By Moses Nosike
Osayi Alile, CEO, Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation. Over the last 18 years she has been working in the NGO sector. She was CEO FATE Foundation for about 8 years and after that she served as a consultant to Access Bank on CSR.
During these periods she had done a lot work with youths, entrepreneurs and women. Alile who was the last chairperson, WIMBIZ, is always looking for innovative ways to better the lives of communities and Nigeria as whole so that we can grow our economy as well. I am passionate about empowering our youths and our society.
Can you tell us more about ACT Foundation, its focus and how this will effect the economy?
ACT Foundation is a vision that was built from Access Bank and it is something I had worked with them on for a while. ACT Foundation officially began last year in 2016 and our aim is to address challenges and associated vulnerabilities in the African Continent.
Our focus is on health, entrepreneurship, environment and leadership and this is because these four pillars change the way we see society, these are what people feel are the issues affecting the society daily. We are talking about the percentage of young people that are unemployed and also talking about enterprise and these are basic things that we are dealing with.
One unique thing about us is that in our approach to solve challenges associated with our focus areas, to be community based, working with communities, NGOs and CBOs.
You are a woman so I want us to talk a bit about women. Findings from our environment have shown us that women especially at the grassroot suffer when they lose their spouses. So how do NGOs look at empowering these poor community women?
The funny thing is that the same problems the women in the grassroots go through is the same every other woman encounters. When husbands die in our environment, things change for everyone because most women do not have buying power. More than 70% of women are left without buying power and that is why we have organisations like WIMBIZ that aim at supporting women in business and management. And this effort is a continual one. I hope that NGOs in these areas get a lot of partners in order to effect change.
Having been in top management for various organisations, can you share some of your experiences being a woman in such elevated positions?
Some people have reported of negative experiences at management level, but I have never had any of such experiences. I have always had men and women supporting me in every role I found myself and this could also be because I am very open about how I manage myself. Of course these things happen and this is clear through the statistics that doesn’t do women any justice but this has changed over the last few years.
Before, we always liked to avoid these kind of topics and act like they are not there or handpick the very few women that hold top positions, but today it is a different story. Even in my work with WIMBIZ for the last 13 years I have seen positive changes. Men are even speaking up on our behalf and clamouring for women to be in top positions.
Women’s involvement is not a nice thing to have, it is a necessary thing to have women in those positions and of course women manage well. It is a balanced world so decisions should be made by both sexes thus making it a balanced decision. We cannot survive without the men and I don’t think the men should survive without us.
Admitting more women in leadership…
First, we need to change the perception that women would misbehave. When we see a woman in high places, people with wrong perception tend to ask, how did she get there? We should change that mind set and not only that we should encourage more women and start teaching our children that success is gender blind.
We also need to change the conversation and perception of how we see women. Our perception of women is one of the reasons we don’t see many women in politics and the few there achieving success, we call them names. I always like to encourage women who are moving up.
In our bid to get a balanced family, how do we think we can empower women to impact on the society and family?
Statistics have shown that more women are taking the responsibilities at home now. 8 women out of 10 pay school fees of their children. So things are changing because the truth remains that more women are engaging themselves to be productive in order to help their families and society at large.
Women also need to learn and build themselves, not just with regards to education but in business and finances. Women need to move out of their comfort zones to make sure they are more accomplished and prepare the future because it is well known that women live longer than men. So women need to know how to sustain themselves in retirement and old age. This they can do through various economic and entrepreneurial activities.
ACT Foundation is focused on health as well as other things. So what do you want to achieve in the area of health?
We are looking at maternal health and nutrition, breast, cervical and prostrate cancers and we are also looking at malaria. And before choosing these areas, we conducted a thorough research to understand what is truly affecting and killing people.
Malaria is the highest killer disease after HIV/AIDS, so it is imperative that we tackle this menace that is rapidly taking the lives of thousands of people. Maternal health is important because of the women and children involved. And so we want to ensure that the children in our continent are healthy individuals who will shape our world, which is why nutrition is key. As we go along, things might change, but for now till the next five years or so, these are the areas we will be focusing on.
Achievement and challenges…
We only started last year, so what is key for us now is getting credible partners to work with. Nonetheless, so far we are getting people more enlightened about things we are passionate about. So we join the rest of the world in commemorating world observance days like Malaria day and world environment day, because we believe that we can make a difference in every single way.
However, assessing the effects of various campaigns can’t be done immediately and can only be done after a period of time.
Young girls in prostitution; some say unemployment, poverty are responsible, what is your take on that?
It should be ill of me to start apportioning blame. When we are talking about prostitution, we have to be very careful. My perception is that you are talking about adult, people that have decided that is the work they want to do. That is a different ball game. Because when you are talking about children in prostitution, it is a different ball game because most of those girls you see on the streets probably have someone who is sending them out there.
So when we are talking about issues that deal with communities, there is usually an underlying factor, so if I’m speaking to this situation at the surface I don’t feel I have done justice to the issue. I believe there are people who are competent in this area that can deal with the issue holistically. This is not my core area.
In areas where religion and culture are preventing female children from building formidable careers, what is your advice?
Our religion is important, culture also is important because these are the things that make us who we are. There are things that are fundamentally for men and things fundamentally for women. However, we must draw a balance. Most of the people promoting these things have female children, are they going to throw them away? In old age who takes care of the aged ones? It’s the women.
Nonetheless, it is important we develop our female children or allow them pursue their career which empowers them for the future. We need to begin placing more value on our children, because God gave them to us for a purpose and we should realise that and build them up.
The world is changing, women are becoming empowered and pulling weights in various sectors all over the world and we must not confine because of culture or religion. So the bottom line is we parents should support our children to be better than us and achieve more. Though it can’t be achieved overnight, it’s a gradual process.
A good example is the Oni of Ife. I admire him and the way he presents his wife, giving her the platform and opportunity to express herself. He goes about his duties with her like he did in America, or when he mentioned her at the parliament. These things were not so in the past.
How do you intent to position ACT Foundation in the next 5 years?
We are looking beyond Nigeria. We don’t want to measure ourselves on the platform of NGOs here, not because they are not doing well, but because like every other organization we are looking bigger and outward. And when looking at the strategy for our foundation we examined foundations that have been around for eons. We might start small but my mind is seeing something very great in the nearest future even if I’m not here, the foundation will be reckoned or recognized as one of the best in the areas of health, entrepreneurship, environment and leadership.
The post Why men are clamouring for women in leadership — Alile appeared first on Vanguard News.