Posted by News Express | 16 March 2019 | 2,119 times
Ostensibly advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the African, nay Nigerian, societies in the midst of thick cultural and religious inhibitions and based on current trajectories, existing interventions particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure has not been satisfactorily executed. This is considering our weak social institutions that should protect victims of abuses and the helplessness of many women in the face of these abuses.
Barr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Ekeoma, Managing Director/CEO of NEPAL Oil and Gas Limited, in this recent chat with PATRICK IMO to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day, reveals the secrets of her efforts at attaining great height, all the clogs notwithstanding. It rightly justifies the efforts of women emancipation trailblazers at positioning women rightly. She gave a glimpse of her journey to greatness in her determined and highly focused approach which should be a lesson to all women and girls desirous of holding the four aces of family, education and business and/or career without breaking the hedge. Excerpts:
News Express: Given the state of and opportunities the woman and girl-child in Nigeria, nay Africa, are today, would you say the efforts of women and men of goodwill across the globe who have been championing the cause of their emancipation as encapsulated in the International Women’s day activities across the world have been worth the while?
Bar. (Mrs.) Ngozi Ekeoma: Yes. Courageous acts and determination of some ordinary women who played extraordinary roles in the history of their communities and countries, bringing about changes in the perception and treatment of women and girls all over the world especially in Africa and Nigeria where cultural and religious inhibitions tended to put much clogs in the developmental wheels of the female gender should be celebrated. Their efforts have been worth the while.
Here, I look at those extraordinary change agents from our local society – the champions of the Aba Women’s riot of 1929 whose actions prompted the British administration to drop their plans to impose taxes on market women and to curb the power of the warrant chiefs as well as positioning to serve as chief warrant officers in some areas, offering the possibility for ordinary women who could not be counted among the elite to participate in social activities. There was also Queen Amina of Zaria, Margret Ekpo, the Fumilayo Ransome-Kutis of this world and running through the rest of Africa and the world.
Each time I reflect on their courageous acts and the effect they had on me and many other women like me, I feel very proud being a woman. In later days, the inspiration we draw from such women and our all-time mentors as Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia; Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile; Chief Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank, etc, can only be imagined.
Each day as I trudge on with my daily cores in the hectic Lagos traffic, particularly when I see other women of lesser privileges carry on with determination and smiles on their faces under the scotching sun shine, I always have this deep inner feeling of celebration for these trailblazers of our emancipation – away from the declared International Women’s Day.
The celebrated Beijing China Action for Women and the Girl Child was supposed to have had some effects on the female emancipation activities particularly in the third world countries. Has it helped at all?
The Beijing China Action for Women and the Girl Child, otherwise called the Beijing Conference, indeed buoyed up these efforts of our trailblazers and encouraged those of us that took up the gauntlet to further up the ante. This is more to tell the other woman and girl that if some of us coming from very humble beginnings can, notwithstanding the odds, can make it up there, then, they also can. It further heightened my resolve to remain determined, focused while applying wisdom to continue to add my little efforts at remaining strong and strengthening others towards getting to the desired heights. I have my reservations in the implementation of the conference resolution especially in Nigeria.
We have weak institutions and, in most cases, misdirected application of the rules on sanctions on offenders on rights of women and the girl-child. These have greatly impinged on the opportunities for women and girls from freely playing actives roles in building more inclusive systems, efficient services and sustainable infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of their personal ambitions, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality. However and most importantly, there has been progress.
What we need is strong institutions that will actualise victims’ protection acts, not necessarily creating new commissions and the like as we already have so much of them. Victim’s protection in the sense of ensuring a girl or woman raped can be protected from further victimization by the same bodies that are supposed to give her succor. What you have most times is that the victims are often the ones on trial. You hear such questions as ‘what were you doing in his compound in the first place? Stigmatisation should be replaced with ‘see and tell’ – not just by the victim but all around her. The ugly aspect of this is that if you fail today to lend a voice in these matters, your wife, daughter or sister maybe the victim tomorrow. Violence in our homes – wife-beating and even men raping their wives are on the increase and the people are shut up. Neighbors and friends should learn to ‘see and tell’.
Today we have female astronauts, ship captains/seafarers, top political leaders, captains of industries sitting at the chairs of many blue chip companies and top academics. Today not only many girls make it to the universities, women work, have families and indeed have real choices being their God given rights and they are doing even better in most cases. We have some much more to do and I can tell you we are not relenting.
Are you, as a person, or in a group that are mentoring girls and even young women in way to come up as good and even better women – like models?
I don’t believe in role models because I believe that when someone is your role model, you have to adopt everything about that person. There are serious enlightenments going on in several circles. Individually some of us are doing our best and I tell you one of my greatest instruments of mentorship to these women and girls is I. I have often heard some of my staff say behind me, “I had to do it that way because that is how madam would have done it had she been here. Please don’t treat that person that way because madam does not tolerate that level of insensitivity and or inhumanity’. That to me is modeling myself to these other persons. That coupled with the stipend we put aside to aid indigent and other struggling women from time to time, which is our mandatory avenue of aiding the emancipation of these women from the shackles of poverty and lack. Details on these are better gotten from these women other than me.
Notwithstanding your decent from the strict cultural Igbo setting and as a woman, you have made it to the top. Can you please share the secret?
I have told this story severally that sometimes I sound like I am talking overmuch about myself. However, I can say the only secret in my life story is my understanding of who I am and the people around me which naturally embodies wisdom, focus and determination. I grew up a happy child that was properly taken good care of by my parents before marriage brought me to Lagos at the tender age of 16.
I was able to cope with early marriage because of my background which also taught me that if I want something, I have to work for it so it was possible for me to go to school and started my business while a young mother of two. This is coupled with my having a home to maintain especially as my husband was a very busy man. So going to school, doing my business and maintaining a stable home front entails maintaining a strict balance of all and I tried so hard on it that sometimes my husband would ask me if I am not driving myself so hard. It was easy to gain his confidence that I am ok because I don’t put my business and all so much to his face though I relay certain information on the business to him, yet I refrain from bogging him down with them. Above all, he leaves before me each day and I still come back before him and the home remains quite stable.
There has never been a time I felt being a woman was a disadvantage. I have always been proud of my hood and will ever wish I ever remain a woman. It is only a woman that can be on high-hilled shoes with superlative made dresses and makeup and still be in the kitchen making food. It is only a woman that can genuinely give back to her friends and here I mean her real friends. My best friends are my children and you need to see how we relate even now that they are men. In fact I don’t see any woman that would wish to be a man not minding the flimsy prejudices and other treatments the society throws on us. This is particularly so because God has given us special responsibilities with abundant blessings following them. This is quite different from asking if people have taken advantage of me as a woman. Yes and severally. For instance, you are driving rightly on the road and another mischievous driver misbehaving around you and instead of being sorry turn around to say Oh! You are a woman. You will naturally feel bad. And several other such situations, yet I and practically every other woman will remain very proud of our womanhood. I recall situations where my mother will tell people they should emulate her daughter, Ngozi. She will often say ‘Is Ngozi my daughter not a woman, don’t you see her doggedness with life’, etc?
I want to encourage Nigerian, nay African, women to continue to be themselves, remain resilient in their entire life endeavours. Do not just have this day – International Women’s Day as your day. See every day as yours and make the very best of it without losing sight of your noble roles as women and mothers. Women are great creatures.
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