At WISCAR Conference, Chimamanda tells women to keep pushing
Renowned writer and author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has urged women to keep pushing and believe in themselves, noting that there were obstacles on the path of women for being born female, which is evident all over the world but may be manifested differently.
She made the call at the 2022 Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) annual leadership and mentoring conference, which held recently with the theme, ‘For the Nation: The Power of Inclusion’.
Speaking during a fire side chat with the Founder of WISCAR, Amina Oyagbola, Adichie said: “As Nigerian women, we are clever, innovative and more; it is so inspiring to see women doing more and having an organisation like WISCAR exist where you can look up and see what is possible is such a gift.”
On being a feminist, the celebrated author noted: “I didn’t set out to be a feminist, all I wanted to do was write. But then as an observant child, I saw a lot of things that excluded females, which didn’t make sense to me.
“The word feminist has been so misunderstood to mean that men shouldn’t exist, but it’s not; it’s for me about justice, equality and recognising that every human being deserves equal opportunity and so you should not exclude people from where they can do well simply because they are women.”
She stressed that the two distinctive roles of men and women are physical strength and reproductive roles, respectively.
She added: “These are the two fundamental reasons there is inequality. This is no longer a time in evolution where physical strength determines anything so it no longer makes sense to exclude women.”
Speaking on her career successes, she said: “It is important that you think of failure; make sure that you have tried everything possible as it is very easy for people to give up. One of the lessons I have learnt in my journey is that when you fail at something, you should think about it, either that place isn’t the right fit for you or you haven’t done your best.
“I remember when I wanted to get an agent for my first novel. I got a lot of rejections, and they were honest enough to tell me it was more about what I wrote than about my writing. One of them said I had put in a lot of African words writing about an African place and feared selling me out.
“This was difficult to take but then I really just wanted to write and I was willing to work for it. So, after a rejection and I feeling sorry for myself, I stand up the next day to check out another agent and one day a woman said yes to me. I remember her saying: ‘I will take up a chance on you and I want you to write out your top three publishers, we are not going to get them, but I just want to know what you are dreaming about.’
“So, I wrote the top three publishers in the country and we got number two. So, my first novel was published by one of my dream publishers and that is how I started.”
Speaking on the theme of the conference, the founder of WISCAR, Oyagbola, said it was a call to galvanise action by both private and public sectors to accelerate women’s inclusion in governance, women’s leadership in organisations and active female participation in all spheres of the nation.
“With 2023 being a critical election year, it is a call to people to take deliberate steps to elect public servants that are gender-sensitive, who will bring about change that we all seek. We should no longer wait for opportunities to be handed to us; we should create them.”
“This means we must continue to build capacity and strategically organise ourselves to be present at every table at which decisions that affect us are made. We should vote female candidates and male leaders that are gender-sensitive,” she advised.
At a keynote panel, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria, Adia Sowho; Architect Tosin Oshinowo; social entrepreneur and politician, Hawwah Gambo and an economist and representative of UN Women, Chukwuemeka Onyimadu, reiterated their commitment to gender equality and shared their varied struggles in their fields.
While Gambo shared her journey and struggles into politics as a woman from the northern part of the country, Oshinowo, who is playing in a male-dominated space, shared the struggles she faced to thrive, which involved constantly proving that she could deliver.
“Women should see themselves as people and pay less attention to gender; that way there is focus,” she said.
Sowho, who spoke about her role at MTN as the first female in that position, harped on the importance of women speaking up for themselves where it matters.
Oyinmadu, on his part, shared his activities under UN women and how much women should be encouraged in a patriarchal society.
“Clearly, women don’t have as much opportunities as men in Nigeria and to break this barrier, there should be gender-responsive procurement policies for women owned businesses to help them thrive.”