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MAKING	THE	VOICES	OF	AFRICAN	WOMEN	AND	
GIRLS	COUNT	
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
HER EXCELLENCY, ERELU BISI ADELEYE-FAYEMI
CO-FOUNDER,	AFRICAN	WOMEN’S	DEVELOPMENT	FUND		
AND	
	FIRST LADY OF EKITI STATE, NIGERIA	
AT
THE WOMEN AND GIRLS LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT
CONFERENCE (WGLEC), AUGUST 18TH
-19TH
2021
on
Wednesday, August 18th, 2021
	
PROTOCOLS	
I am truly delighted to have been invited to deliver the keynote address at this
very important conference. I thank Dr Sharon Hill and her colleagues, as well
as my good friend Bamidele Ademola-Olateju. I congratulate all the Fellows
and I wish you all the very best in your endeavours.
Exactly Twenty-six years ago, I attended the 4th
UN conference for women in
Beijing, China. I was the Executive Director of AMwA, an international
development organisation for African women based in London. I was
responsible for a group of 20 women from the UK, other European countries
and some from Africa. We arrived at the hotel around 11am. I did not finish
checking in till 4pm, my colleagues left me there to go to their rooms while I
was there at the front desk. I tried to explain to the person who first attended to
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me that some people in our group would be leaving on certain dates and others
would come in to take their place, so the bookings we had would not change,
only the names of the occupants of the rooms. After listening to me for a while,
the Chinese guy said, ‘Wairamini’ (Wait a minute) and called someone else to
listen to me. I had to start all over again with this new person, only for him to
ask me to ‘Wairamini’ while he called someone else. I had to tell the same
story four times, growing increasingly frustrated but knowing that it would be
eventually sorted out, I just needed to keep explaining till everyone understood.
Giving up was not an option. The progress of African women twenty-six years
since Beijing has been one of ten steps forward and five steps back, with many
‘Wairamini’ moments where we have had to say the same thing over again to
different audiences.
AFRICAN WOMEN SINCE BEIJING: THE BAD NEWS
FIRST
Millions of African women and girls still suffer from the feminization of
poverty, lack of access to basic resources, disease, violent conflict and the use
of culture, religion and tradition to render women voiceless. Crimes against
women, young girls and children are on the rise. Gender-based violence,
femicides, rapes, sexual assaults, harmful traditional and religious practices,
religious fundamentalisms, voluntary and involuntary commercial sex work,
trafficking, sexual exploitation and institutionalized gender-based
discrimination make private and public spaces in many African countries very
unsafe for women and children.
	
All these issues continue to hinder the progress of African women due to
entrenched patriarchal power, violent conflict and displacement, endemic
poverty, lack of political will, and religious and cultural conservatism.
AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS
Twenty-six years after the Beijing conference, we can lay claim to the
following as African women:
Page 3 of 10
1. The existence of international, regional and national normative
frameworks which aim to promote, protect and guarantee women’s
rights and gender equality. Many African countries have ratified the
1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW), the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child, UN Resolution 1325 on Women in Peace and Security in
2000, and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. The African Union
adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s
Rights on Women’s Rights as well as the Solemn Declaration on Gender
Equality in 2004. The AU Protocol (Maputo) on Women’s Rights was a
significant milestone in the African women’s movement. Following on
from all these, there are many sub-regional, national and local laws and
policies which have been made possible by the agency of the African
women’s movement.
2. The notion of women as leaders has been popularized, and it is no
longer strange to see women campaigning for very senior positions
in public life. Due to the remarkable success of women in elected and
appointed positions in some countries, we have changed political
landscapes, for example in Liberia, Rwanda, and South Africa
3. African women and girls have more access to educational
opportunities than ever before. Not only is the enrolment of girls in
schools at very high levels in some places their enrolment in schools
exceeds that of boys. In addition, girls are doing very well in tertiary
institutions, graduating with top degrees, winning prizes and excelling in
areas such as Medicine, Science and Engineering. There also seems to be
an unprecedented number of female role models on Faculties and non-
teaching staff across the continent, inspiring new generations of female
students.	
