Until recently, Bukola Latinwo, Accounts Payable officer at Sahara Group, thought she had most of her female colleagues virtually figured out. “Some were friends, some were workmates, others colleagues and some were so high ranking, they fell outside the remit of my thinking!” remarked Latinwo.
But when Sahara Group held its first ever fully fledged celebration of International Women’s Day, a curtain was lifted not just for her but for the hundreds of women who held “sisterly” meetings and also reached out to young girls through empowerment seminars as part of the celebration.
In keeping with the IWD 2018 campaign theme: #PressforProgress, time and care was taken to create an atmosphere and craft conversations that were most pertinent to the female experience within the corporate structure of the leading energy and infrastructure conglomerate.
A roundtable discussion, titled: “Celebrating Extraordinary Women – A Seminar for Sahara Women by Sahara Women,” was held in the company’s board room. Topics of conversation ranged from striking a work/life balance, power dressing and the young working mum experience.
Chidilim Menakaya Head, Human Resources Strategy, said: “We thought it would be best to draw out speakers from the rich pool of phenomenal women in our workforce. We set up a small committee of women from a pretty wide spectrum in terms of age and rank and came up with a list of women we’d most like to hear from and on what subjects.”
A recurring observation from most women in attendance seemed to be the universality of the female struggle in domestic and professional life. Pearl Uzokwe, one of the facilitators, said: “I think we were all really struck by the sameness and diversity in our challenges and aspirations.”
Another attendant remarked that it was especially gratifying to hear heartfelt and relatable narratives expressed by some of the highest ranking women within the organization.
“I gained more introspection on what it means to be a women in power than ever before. Placed in the wider context of #PressforProgress, it got me thinking about ways of striking a work life balance, a quest which remains challenging mostly for women in most formal sectors of the economy.”
Sahara women lit up Lagos, Accra, Dubai, Dar es Salaam, Geneva, Abidjan, Singapore, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Tema with their sunshine yellow t-shirts, which reinforced the #PressforProgress theme and Sahara Group’s commitment to gender equality. The empowerment seminars at Tema Secondary School in Ghana and Kigamboni Secondary School in Tanzania left scores of the female students inspired and determined to pursue their dreams.
Sahara recently partnered with Zuriel Oduwole a 15-year-old young filmmaker and girl education advocate to empower 90 girls in the art of filmmaking in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The Group continues to support various interventions aimed at women empowerment.
According to a UN Women article published just ahead of IWD, only one in four parliamentarians worldwide are women and it will be 2086 before we close the gender pay gap going by current trends.
The agency goes on to state: “IWD is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with all those fearless women standing up for gender equality, and spotlight those who often pass unnoticed.”
The general consensus from attendees was that Sahara Group remains a highly conducive environment in which women can nurse and realize their ambitions without necessarily having to sacrifice the things they aspire to in their personal lives.
But the work is never complete and Sahara Group’s celebration of IWD on the grandest and most meaningful scale yet means that many more women within the organization are alert to the travails of women outside of their daily orbit.
Remarked MIS Junior Analyst Manuala Bamgbose-Martins: “It is no longer possible to be inured to hard facts about the plight of women across all regions.”
Such facts might include one in which UN Women posits that the gender gap in poverty is as high as 22% for the 25-34 age group in the “Turning Promises into Action Report” it published this year.
Moroti Adedoyin-Adeyinka, CEO of Asharami Synergy, who also spoke at the event, concluded by saying: “IWD is important but every day should be the day of the woman. I knew I had to be part of this event because once again it shows that the group is committed to pushing the gender equality agenda according to the UN SDG mandate. We are doing so much more than paying lip service to the gender parity discourse.”
Consistency in messaging, visible activism and formal advocacy by corporate organizations such as Sahara Group and the women who run them make the prospect of realizing these goals by 2030 ever more credible and much closer to the realm of every working woman’s possibility.