The conventional transitional folk tales that women are only meant to be seen in the Kitchen have begun to fade off as women keep changing this narrative both in Nigeria and around the world generally.
Over the years, Nigerian women have stood out as firebrands, leading the frontline of global Impact and inciting change beyond the coasts of Nigeria’s system. While it is not an argument that Nigeria is so blessed with women whose relevance will be imprinted in the hearts of many, a large number of these women have demonstrated their value, impact, exploits and consequently changed the society presumptions about the female gender.
The story of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is the first minister in Nigeria to serve under two administrations during the Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan tenures is more than an inspiration not only to women but to both genders.
Her legacy includes strengthening the country’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC) in 2013. Under her leadership, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) carried out a rebasing exercise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the first in 24 years, which saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa.
She also empowered women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN), a gender-responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation Programme (YouWIN); a program that supports entrepreneurs and created thousands of jobs.
Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several world bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008–2009 food crises and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was the chairperson of the IDA International Development Association)at replenishment, the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low-interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.
Ngozi has been serving as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization since March 2021 which makes her the first African and first woman to lead the organization. Her impact on the economic world will forever be a history to many generations to come.
The iconic Dora Edemobi Akunyili served as NAFDAC DG in 2001 and served till 2009 and also as the Minister of Information and Communication in 2008. Ever since She occupied the position, she has proved her competency by ensuring counterfeit drugs are eliminated. She put together a team of mostly female pharmacists and started a war against fake drugs. As a result, many open-air medicine markets across the country were closed down, including one in Kano State after her officers seized £140,000 worth of fake drugs.
The agency, under her leadership, broadcast jingles on radio and television to make the public aware of the dangers of substandard drugs and to encourage people to report suspicious drugs while also publishing lists of counterfeit products regularly in the newspapers. Akunyili is indeed a hero who served Nigeria and will forever be remembered by Nigerians for her good deeds.
Folorunso Alakija the philanthropist established the Rose of Sharon Foundation which helps widows and orphans through scholarships and business grants. Also, she donated a skill acquisition center to Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), a higher educational institution located in Lagos.
Ibukun Awosika is the CEO of the Chair Group and a motivational speaker whose message has impacted several lives both at home and abroad. Her passion for the young generations is undeniable. In 2011, she co-founded the Afterschool Graduate Development Centre, a career centre established to checkmate the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.
In the literary world, renowned writer, Chimamanda Adiche uses her work to inspire women around the world in breaking gender constructions, stereotypes, and sexualities that have been made to subjugate women in society. Adichie has described feminism as part of the consensus knowledge on human rights.
The general notion that “What a man can do, a woman can do better” is being proven by some women in Akure, Ondo State Capital as they daily make profits from driving commercial tricycles popularly known as “Keke Napep”, a profession known to be dominated by the male gender.
Tina Alfred was a business woman before she ventured into commercial tricycle driving. Her little business ceased to progress due to the challenges she encountered during the Covid-19 lockdown and #EndSars protest but her independent lifestyle could not make her stay idle, she needed to work.
She was inspired into taking up riding a tricycle in Akure to make daily earnings to sort out her everyday bills. Unlike her former business where she could not separate her profits from her expenditures, she reiterated that things have turned out to be better than before.
“Even my children know that I don’t like being a liability, depending on others to survive. That was why I gave driving a commercial tricycle a trial. Although, while learning how to drive, as a woman, I had a sense of fear at first but as time went on, I was able to overcome it,” she noted.
Also, Bola who is a graduate found herself amongst the many glasses of water, but she merged her strength, with resilience and spirit to turn her situation around. Her narrative of a jobless Nigerian youth has changed to become a firebrand female -laundry entrepreneur who now puts a smile on the faces of others by employing them. Her journey of being a washerwoman began with her desire not to stay idle after the completion of her undergraduate studies.
“When I graduated from the university, we had to wait till we were called up for NYSC, that’s about a year. I spoke with my uncle that I needed to work instead of staying at home and being idle. He got me a job at a laundry outlet where I was working. That was when I got the idea for the laundry business. I worked for them for a year before going for service.”Bola said
Three months after she joined the laundry outlet, her hard work had so much fascinated her boss who stayed abroad, thus promoting her to the position of supervisor. Bola herself must have been awed because her ingénue slim stature could pass for a teenager or an undergraduate, yet, she is wearing a big-sized shoe because of passion, zeal, and the right attitude to work; to do one delegated work with or without the presence of the owners.
Yetunde, a native of Ogun State is a mother and a wife. She is a wise woman who has decided to support her family, by sharing the responsibility with her husband rather than putting a heap of the burden on him. Her journey of becoming the first female driver in Ikeja underbridge was because she wanted to reduce her husband’s responsibilities and support him financially.
“What made me start driving commercial buses was after I thought of how I can support my husband. The house rents, children’s school fees, and other responsibilities were too much for him. Ever since I began driving Danfo, I have been supporting my husband, I started driving commercial buses in 2016. At that time, I started with Maruwa (Tricycle), then bought a korope (Mini Shuttle Bus), and later got a Danfo bus.
Yetunde Mohammed is just one of the women out there who has left many in awe and has inspired others. Despite being a woman, she never gave in to negative energy pulling her down rather her determination has been the driving force giving her encouragement to forge ahead in difficulties.
Moreover, her resilience and hard-working spirit have pushed her forward despite the humiliation and harassment she has faced from her male counterpart. Being the only female driver among her male counterparts caused strife and hatred to set in. She was seen as a hindrance to their work which resulted in different name-calling.
“A lot of drivers that see me driving Danfo are always angry. They will say I have come again. Some of them always call me Ashawo (prostitute) because am doing their job. Some passengers talk to me anyhow because I am a female driver. Despite all these, I don’t respond to them because I am used to their insults”
Yetunde added that she does not regret being a Danfo driver because it has helped her solve problems and she would soon become a house owner. The female driver noted that she makes between N8,000 and N10,000 in profit daily.
She believes every work has its challenges which is why she charged women to take responsibility and stop being a liability to their husbands, noting that a liability woman will always be a problem to her husband.
These women have caused a change and their services to humanity will be in history. Many generations will know about them. In addition, every woman is an agent of change to make an impact and enable the world to be a better place.