	
4. There is now more awareness of women’s rights and gender equality
across all our communities. We have seen more acceptance of the need
to address discrimination against women in terms of access to education,
employment and also the need to prevent violence against women and
girls.
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5. The women’s movement has been able to build consensus around key
issues of importance to women, such as rights to:
! Non-discrimination
! Economic empowerment and livelihoods
! Education and training
! Bodily integrity, reproductive rights and health
! Freedom from all forms of violence
! Peace and security.
! Access to leadership and decision-making
In addition, scholars, activists, community leaders, writers, thinkers,
professionals, rural women and politicians who are part of a progressive
women’s movement have been able to create a body of knowledge,
thought and activism on women’s rights and gender equality
AN EIGHT POINT ROAD MAP TO SUSTAIN THE AGENCY
OF AFRICAN WOMEN AND GIRLS
1. UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF FEMINISM
AND ITS ROLE IN DECONSTRUCTING
PATRIARCHAL POWER AND PRIVILEGE
Patriarchy is a system of male authority which legitimizes the oppression of
women through political, social, economic, legal cultural, religious and
military institutions. I am a feminist. To me, feminism is a global struggle
against all forms of patriarchal oppression. It is not a battle against individual
men, it is a desire to transform political, economic, social, religious and
cultural institutions which devalue the lives of women throughout their life-
cycle. Any woman or man who is genuinely committed to breaking the cycle
of discrimination and exclusion is a feminist. Not all women are feminists and
not all feminists are women. Feminism is not Misandry and Misandry is not
Feminism. It is also important to note that patriarchy thrives on the co-option
of women to sustain patriarchal norms and values, using the nurturing roles of
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women as mothers. If we want to break this pattern, we need to minimise our
investments in the Bank of Patriarchy. You cannot take a shower without
getting wet. We cannot achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment
without using feminist analysis and tools. We cannot do this without
questioning the institutions, norms and values that disempower women.
Women are not each other’s worst enemy, Patriarchy is our real enemy. We
should also note that the plan is not to replace a Patriarchy with a Matriarchy.
We want a world that is equitable and fair to all.
2. USE LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY FRAMEWORKS TO
BREAK BARRIERS
One of the most significant achievements of African women leaders over the
years has been the existence of legal and policy frameworks. There needs to be
more accountability from African governments. With all the legislative and
policy frameworks we have in place at local, national and regional level, we
need to focus on implementation and impact. All these guarantees will mean
nothing in the lives of ordinary women if there is no difference in the quality of
their lives. A key task for women in leadership is ensuring that this agenda of
implementation is addressed.
In addition, African women will continue to march on one spot if we do not
ensure that there are constitutional guarantees for effective representation and
participation specifically through affirmative action and quotas. We should
always remember that in spite of the many constitutional guarantees of equality
of citizens, there is no level playing field yet. Without concrete and proactive
measures such as affirmative action and quotas, we will continue to see dismal
statistics of women in politics and decision-making. When we ask for
affirmative action and quotas in business and politics, it is because we
recognise that men and women are not starting the race as equal runners. Men
always have a head start.
Therefore, we should not find ourselves advocating against affirmative action.
When we argue against quotas and affirmative action for women, we are
shutting the door on many women who, regardless of their qualifications and
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expertise, would not be given an opportunity to demonstrate their worth. By
asking for these quotas, we are not saying women are not competent, what we
are saying is there is now an obligation to ensure that more women get through
the door, and usually they do have more qualifications and expertise than the
men, they just don’t have the opportunities. To aid this agenda, we need more
committed women in the movement as public advocates, and we also need to
see more women in national parliaments and holding positions of authority at
local government level.
There also needs to be a concerted effort to strengthen regional, national and
local machineries that were set up to promote gender equality and women’s
empowerment. Top-rate political leadership, a significant budget, investments
in gender-disaggregated data and a well-trained and motivated work face are
very important in ensuring that these institutions can play their role in
implementing policy frameworks.
