Women are increasingly showing that there is more to them than society had hitherto thought. Many are trailblazers as well as a force to reckon with in their various industries.
-By Simisola Oladigbo
The place of women in Nigeria is fast rising above the kitchen or the “other room”, and more into the boardrooms as the restrictive culture-defined gender roles is fast fading. Before now, Nigerian women were glorified cheerleaders in their homes and communities, often suppressing their personal ambitions and career aspirations to support those of the men in their lives.
In the last decade however, the narrative has begun to change for good, nay for better. More women are now actively practicing entrepreneurship; and in so doing, are reshaping culture and norms, recreating markets and industries, rechanneling resources, retooling commerce and productivity, redirecting the economy and redefining the face of leadership in Nigeria.
Today, examples abound in almost every sphere of commerce in Nigeria, of women being actively involved not anymore as faceless members or quiet supporters, but more often as principal figures in leadership capacities. And in some cases actually, they are taking over.
In the clothing and fashion industry, names such as Lanre Da Silva, Lisa Folawiyo and AdenikeOgunlesi are established captains, charting the course of an entire industry, rising above challenging waves and trying storms to profitably set the pace for others to follow.
For Ogunlesi, the trunk of her car was her first showroom and in a few years she successfully transformed her business, “Ruff ‘n’ Tumble” into the leading children’s clothing brand in Africa. Same with Abimbola Azeh, another woman who took the entrepreneurship bull by the horn. A trained lawyer, she started a shoe designing business in 2002, and today, her Mona Matthews brand is a leading indigenous bag and shoe brand out of Africa.
In the media industry: for Oprah Winfrey of America, we have our own Mosunmola Abudu: the CEO, Ebonylife Television, the first global Pan-African TV network. She also started as a TV host with the lifestyle program, “MomentsWith Mo” and has since developed a world class Television and movie production outfit with several Nollywood box-office hits including The Wedding Party 1 & 2, amongst other accomplishments.
Kafayat Shafau, popularly known as Kaffy, elevated the art of dancing into a lucrative endeavor through her groundbreaking contributions in the music video industry. Her Guinness Book of Records’ feat for the longest dance party set in 2006, especially, further marked a turning point in the dance profession, and opened the door to other dancers to see rewarding career paths in choreography.
In some cases, our women have had to create entirely new market segments or vocations, and in the process are recognized pacesetters. For instance, the amazons: Linda Ikeji and Uche Pedro of Bella Naija succeeded in turning hitherto redundant pastimes of fashion, music and entertainment celebrity lifestyles gossips into a billion Naira industry at a time no one thought “blogging” in Nigeria could be anything more than a frivolous pastime.
Not forgetting Sandra Aguebor, Nigeria’s first female automobile mechanic with over 30 years experience who launched her self named Lady Mechanic Initiative to train and financially empower more women to develop their skills in a male-dominated field and become more productive and financially independent.
The recent economic recession in Nigeria provided greater stimulus for women to again be that little bit more creative and resourceful, leading to the sprouting up of several home-based businesses across all sectors such as food and beverages, furniture and fittings, beauty and skincare, entertainment, architecture, and even in agro-allied industries.
This development is not unconnected to the recent increase in our GDP. We are now producing and buying more of our locally produced products and services. The support for Made in Nigeria goods and services among Nigerians is growing by the day and is here to stay with more and more women in the vanguard of this positive cultural and economic re-engineering.
It remains a simple economic phenomenon that the development of leading economies all over the world were founded on the growth of small and medium scale enterprises. And in Nigeria, our women have taken the steering wheel of navigating the nation to economic recovery and prosperity by playing much greater leading roles in setting up such small enterprises; sustaining them against all institutional odds; creating greater number of jobs and improving per capita productivity; and inducing the economy to real growth across multiple fronts.
Maybe it is just a feminine whim or the motherly nature of these amazons coming to bear on their endeavors, but the rise of these amazons and the positive impact of the increase in women entrepreneurship in Nigeria suggest that this sleeping West African giant might be getting closer to a positive change in fortune in terms of better leadership.
Simisola Oladigbo is the founder of Made in Nigeria Brands, an online platform where she curates locally made world-class products and services.A 17-year veteran of the media industry, Simi has worked in television and radio, and currently runs TagTm, a media production company based in Lagos, Nigeria.She is a fellow of the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa, and the Cherie Blair’s Road to Women’s Growth.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.