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When women draw the mentorship map

Published by The Nation on Sat, 12 Sep 2020

By Nnedinso OgaziechiWomen do not love one another is a very common clich in both political and social circles. Is there any truth to this assertion' Maybe, maybe not, but we have to look at the realities of the times. Do men like one another' What are the indices to show their love for one another' Who starts wars and conflicts around the world' Whose policies put humanity in jeopardy very often'On the surface, the age-long clich might sound logical and may have some grains of truth, but the underlying factor remains that there are no black and white lines in this argument. Humans are humans and imperfections run through the gender lines. But the fact is that men make the rules, so it is convenient to skew the narrative in their favour. It gives them the leeway to grab the political space and with it the economic power, and in the land of the oppressed, love is often a scarce commodity.However, as dynamic as the world is, certain narratives dont fly these days because humans keep evolving and things continue to change. The political and economic advantage men have been enjoying over the years is fuelled by the same narrative backed up by actions. If the women continue to be divided, the men will continue to have the longer end of the stick.The Roundtable this week had a conversation with Christiana Ebiai, a school principal for decades and a stickler for excellence, who believes her best lesson for her students both boys and girls is wrapped with excellence. She does not necessarily push for equality, but she believes that the most cerebrally endowed and ready to achieve gets her support. In her years as a teacher, she has noticed the role of parents in the lives of children and sees the role of teachers as an addition to what parents are already doing.She believes that intelligence is a gift but diligence and vision must be added for it to be optimally functional. She has observed that the school system is often an offshoot of the society but some school proprietors make deliberate attempt to push for gender parity in employment, while not overlooking competence. She sees herself as an example of a woman who has risen in her career due to hard work and she in turn takes no prisoners. She believes in the best brain and those ready to work getting the work. As one who has been a principal, she has seen the interplay of children of both sexes and even though every once in a while gender issues naturally come up, she has managed the emergence of school leadership amongst both male and female children in ways that the best human gets the leadership mantle.It is interesting, Ebiai says, to note that most of the academically sound and eloquent students in the schools she has managed have always been girls and her duty as a nurturer at that level has always been to empower such young girls through personal example, close monitoring and encouragement in ways that make them realize that no aspiration is off limits. While not neglecting the male students, she has been able to impart gender parity ideas, as a leader in her own rights.As one that has been in the school system all her career life, she believes that school administrators are better positioned to take up the reorientation of generations that will make gender parity a given and not something to be seen as needing extra push and series of advocacies. She believes if the education ministry can adopt policies that would require certain values to return to the school system, we might just not be talking about gender parity as things would sort themselves out naturally.When excellence and merit determine which student gets to be a leader in any capacity, they would graduate with the can-do spirit irrespective of gender. She advocates emphasis given to capacity building in students, irrespective of gender, would be better for society because competition would be cerebrally motivated and not based on some mundane considerations that dont help society to grow. When it comes to promotions for her subordinates, she does not in any way look at favouring a woman because having risen through excellence and diligence, she had passed over being sentimental about service delivery. To her, the most competent and ready to work gets the position. She sees no gender; all she sees at all times is intelligence and readiness to apply it for the best results. She therefore believes that if politicians focus on the most competent, and women trust their capacity, they should join and struggle on equal terms because brilliant leadership has no gender and she is in a position to affirm that having groomed and watched thousands of students in school and in life generally.Mary Ikoku, a Media and Communications Specialist, and Gender and Development expert decided to immerse herself in building a foundation for women to take their rightful space in the leadership evolution processes in the country. As a founder of Emerge Women, an organization working to get more women into elective and appointive positions, she feels that women should be in the vanguard of helping to lift each other. The puerile rhetoric that women do not like each other is very fallacious because she has been working through the grassroots politically and understands that it is never a case of women hating each other but circumstances, both social and economic conspiring to affect women.Her One Million Women March has recorded some successes politically. The advocacy for collective action by women to help women access leadership positions has yielded beautiful, even if little results, so far. In Lagos state for instance, they were able in the last election to work consistently for two women with great success. To Mary, the issue has nothing to do with hatred. Rather she would believe that some men that lack confidence are the ones who are scared of competent and vocal women and they do a lot to discourage them from accessing leadership.She believes that with her experience in the Nigerian political space, financial capacity and ignorance of workable political strategies are the odds against most women. She believes that as the most vibrant and powerful voting bloc, if women can re-strategize and work together, they would do better in accessing leadership. She is not being hypothetical here because her experience in political strategizing has worked for both men and women in equal measure. Catching them young is one of the mantra of her foundation. They are grooming and mentoring younger girls in schools to seek leadership at that level.In the course of her leadership training, she noticed a profound sense of withdrawal form female students. She recounted an experience that touched her deeply, when some school head girls were asked whether they would venture into active politics after school, there was a negative reply, whereas the boys had already started nurturing their political ambitions; and were at that level aspiring to be future governors or senators and even presidents.What this means is that the girl child at that level believes she can be a leader in school but scared of leading outside. This is exactly how the female apathy starts.
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