3. DEVELOP A LEADERSHIP AGENDA.
You will not maximise your opportunities if you have no leadership agenda. It
does not have to be the kind of transactional agenda which is usually associated
with conventional leadership practices. I am talking about having an agenda
grounded in ethical, transformative leadership, social justice, equity, fairness
and truth. To be an ethical leader, you have to have a theory of change. My
own theory of change in this regard is that for Africa as a continent to achieve
the greatness it truly deserves; it needs to invest in women and young people in
very significant ways. My agenda in Ekiti State for example has been focused
on women having a voice and serving as key stakeholders at all levels of
government. This is why I have been able to accomplish the following:
• Passage of four laws, with the GBV law revised in October 2019 (GBV,
GEOB, HIV, TCP)
• Domestication of the National Gender Policy
• Advocacy for a Family Court (2012)
• A 208 bed Transit home for Women in Distress
• SARC
Page 7 of 10
• Keep Girls in School Campaign
• Anti-FGM Campaign
• Food Bank for the elderly
• Women in leadership in the SHA, State appointments and local
government
4. ENVISION A LEGACY
As a woman in leadership, you have to be able to envision a legacy you would
like to leave behind and put all you can into it. It is that legacy that will
determine whether you have made an impact or not. True, we all operate in
different contexts that might make change difficult, but even if it is not feasible
for us to accomplish this professionally, we can use our private spheres of
influence. You can work with others to establish a policy, pass a Bill, create an
organisation or project. The important thing is that this legacy of yours has to
be linked to your theory of change. If you occupy a leadership position as a
woman, and you are unable to develop an agenda for change, if you are
incapable of serving and supporting other women and unable to leave an
identifiable legacy behind when your time is done, I am afraid you have wasted
that space. Worse, you have made it more difficult for another woman to be
considered. One of the best moments of my life was one evening in 2017, I was
listening to the radio, and there was a report of a man who was jailed in Ekiti
for rape. In sentencing him, the Judge cited the Ekiti State GBV Law of 2011. I
started to cry. The Law I had fought for was serving its purpose – protecting
women.
5. BE POLITICALLY ENGAGED
One of the main reasons why competent, qualified women keep being
overlooked is because we hold political processes in disdain and we refuse to
engage. Go home, to your constituencies and villages. Engage in community
projects, award scholarships. You don’t have to have any political ambition in
mind, we all have to actively engage in making change happen at community
level.
Page 8 of 10
There is a need to channel our positions of influence in the business sector into
power in governance. Why are women in business not supporting other women
to run for office? What stops us from identifying credible candidates who are
women, with integrity and a track record, and backing them with our financial
resources and networks? Why can’t we create and use our own ‘girls’
networks’ and use them to get other women into power the same way in which
men use their ‘old boys’ networks? We will not resolve the leadership crisis in
our countries today unless we get more credible women into leadership.
6. MENTORING AND INTER-GENERATIONAL
ORGANISING
We need to keep mentoring young women in ways that nurture them and
prepare them for the harsh world of business, politics and public life. In doing
this, we need to be able to set an example for them because they will practice
what they see and not what they hear from us. As we do this, we also need to
be honest about the price to be paid sometimes for stepping up as a woman.
The sight and sound of a powerful woman can be very scary to some people. If
you are not prepared to be called names, vilified, lied against and the target of
abuse, if you want everyone to love and like you, stay home and hide under
your sheets.
7. INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND
TECHNOLOGY FOR MOVEMENT BUILDING
Technology has become a very powerful organising and mobilisation tool for
feminists of all ages. Let us take advantage of this for knowledge management,
movement- building, story-telling and to deepen our bonds. All too often, we
hear about the dark side of ICTs and the ways in which they are used to
dehumanise women, particularly through social media. Yet these spaces can be
powerful tools for community building and sisterhood. Let us try and focus on
the ways in which we can use these spaces for growth and development.
Page 9 of 10
On June 11th
2020, I launched The Wrapper Network, a mentoring, capacity
building and enterprise development platform for young women which now
has almost four thousand members.
