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Salami lifts women with xceptional women network

By Florence Utor
03 July 2016   |   5:58 am
We have adopted the UNDP’s working definition for capacity development. Based on this, we run consulting, training and coaching services for organisations and their workforce ...


Abiola Salami is an author and the creator of Women Making A Difference Awards. He was recently recognised by the US government for inspiring leadership. He spoke with FLORENCE UTOR on his vision and commitment to empowering women.

As a capacity development maven, how do you serve your clients?
We have adopted the UNDP’s working definition for capacity development. Based on this, we run consulting, training and coaching services for organisations and their workforce, while we also implement different social impact initiatives to help develop the capacity of women and young leaders to be champions. That is where the Xceptional Women Network comes in. It is a global network of women committed to achieving exceptional results in their careers, businesses, political leadership, marriage and family life.

How is Xceptional Women Network different from other women forum?
The network seeks total empowerment and productive engagement of all women regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, cultural background, political orientation and race. The network provides wide-scale opportunities for women in terms of enterprise and leadership education, access to local and international markets, enterprise funding opportunities, advocacy and grassroots engagement.

Who are your target audience for this initiative?
Our primary target are women between the ages of 18 and 40 years old, who seek to live, learn and lead everyday like champions. That said, we have received testimonials from women above 40 years, who attended our programmes over the years. There is a testimony from a well-educated woman in her 70s, who said, “I rediscover myself and renew my confidence anytime I attend your programmes.”

In 2013, we established the Women Making A Difference Awards, which is a yearly recognition and appreciation award for young and top women, who have made sterling contribution to their families, industries and communities. We reward excellence, consistency, uniqueness, competence and exceptional acts that couldserve as inspiration to others. Some of the women who have been recognised in the past include, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Mo Abudu, Mrs Uchenna Erobu, Mrs Amina Oyagbola, Prof. Remi Sonaya, Her Excellency Mrs. Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori and Senator Oluremi Tinubu. Also recognized are some young women as Maureen Iyasele, Adebola Deji-Kurunmi, Rita Ezenwa-Okoro, Kemi Ajumobi, Adesewa Josh and Tolulope Otunoluwa.

What are platforms providing the desired avenue for networking?
We have created various platforms to empower, celebrate and elevate the status of women. In 2013, we commenced with the Senior Professional Ladies Colloquium, which was a part of our annual GAME Conference. By the 2014 edition, the consistent feedback was that we needed to create a bespoke platform focusing on women. This informed the decision to hold the International Women’s Conference in 2015, where we reached out to a combination of 200,000 plus women live and online. Again, we saw the need to create platform for consistent engagement of women as the major feedback from inception.

Therefore, we created a social media platform where we engage and inspire women everyday. Within three weeks of commencing this project, we reached over 250,009 women across the globe. Eighty-five per cent of them fall within the ages of 18 and 40years old. The number is expected to grow to 1 million women this month. This platform is free and it is open for women of all ages to access.

We also have our forthcoming series of Xceptional Women’s Conferences and Masterclasses, which are designed as a platform to help women live beyond misperceptions, stereotypes and misplaced emotions as they shatter the glass-ceiling in their careers and leadership pursuits. The Lagos Xceptional Women’s Conference and Masterclass will be holding in July, 2016 at the Shell Hall, Muson Centre.

Who are the organizations already associated with your initiatives?
At the moment, we are engaging with office of the first ladies and female deputy governors, Federal and state Ministries of Women Affairs, women-focused NGOs, the organized private sector and private individuals to collaborate with us in empowering and engaging womanhood through the various programmes of the network.

We have enjoyed support from organisations such as Access Bank, DFID, Troyka Group, WIMBIZ, WISCAR, EbonyLife TV, Channels TV, Inspiration FM, Metro FM, RadioOne, Smooth FM, Silverbird Group, NigeriaInfo and Cool TV. We also engaging Bank of Industry, CitiBank, Heritage Bank, StanbicIBTC, LafargeWAPCO, Dangote British Council, Credit Direct Limited, United Securities Limited, MainOne Cable, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Cand others.

Any global collaborations in view?
At the moment, we are exploring several global collaborations to advance women agenda. We just concluded a curriculum with the University of California. This programme will be called the Xceptional Women Global Leadership Programme, and it is aimed at equipping women in political and corporate leadership and entrepreneurship with cutting-edge skills to position them for global exploits and local relevance. The formal launch of the programme is this month, while the first stream of women will be in Los Angeles, California, in September.

How will this initiative contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria?
We understand that the best way to kill an economy in the 21st century is to be slothful in the real empowerment of women. This initiative is an effort to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria through the real empowerment and engagement of our women, which will in turn yield economic benefits to us, thereby, significantly closing the gender gap. Nigeria has a GDP of $490bn, a largely unengaged active female population of 42 million and Gender Gap Index of 125. This suggests that our GDP has the potential to increase by over a thousand per cent if we decide to empower and engage more women. That is our commitment at the Xceptional Women Network.

How do you see yourself as a man championing women initiative of this magnitude?
I see it as the duty of every human being to champion the cause of empowering and engaging women everywhere. I strongly believe that any opportunity for improvement extended to any woman, anywhere is an opportunity extended to every human everywhere; any opposition served any woman anywhere is an opposition served every human everywhere; and every contribution made to womanity anywhere is a contribution made to humanity everywhere.