Former Zimbabwean Vice President, Dr. Joice Mujuru, and a former First Lady of Liberia, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, have urged women to brace themselves up for top political and corporate leadership role instead of resigning to the fate of the weaker sex tag.
The two leading African women were the special guests of honour at the opening of the 2017 National Women’s Summit held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, last Wednesday.
The three-day annual summit with the theme: ‘The resilient woman: making a difference’, was organised by the Officials’ Wives’ Association (OYSOWA) under the auspices of the wife of Oyo State Governor, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi.
The event, which attracted more than 1,000 delegates across the country, was also graced by four Governors-Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos State), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State) and their host, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.
On hand to lend support to one of their own were the wives of the governors of Lagos, Enugu, Abia, Osun, Imo, Delta, Nasarawa, Edo, Ogun, Kebbi and Zamfara States, while those of Sokoto, Ondo and Ekiti States were represented.
Mujuru, who delivered a keynote address, urged women to stop placing themselves at the mercy of men, charging them to brace themselves up for the challenges of leadership at the top echelon of all spheres of human endeavours.
She said her emergence as the first female vice president of Zimbabwe in 2004, a position she held for 10 years, did not come on a platter of gold, having been in the trenches with the Zimbabwean liberators since 1973.
According to her, women must be inspired to rise to the occasion even when the challenge appeared to be daunting and insurmountable.
She said: “We must have the desire to make a positive transformational difference and not be satisfied by being helpers of men. We must run business and be leaders of nation not rulers.
“Our desire must not only be about making monies, but the difference we make in people’s lives. The major driver behind our positive transformation must be anchored on our ability to implement a unique vision, which must arouse the consciousness of the African society.
“We cannot continue to play a second fiddle simply because of gender. We must rise to the occasion. We should no longer accept the tag of a weaker sex.”
In her address, Howard-Taylor, who is a ranking senator and running mate to the presidential candidate of Coalition for Democratic Change, Mr. George Weah, in the Liberian presidential election, also echoed similar sentiments.
She said: “Women are currently in difficult circumstances across our world, especially in Africa, as we struggle to deal with issues of violence against women, unequal opportunity and lack of economic opportunities.
“Women must tell their own stories to inspire those who think they cannot make it to the top. Seek help when you need it. You will be surprised that many people will be willing to help. We must mentor the next generation of women leaders.
“If you put woman in a position of authority, you have put somebody in charge of maternal mortality, you have put somebody in charge of emancipation of women; you have put somebody in charge of campaign against violence and other vices against women and children.”
In their separate addresses, Ajimobi, Dickson, Ambode and Aregbesola said women had pivotal roles to play in the development of the country.
They stressed that men would find it difficult to change the society without the support of women.
The chief hostess of the event, Mrs. Ajimobi, said the conference was initiated in 2012 to support the state government’s three-point agenda of restoration, transformation and repositioning of the state to its pacesetter status.
Ajimobi said: “The theme for this year’s summit was coined out of our appraisal of the life of the average woman and how she is able to survive and succeed against all odds. In the course of this appraisal, we discovered that the greatest strength of a successful woman is her resilience.”