8. PREPARE FOR LIFE’S TRANSITIONS
We are all in transition from one phase of our life to the other, but while we
know this, we hardly prepare ourselves. Some of these transitions are linked to
joyful milestones such as academic accomplishment, marriage, childbirth,
promotion, our children’s successes and so on. Some might be unpleasant,
sudden and shocking such as divorce, loss of livelihoods, failed business
ventures, electoral loss, illness or even death. Let us learn to reflect on our
various transitions and prepare as and when necessary. For example, do you
have an income-generating, savings or investments plan? How will you take
care of yourself in the future? If you are married, what would happen if your
spouse was no longer in the picture? Are you able to learn a new skill in case
you need it? In these COVID19 times, are you making the necessary
adaptations? You need to ensure you have life-skills commensurate with your
stage in life, for example health management, financial literacy, mental health
awareness, etc.
9. TELL YOUR STORY
Not everyone will be able to write a book. Yet you have to find a way to tell
your story at a time that feels right for you. It could be a book, essay, short
film, exhibition, anything that speaks for you. Who are you? What have you
done? How did you do it? Someone somewhere is interested in hearing from
you. You have a right to a voice. You have a right to tell your story while you
can control the narrative.
10. BRING OUT YOUR WRAPPER FOR OTHER WOMEN
Two years ago, at a conference in Lagos, I told the story of a woman who went
into labour in a market somewhere in Uganda in the 1990s.The women in the
market rallied round to help her, and they brought out their wrappers to shield
her from prying eyes. I use the wrappers as a metaphor for protection,
Page 10 of 10
responsibility, compassion, empathy, respect, all those values that make us
human. Let us bring out our wrappers for other women every day, at work or in
our private lives. Every woman has a wrapper and every woman needs one.
CONCLUSION
Patriarchy tells us many lies. That we are not good enough. That we ought to
have everything all at once and if we don’t, we are less than everyone else. Tell
your story, write it if you can. Even when you run into Wairamini situations
and you feel like giving up, remember that one of the most important things in
life is being able to survive to tell your story. Regardless of your age, stand
before your mirror every day and tell your reflection, ‘My name is ………. I
am enough. I will always be enough.
Let us all rise and set our sights on all the great things we know we can
accomplish. Let us stop being afraid or complacent. Let us move out of our
comfort zones. Let us stop passing things on to the next person. You are
the person. You are the change. You have the power to shape the future.
You can’t Wait a Minute. Use your spaces and power well, in the service of
others, particularly women and children. We are done waiting a minute.
Our time is NOW.
THANK YOU.
.

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MAKING THE VOICES OF AFRICAN WOMEN AND GIRLS COUNT

  • 1. Page 1 of 10 MAKING THE VOICES OF AFRICAN WOMEN AND GIRLS COUNT KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY, ERELU BISI ADELEYE-FAYEMI CO-FOUNDER, AFRICAN WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT FUND AND FIRST LADY OF EKITI STATE, NIGERIA AT THE WOMEN AND GIRLS LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERMENT CONFERENCE (WGLEC), AUGUST 18TH -19TH 2021 on Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 PROTOCOLS I am truly delighted to have been invited to deliver the keynote address at this very important conference. I thank Dr Sharon Hill and her colleagues, as well as my good friend Bamidele Ademola-Olateju. I congratulate all the Fellows and I wish you all the very best in your endeavours. Exactly Twenty-six years ago, I attended the 4th UN conference for women in Beijing, China. I was the Executive Director of AMwA, an international development organisation for African women based in London. I was responsible for a group of 20 women from the UK, other European countries and some from Africa. We arrived at the hotel around 11am. I did not finish checking in till 4pm, my colleagues left me there to go to their rooms while I was there at the front desk. I tried to explain to the person who first attended to
  • 2. Page 2 of 10 me that some people in our group would be leaving on certain dates and others would come in to take their place, so the bookings we had would not change, only the names of the occupants of the rooms. After listening to me for a while, the Chinese guy said, ‘Wairamini’ (Wait a minute) and called someone else to listen to me. I had to start all over again with this new person, only for him to ask me to ‘Wairamini’ while he called someone else. I had to tell the same story four times, growing increasingly frustrated but knowing that it would be eventually sorted out, I just needed to keep explaining till everyone understood. Giving up was not an option. The progress of African women twenty-six years since Beijing has been one of ten steps forward and five steps back, with many ‘Wairamini’ moments where we have had to say the same thing over again to different audiences. AFRICAN WOMEN SINCE BEIJING: THE BAD NEWS FIRST Millions of