For decades, Lagos State has remained a state where people’s dreams and aspirations become reality. The 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) was meant to celebrate women who have against all odds thrived in the face of challenges while taking steps to ensure that more women at the grassroots are lifted to greater heights. The IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Lagos has also honored women’s historic achievements and contributions while recognizing that massive gender gaps still persist. The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu marked the 2022 IWD raising hope of women and recognizing those who have hammed their marks in the sand of history in the state’s business and economic life. Lagos celebrated 100 of women in a project called #Eko100Women to recognize their inputs and commitment to the state’s economy.
The state believes that transformative change toward gender equality requires further investments, changes in law and policies, interventions to shift social and gender norms, and the audacity to change power relations. Lagos sees women as leaders, entrepreneurs, and agents of change for development. Hence, for many women, Lagos presents opportunities, enabling environment and culture to realize their set goals and ignite sustainable economic growth. Lagos offers a glimpse of hope to women given its status as a former capital and financial hub of Nigeria. A growing body of evidence shows that placing women in the center of the development agenda can increase efficiency in the management of institutions and resources.
Also, female leaders can have beneficial impacts on social norms. World Bank report showed that gender empowerment can be used to combat domestic violence, testing interventions such as cash transfers and active labor-market policies to economically empower women, and role of law and justice in achieving gender equality, among others. Lagos Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu recognised the enduring impact of women in the progressive development of Lagos State in a continued celebration of the 2022 IWD.
He believes that although the journey to economic prosperity for the state, its citizens and investors- locally and internationally, has taken off but will be incomplete without the input of women. Spotlighting their contributions to the narrative of ‘A Greater Lagos’, the initiative is in its third year running, having commenced in March 2020. The programme themed, ‘Eko Women 100’, identifies and honours the women who are blazing the trail in their fields while contributing to the growth of the state and inspiring the next generation.
Some of the women honoured on this year’s list include First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu; Ibukun Awosika, media mogul, Mo Abudu; elder stateswoman, Mrs Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; Fidelity Bank MD, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe; Managing Director GTCo, Miriam Olusanya; CEO North-West Petroleum, Dame Winifred Akpani, amongst others.
Speaking about the initiative, Sanwo-Olu said, “The Women of Lagos are powerful, visionary and represent our great state at the highest level globally. This week we celebrated 100 of them in a project called #Eko100Women. These women have made Lagos their home bringing their expertise and excellence to great effect.” This year’s event builds on the significant Eko4Women annual celebration, which has honoured over 300 women. In addition, each recipient received a personal letter of recognition from the Governor, showing appreciation for their commitment to excellence. Like the occasions before, the initiative empowered several medium and small female-owned businesses across the state. These women were drawn from all parts of the state, across various fields and strata of society.
“From arts to technology, to business to sports, we touched on as many industries as possible. In my special letter to each woman, I charged them to continue to demonstrate the unstoppable spirit and values of Lagos”, the governor said. Expressing gratitude for the gesture and commending the governor’s initiative, many of the recipients acknowledged the honour from the state government.
“I understand that recognitions such as this are worthy of celebration because this shows that the Government is aware of the little contributions we all make to keep this nation alive”, said Bolanle Austen-Peters, Founder, Terra-Kulture and one of the honorees. In her official statement, Deputy Group Managing Director, AIM Group, Tatiana Mousalli Nouri, noted, “Equality is crucial for the well-being of our world, diversity is wealth, and inclusion is strength”.
Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, Chief Commercial Officer, Mixta Africa, highlighted the significance of the initiative for Lagos women saying, “I’m receiving this on behalf of all the heroines of Lagos state, building silently, building to last, building a legacy, doing great work, doing impactful work in the public and private sector, who often go unnoticed. You, my sisters, are the real centre of excellence and the real MVPs. May your labour of love never be in vain, and may your dreams come true.”
Other women honoured under the Eko Women 100 initiative include Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University, Prof. Olatunji-Bello; MD Suntrust Bank, Halima Buba; EcoBank Chairman, Bola Adesola; distinguished stateswomen, Alhaja Lateefat Okunnu and Alhaja Sikirat Jakande; CEO Eleganza Group, Sade Okoya; veteran artist, Nike Okundaye-Davies; renowned architect, Olajumoke Adenowo; movie producer Kemi Adetiba; actress Funke Akindele-Bello; Qatar Airways pilot, Adeola Sowemimo; and celebrity photographer, TY Bello. There have been many movements and advocacy efforts globally about achieving gender equality, promoting social inclusion and the practically empowering women in a largely patriarchal and male-dominated world.
The World Bank said that the COVID-19 crisis compounded challenges for women and girls’, exacerbating barriers to participating in the economy and public life, and intensifying a parallel pandemic of violence against women and girls’. According to the 2020 PwC, Impact of Women on Nigeria’s Economy, Nigerian women account for 41% ownership of micro-businesses in Nigeria with 23 million female entrepreneurs operating within this segment. This places Nigeria among the highest entrepreneurship rates globally.
Although the high-level participation of female entrepreneurs in the country is positive, it is however often driven mainly by necessity, which is the norm in emerging markets where there is insufficient formal employment. In the formal sector and at the lower levels in formal employment, there is almost an even 50-50 split in the workplace between men and women. However, as both sexes climb up the corporate ladder, women begin to decline in representation on the senior leadership teams and at the board level.
That explains while the World Bank, Lagos and many other states across the world take strategic steps in protecting and investing in girls’, women, and people of all gender identities to help address these challenges and enable all people to achieve their full potential, building human capital and more inclusive and equitable societies.
Abiodun, entrepreneur lives in Lagos