A non-governmental Organisation (NGO) and social enterprise, HEIR Women Development, has emphasised the need for girls and young women to participate in leadership positions from early stages of their lives, stressing that doing so would enable them build capacity and help them succeed the older generation of women leaders.
Its Executive Director, Añuli Aniebo Ola-Olaniyi, stated this in Abuja during a Leadership Capacity and Civic Knowledge Enhancement Conference for young women held with the theme, The Nigeria We Want: Young Women and Leadership.
Ola-Olaniyi charged the participants to fully take part in the forthcoming general election by ensuring that they collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and also vote for the candidates of their choice.
She noted that the global percentage of women participation in leadership was at 22.5 per cent and around 23.4 per cent in Africa, lamenting the low percentage of women’s representation in Nigeria despite their high population.
“The national average of women’s participation in governance in Nigeria is set at 6.7 per cent despite women accounting for 49.4 per cent of the total population with the mean age of women involved in the political process set at 55 years. Is there a place for young women? Apart from the dismal number of women in leadership positions in the country, we must address the root cause and that’s why we are training and encouraging girls to take up leadership positions.
“Girls and young women need to know that a leader is not just a man; a leader is a leader. So we are re-educating and helping them unlearn social norms that women are not supposed to be leaders. Elections are coming up shortly and as we talk about leadership enhancement for young women, we also want to tell them to be able to take a decision, perform their civil responsibilities and cast their votes. If you have leadership skills you should be able to make the right choice on whom to choose as a leader,” she said.
Ola-Olaniyi further urged the young women to leverage the media in having inclusive conversations to their advantage, maintaining that people need to identify women with capacity, confidence and character that are able to change the narrative.
She added: “Girls no longer see role models because they don’t see enough young women in leadership positions but we want to change that narrative so that when they look at us they see more young women in leadership and be encouraged; so more policies need to be in place to enhance this. Young women must understand that this country is also theirs and know that the script we see is not the entire story. They also need to move from entitlement mentality and begin to develop themselves so that when older women want to pass the baton, we would be available to receive and run along with it.”
Earlier, development journalist, Ene Oshaba, stressed the importance of leveraging the media for increased female participation in leadership, urging women to be more visible in the media space to enable people have a track record of their capacity and have confidence in voting them into leadership positions.
“Women are doing a lot in the society but are not leveraging the media and if people are not seeing or hearing about you how can they vote for someone they don’t know? Women must understand the importance of the media and begin to be more visible and make impact, ” she said.
On her part, Modupe Adetiba said grooming young women for leadership early must be intensified if women would occupy leadership positions.
“If we are talking about strategic positioning of young women in politics, we need to go back to the drawing board to start from grooming them to take up leadership from school and other places while they are young in order to start building capacity from early stages of life,” she noted.\