African women and girls still suffer from the feminization of poverty, lack of access to basic resources, disease, violent conflict and the use of culture, religion and tradition to render women voiceless. Crimes against women, young girls and children are on the rise. Gender-based violence, femicides, rapes, sexual assaults, harmful traditional and religious practices, religious fundamentalisms, voluntary and involuntary commercial sex work, trafficking, sexual exploitation and institutionalized gender-based discrimination make private and public spaces in many African countries very unsafe for women and children. All these issues continue to hinder the progress of African women due to entrenched patriarchal power, violent conflict and displacement, endemic poverty, lack of political will, and religious and cultural conservatism. AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS Twenty-six years after the Beijing conference, we can lay claim to the following as African women:
  • 3. Page 3 of 10 1. The existence of international, regional and national normative frameworks which aim to promote, protect and guarantee women’s rights and gender equality. Many African countries have ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Resolution 1325 on Women in Peace and Security in 2000, and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. The African Union adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on Women’s Rights as well as the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in 2004. The AU Protocol (Maputo) on Women’s Rights was a significant milestone in the African women’s movement. Following on from all these, there are many sub-regional, national and local laws and policies which have been made possible by the agency of the African women’s movement. 2. The notion of women as leaders has been popularized, and it is no longer strange to see women campaigning for very senior positions in public life. Due to the remarkable success of women in elected and appointed positions in some countries, we have changed political landscapes, for example in Liberia, Rwanda, and South Africa 3. African women and girls have more access to educational opportunities than ever before. Not only is the enrolment of girls in schools at very high levels in some places their enrolment in schools exceeds that of boys. In addition, girls are doing very well in tertiary institutions, graduating with top degrees, winning prizes and excelling in areas such as Medicine, Science and Engineering. There also seems to be an unprecedented number of female role models on Faculties and non- teaching staff across the continent, inspiring new generations of female students. 4. There is now more awareness of women’s rights and gender equality across all our communities. We have seen more acceptance of the need to address discrimination against women in terms of access to education, employment and also the need to prevent violence against women and girls.
  • 4. Page 4 of 10 5. The women’s movement has been able to build consensus around key issues of importance to women, such as rights to: ! Non-discrimination ! Economic empowerment and livelihoods ! Education and training ! Bodily integrity, reproductive rights and health ! Freedom from all forms of violence ! Peace and security. ! Access to leadership and decision-making In addition, scholars, activists, community leaders, writers, thinkers, professionals, rural women and politicians who are part of a progressive women’s movement have been able to create a body of knowledge, thought and activism on women’s rights and gender equality AN EIGHT POINT ROAD MAP TO SUSTAIN THE AGENCY OF AFRICAN WOMEN AND GIRLS 1. UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF FEMINISM AND ITS ROLE IN DECONSTRUCTING PATRIARCHAL POWER AND PRIVILEGE Patriarchy is a system of male authority which legitimizes the oppression of women through political, social, economic, legal cultural, religious and military institutions. I am a feminist. To me, feminism is a global struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression. It is not a battle against individual men, it is a desire to transform political, economic, social, religious and cultural institutions which devalue the lives of women throughout their life- cycle. Any woman or man who is genuinely committed to breaking the cycle of discrimination and exclusion is a feminist. Not all women are feminists and not all feminists are women. Feminism is not Misandry and Misandry is not Feminism. It is also important to note that patriarchy thrives on the co-option of women to sustain patriarchal norms and values, using the nurturing roles of
