Buhari ‘s Mantra of Change Must Support Gender Balance

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Lady Charity Nwakolam Ohadiugha is the Nigerian anchor of the global outreach, Women International Network (WIN), hosting its first African conference in the country tomorrow in Abuja. Ohadiugha, a human resource development consultant who also runs the non-governmental organization the Human Resource Working Partners (HUWORPS), has been at the vanguard of inspiring women and Nigerian youths to new and higher values. She tells Kazeem Sumaina how the WIN global platform is helping to change the lives of women in Nigeria

How would you define WIN and its objectives with emphasis on Nigeria?
WIN is an international women’s leadership organization inspiring women worldwide. Women International Network (WIN) is a global vision birthed in 1997 by Kristin Engvig. It develops, empowers and connects with a feminine authentic global vision. The WIN woman has an international and open mind-set and is community oriented. She is receptive to new technology and spirituality, embraces change and listens to her intuition. She takes a holistic approach to work, family, community and self. All these we intend to showcase with a Nigerian content during this global conference coming to Africa for the first time.
The WIN mission seeks to raise feminine and global awareness, evokes change towards authentic leadership, encourages conscious business in sustainable ways through mentorship and seeks to inspire success based on individuality rather than stereotypes.

Is WIN an offshoot of the Beijing Conference?
WIN CONFERENCE is not a political organization and as matter of fact tries to be as apolitical as possible. It however models a global, authentic and feminine way of running business and the world. It thus proposes a paradigm shift where everyone contributes his or her quota to the running of organizations, without gender biases – to such an extent that organizations and societies flourish and all people thrive. Like the Beijing philosophy articulated by then US First Lady Hillary Clinton, of 5 September 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

Can you detail all you intend to discuss and how this will benefit the Nigerian woman whether as CEO or entrepreneur?
There will be what we call a World Class Plenary Sessions built around the theme, “Leading the Way.” The idea is to look at the global picture of leadership-socially, economically, politically, environmentally, et al; The Future Company will focus on the role of women in shaping the future in an organizational set up; Women with Vision and the Future Career; Realizing You: Integrating it all; Leading the Way: Networking and Mentoring with a global mindset are some of the intriguing conference discussions with workshops on leadership, self-vision and networking with pleasure and purpose

Can you say the Nigerian woman is getting what she deserves in the polity?
Nigeria is a great country where women have worked hand in hand with men for sustainable development. But we believe a lot still needs to be done to encourage women to bring out the best in them. The WIN Conference believes that women have a lot to offer in shaping the future of the Nigerian woman and women all over the globe.

Will you say the Muhammadu Buhari administration has enough slots for women in his administration?
The Buhari administration is that of change. We have no doubt that in this era of change – where round pegs are put in appropriate round holes, the present government will be conscious of the need for a paradigm shift that among other things calls for gender balance. This position is so because Nigeria can boast of professional women in every strata of its life-economic, social, environmental and political.

How do you connect the conference theme to Nigeria’s economic problems while proposing the way out?
The WIN Conference which opens tomorrow has as its theme: “Leading the Way.” This theme comes at a time of economic recession and could not have come at a better time. One of the reasons why Nigeria found itself on this part is due to greed of some past leaders who ignored leadership toward growth and development but engaged in mindless amassing of the nation’s wealth. Today it is very important to engage in massive re-orientation of our people in a very conscious way, on the dangers of destroying the economy through corruption.
It is equally important to empower people to engage in purposeful business and governance in sustainable ways. This is one of the objectives of the WIN CONFERENCE.

Is WIN an all-women’s platform?
Yes it is but the conference which has held globally at different times is coming to Nigeria for the first time and I happen to be the local anchor.
The WIN Conference welcomes men of awareness, men who see in women a partner for growth in our discussions. The WIN man wants to understand how women are changing work and life. He desires to participate in the creation of a truly human future, setting new norms in society, economic life, cultural milieus and organizations from an integral and holistic perspective. He desires to groom awareness for future growth and is not afraid of sharing leadership with women.

How do women combine their busy schedules with the demands of organizations like WIN?
Women naturally are gifted with multi-tasking capacity. We intend to x-ray all of that talent and further empower ourselves to leverage on it and create a balance for work and home. Above all we encourage women to create a vision and stay focused.

What led you to this passion for women empowerment in the country?
My passion for women empowerment in Nigeria was borne out of the desire to discourage negative behaviors in women, minimize abuses of all kinds; including rape, forced marriage, injustice against widows, child labor et al.
Over the years I observed that deprivation and poverty have been the factors that motivate and reinforce negative behavior in women.

Poverty makes women vulnerable and desperate. Most women depend on their husbands for food, shelter and all the good things of life. When such husband dies or walks away, the woman is left stranded without money and most times without job or any form of skill to enable her secure a job or set up some business.

This often makes such a woman vulnerable to abuse and exposes her to the antics of traffickers, who often promise to assist her migrate to Europe or America, where they will get employment. Eventually she ends up in prostitution against her wish in those countries.

Moved by the plight of such women and the urge to curtail the fruitless economic migration of youths to more developed countries through the Mediterranean I set up the Non-Governmental Organization-Human Resource working Partners (HURWORPS) to serve as a platform to discourage these vices.

How are you helping to curtail the mass movement of Nigerian youths overseas?
In view of the horrendous experiences of Nigerian youths emigrating abroad, it became imperative that continuous enlightenment and sensitization of our youths on the real implication of this kind of fruitless emigration to other countries is what we need to save them and our nation. There are cases of Nigerian youths arrested while in transit for not having relevant immigration documents and subsequently jailed in so many countries, including African countries like Libya and Morocco. Sometimes their families back home would not have knowledge of their where about until they finish serving their prison terms.

There are stories of how Nigerian youths exhaust their finances while trekking through the Sahara desert and eventually resort to drinking their own urine and other such things to survive. Those who are not able to survive the rigour die on the way and buried in the sand while others continue their journey. HUWORPS has helped these youths re-focus their vision while exposing them to the danger of such reckless adventures.

In the past nine years, HURWORPS has inspired and empowered over 400 women and youths through a skills acquisition program and outright employment. The organization has also sponsored five women to a WIN Conference in Rome and India in recent times, thereby tremendously enhancing these women’s self-worth and productivity.

In your numerous travels what major differences and similarities define Nigerian women and those from other countries?
I think the most striking difference I find is that elsewhere young people are independent of their parents. They plan their lives with the guide and support of their parents though, but they take full ownership of such plans and its implementation. In contrast, the Nigerian youth is fully dependent on his parents. There are cases where full grown men still live off their parents, and will never take any decision without them. They rely on their parents to plan their lives and implement the plan for them.

However, the Nigerian woman is strong and loyal to her husband. She supports her husband in caring for the children and the home. Despite her seeming lack of vocational skill, the Nigerian woman is a born trader and farmer, and by these businesses she supports her husband.

If with minimal or no resources, she is able to create something it follows therefore that with some level of skills training the Nigerian woman would do marvelously well. Elsewhere, the women are not as loyal. They often claim equality with their husbands and often threaten to throw the man out of the house if he misbehaves.

What are the peculiar challenges you face as a coach and mentor?
The peculiar challenges I face as a coach and mentor include the impatience of young people to learn. They are so ambitious that they can hardly be coached. They are not humble enough to learn.

What major activities of HUWORPS have helped to redefine the Nigerian Woman?
HURWORPS has amongst other training programs, sponsored about six women and young ladies to international conferences in the U.S, Rome, India and other countries to learn and to have first-hand experience of global best practices.