The UN Women Nigeria country head chats with gender activistsConnecting up-and-coming gender activists with the older generation of rights advocates is a necessary strategy for passing on knowledge and strategy on the one hand, and infusing innovation on the other. This is the mandate Generation Equality seeks to fulfil: to bridge the generational gap in gender leadership roles.
The UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria, Ms Comfort Lamptey, held a special Women’s Month Conversation on 21 March 2021 with actresses such as Blessing Ocheido, a disability rights advocate; Abbiba Princewill, Hillary Rodham Clinton Scholar; Adeola Azeez, founding trustee, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ); and Abosede George-Ogan, co-founder of ElectHer.
The conversation sought to discuss women’s leadership and explore possibilities within the Generation Equality campaign. Discussions revolved around the theme for International Women’s Day 2021: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.
Abbiba Princewill, who was part of the UN Women Shadowing Scheme – a mentorship programme that paired young, aspiring women leaders with women in leadership positions (in government, in the diplomatic space, and in civil society) for career path guidance – described the experience as life changing: “As a young person, I’m ecstatic about women in leadership and how intergenerational dialogue can help get other women into positions of leadership. The gender gap is quite wide and the intergenerational dialogue has the potential for women to close the gap as quickly as possible. The Shadowing Scheme was life affirming and in some ways changed my career path. It made it easy for me to make a career pivot. Having a mentor to help make a career change gave me confidence. So, at the end of the Shadowing Scheme, and when COVID happened, I started to apply for fellowships, and opportunities opened up for me so I could gain more expertise.”
The economic and health pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic on families further exposed disadvantaged groups, including women, children and people with disabilities, to even greater risks. Their safety and access to basic needs were, and still are, of paramount concern.
“The pandemic has been especially challenging for women and girls with disabilities. I was part of a research study carried out by the British Council on the effect of the pandemic on persons with disabilities, and we found that it was especially challenging for persons with disabilities. In terms of human rights abuse, women with disabilities faced a number of pervasive experiences during the pandemic. Most of them were unable to earn a living due to the restriction in movement. They could not leave the home to fend for themselves.”—Blessing Ocheido, disability rights advocate
On strategies to get more women elected to positions of authority, it was recognized that the legislature has a role to play in putting in place laws that support women to seek leadership positions, but it was also acknowledged that women are affected by the lack of adequate financing and infrastructure that could provide a level playing field.
“Women need money for communication, they need money – because of violence against women – for protection. They need money to hire the right team to support their campaign. It’s important for people to understand that we're not saying to give women money to buy votes. We are helping them to build infrastructure that actually wins elections. Consequently, ElectHer at the beginning of March launched Agender35, a $10 million fund that is going to empower 1,000 women in the pipeline and encourage them to decide to run for political office, but will directly fund 35 women across all positions.”—Abosede George-Ogan, co-founder of ElectHer
Abosede George-Ogan took the opportunity to report that the project will support all women willing to vie for political positions, including women with disabilities, as a way of fixing the systemic challenges that exclude women from leadership and other endeavours.