  • 5. Page 5 of 10 women as mothers. If we want to break this pattern, we need to minimise our investments in the Bank of Patriarchy. You cannot take a shower without getting wet. We cannot achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment without using feminist analysis and tools. We cannot do this without questioning the institutions, norms and values that disempower women. Women are not each other’s worst enemy, Patriarchy is our real enemy. We should also note that the plan is not to replace a Patriarchy with a Matriarchy. We want a world that is equitable and fair to all. 2. USE LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY FRAMEWORKS TO BREAK BARRIERS One of the most significant achievements of African women leaders over the years has been the existence of legal and policy frameworks. There needs to be more accountability from African governments. With all the legislative and policy frameworks we have in place at local, national and regional level, we need to focus on implementation and impact. All these guarantees will mean nothing in the lives of ordinary women if there is no difference in the quality of their lives. A key task for women in leadership is ensuring that this agenda of implementation is addressed. In addition, African women will continue to march on one spot if we do not ensure that there are constitutional guarantees for effective representation and participation specifically through affirmative action and quotas. We should always remember that in spite of the many constitutional guarantees of equality of citizens, there is no level playing field yet. Without concrete and proactive measures such as affirmative action and quotas, we will continue to see dismal statistics of women in politics and decision-making. When we ask for affirmative action and quotas in business and politics, it is because we recognise that men and women are not starting the race as equal runners. Men always have a head start. Therefore, we should not find ourselves advocating against affirmative action. When we argue against quotas and affirmative action for women, we are shutting the door on many women who, regardless of their qualifications and
  • 6. Page 6 of 10 expertise, would not be given an opportunity to demonstrate their worth. By asking for these quotas, we are not saying women are not competent, what we are saying is there is now an obligation to ensure that more women get through the door, and usually they do have more qualifications and expertise than the men, they just don’t have the opportunities. To aid this agenda, we need more committed women in the movement as public advocates, and we also need to see more women in national parliaments and holding positions of authority at local government level. There also needs to be a concerted effort to strengthen regional, national and local machineries that were set up to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. Top-rate political leadership, a significant budget, investments in gender-disaggregated data and a well-trained and motivated work face are very important in ensuring that these institutions can play their role in implementing policy frameworks. 3. DEVELOP A LEADERSHIP AGENDA. You will not maximise your opportunities if you have no leadership agenda. It does not have to be the kind of transactional agenda which is usually associated with conventional leadership practices. I am talking about having an agenda grounded in ethical, transformative leadership, social justice, equity, fairness and truth. To be an ethical leader, you have to have a theory of change. My own theory of change in this regard is that for Africa as a continent to achieve the greatness it truly deserves; it needs to invest in women and young people in very significant ways. My agenda in Ekiti State for example has been focused on women having a voice and serving as key stakeholders at all levels of government. This is why I have been able to accomplish the following: • Passage of four laws, with the GBV law revised in October 2019 (GBV, GEOB, HIV, TCP) • Domestication of the National Gender Policy • Advocacy for a Family Court (2012) • A 208 bed Transit home for Women in Distress • SARC
  • 7. Page 7 of 10 • Keep Girls in School Campaign • Anti-FGM Campaign • Food Bank for the elderly • Women in leadership in the SHA, State appointments and local government 4. ENVISION A LEGACY As a woman in leadership, you have to be able to envision a legacy you would like to leave behind and put all you can into it. It is that legacy that will determine whether you have made an impact or not. True, we all operate in different contexts that might make change difficult, but even if it is not feasible for us to accomplish this professionally, we can use our private spheres of influence. You can work with others to establish a policy, pass a Bill, create an organisation or project. The important thing is that this legacy of yours has to be linked to your theory of change. If you occupy a leadership position as a woman, and you are unable to develop an agenda for change, if you are incapable of serving and supporting other women and unable to leave an identifiable legacy behind when your time is done, I am afraid you have wasted that space. Worse, you have made it more difficult for another woman to be considered. One of the best moments of my life was one evening in 2017, I was listening to the radio, and there was a report of a man who was jailed in Ekiti for rape. In sentencing him, the Judge cited the Ekiti State GBV Law of 2011. I started to cry. The Law I had fought for was serving its purpose – protecting women. 5. BE POLITICALLY ENGAGED One of the main reasons why competent, qualified women keep being overlooked is because we hold political processes in disdain and we refuse to engage. Go home, to your constituencies and villages. Engage in community projects, award scholarships. You don’t have to have any political ambition in mind, we all have to actively engage in making change happen at community level.
  • 8. Page 8 of 10 There is a need to channel our positions of influence in the business sector into power in governance. Why are women in business not supporting other women to run for office? What stops us from identifying credible candidates who are women, with integrity and a track record, and backing them with our financial resources and networks? Why can’t we create and use our own ‘girls’ networks’ and use them to get other women into power the same way in which men use their ‘old boys’ networks? We will not resolve the leadership crisis in our countries today unless we get more credible women into leadership. 6. MENTORING AND INTER-GENERATIONAL ORGANISING We need to keep mentoring young women in ways that nurture them and prepare them for the harsh world of business, politics and public life. In doing this, we need to be able to set an example for them because they will practice what they see and not what they hear from us. As we do this, we also need to be honest about the price to be paid sometimes for stepping up as a woman. The sight and sound of a powerful woman can be very scary to some people. If you are not prepared to be called names, vilified, lied against and the target of abuse, if you want everyone to love and like you, stay home and hide under your sheets. 7. INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY FOR MOVEMENT BUILDING Technology has become a very powerful organising and mobilisation tool for feminists of all ages. Let us take advantage of this for knowledge management, movement- building, story-telling and to deepen our bonds. All too often, we hear about the dark side of ICTs and the ways in which they are used to dehumanise women, particularly through social media. Yet these spaces can be powerful tools for community building and sisterhood. Let us try and focus on the ways in which we can use these spaces for growth and development.
  • 9. Page 9 of 10 On June 11th 2020, I launched The Wrapper Network, a mentoring, capacity building and enterprise development platform for young women which now has almost four thousand members. 8. PREPARE FOR LIFE’S TRANSITIONS We are all in transition from one phase of our life to the other, but while we know this, we hardly prepare ourselves. Some of these transitions are linked to joyful milestones such as academic accomplishment, marriage, childbirth, promotion, our children’s successes and so on. Some might be unpleasant, sudden and shocking such as divorce, loss of livelihoods, failed business ventures, electoral loss, illness or even death. Let us learn to reflect on our various transitions and prepare as and when necessary. For example, do you have an income-generating, savings or investments plan? How will you take care of yourself in the future? If you are married, what would happen if your spouse was no longer in the picture? Are you able to learn a new skill in case you need it? In these COVID19 times, are you making the necessary adaptations? You need to ensure you have life-skills commensurate with your stage in life, for example health management, financial literacy, mental health awareness, etc. 9. TELL YOUR STORY Not everyone will be able to write a book. Yet you have to find a way to tell your story at a time that feels right for you. It could be a book, essay, short film, exhibition, anything that speaks for you. Who are you? What have you done? How did you do it? Someone somewhere is interested in hearing from you. You have a right to a voice. You have a right to tell your story while you can control the narrative. 10. BRING OUT YOUR WRAPPER FOR OTHER WOMEN Two years ago, at a conference in Lagos, I told the story of a woman who went into labour in a market somewhere in Uganda in the 1990s.The women in the market rallied round to help her, and they brought out their wrappers to shield her from prying eyes. I use the wrappers as a metaphor for protection,
  • 10. Page 10 of 10 responsibility, compassion, empathy, respect, all those values that make us human. Let us bring out our wrappers for other women every day, at work or in our private lives. Every woman has a wrapper and every woman needs one. CONCLUSION Patriarchy tells us many lies. That we are not good enough. That we ought to have everything all at once and if we don’t, we are less than everyone else. Tell your story, write it if you can. Even when you run into Wairamini situations and you feel like giving up, remember that one of the most important things in life is being able to survive to tell your story. Regardless of your age, stand before your mirror every day and tell your reflection, ‘My name is ………. I am enough. I will always be enough. Let us all rise and set our sights on all the great things we know we can accomplish. Let us stop being afraid or complacent. Let us move out of our comfort zones. Let us stop passing things on to the next person. You are the person. You are the change. You have the power to shape the future. You can’t Wait a Minute. Use your spaces and power well, in the service of others, particularly women and children. We are done waiting a minute. Our time is NOW. THANK YOU. .