Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija: AWLO raising the next generation of female leaders

The 8th Global Conference of the African Women in Leadership Organisation with the theme “We’ve Got the Power” held at the Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City, Washington DC, USA from the 17th – 21st August, 2016.
Conferees arrived the conference on the 17th of August and a welcome cocktail was held on the 18th . The conference was officially opened on the 19th  August, 2016 by Chief (Mrs.) Opral Benson, CON, Chairperson, Board of Trustees of AWLO and the Founder/ President of AWLO,  Hon. Elisha Attai  warmly welcomed all delegates.

He reiterated the fact that African Women in Leadership Organisation remains strong and resolute in their commitment to achieving a bold platform for appraising the performance of our female leaders in government, politics, entrepreneurship, entertainment, education and other fields of endeavor. He stated that it is also the fervent hope of AWLO to see young girls go out and grab the world by the lapels as prescribed by the words of Maya Angelou, "Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." This encapsulates the idea behind AWLO in its theme "WE'VE GOT THE POWER"

The conference showcased different sessions which included the plenary, panel discussions, inauguration of the AWLO Youth Council, the Youth Summit  and the Awards and Gala night.

The Conference session, moderated by Prof. Uduak Archibong, was chaired by Almas Jiwani and was enriched by the innovative contributions of erudite and well versed speakers which included Eveline Pierre who spoke on the topic – ‘She Got the Power’, Mr. Jeffry O. who spoke on the topic – ‘Building a Sustainable  Future’, Ms. Angelle Kweme – ‘Harnessing the Power of Change’, Jacque Johnson – ‘Women Empowering Women – Taking the Limits off to bring Unity, Prosperity and Equality to all and Mrs. Ibim Sementari – Finding and Owning your Voice as a Woman Leader.

 The Youth Summit was chaired by Dr. Violet Arene and issues affecting the growth and development of African youths were identified, discussed and solutions generated. 

The key note address was presented by Chief Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, who dispassionately, but convincingly set the tone of the conference in a thought provoking manner. We also had Honourable Senator Donzella James, welcoming delegates to the conference and charging us to arise to the challenge of raising the next generation of female leaders.

Resolutions and Recommendations:

The Global Conference, upon due consideration of and deliberation on all issues raised in the sessions, unanimously observed and resolved as follows:

1.      That women have the capacity to break glass ceilings and attain whatever heights they wish to reach.

2.      That the world now recognises that women have the capacity and mettle to head governments. We have examples of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, President Joyce Bander of Malawi, Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and other women who came before them.

3.      That we should seize the opportunity to ride upon the shoulders of these great women and take bold steps into the political, social and economic spheres of the continent so we can occupy our rightful place.

4.      That there is need to groom and raise the next generation of female leaders by:

a.      Taking off the limitations that hold them down

b.      Tapping into their talents so they can reach their full potentials.

c.       Breaking and changing the stereotype which holds women, as only women, mothers and wives. We must be identified for who we are and the value we add to life.

d.      Supporting our young girls to achieve their goals and encouraging them to make a difference in their immediate environment.

e.      Encouraging the female child to choose her profession freely and to pursue her chosen career.

f.        Organising more leadership training and or coaching for women and girls.

5.      That women leaders already in positions of authority, should mentor, handhold and assist their protégées to success.

6.      That Nations and governments in the African Continent should increase the quota of women in politics.

7.      That pressure groups be set up to lobby for women.

8.      That women in leadership positions should support the rights of other women to rise to leadership positions.

9.      That we shall advocate for the repeal and or amendment of laws which seek to limit women or that work against their attaining their potentials.

10.  That we shall advocate for finance institutions to allow women access zero or minimal interest loans to enable them start up businesses.

11.  That we shall continue to celebrate and recognise women as achievers.

12.  That women be given opportunities and or chances to demonstrate their capacities in their different offices and careers and not be treated as 2nd class or inferior to men.

13.  Women should know and understand that they are effective negotiators, hardworking, committed, diligent and extremely loyal, all ingredients for resounding success.

14.  Every African woman is relevant and thus should refuse to relent but boldly take steps to reach her goals even if she falls and or fails. She must keep getting up until she gets to her destination.

15.  To continue networking, collaborating with women of like minds, uniting together to achieve progress, knowing that divided, we can never achieve gender equality.

16.  To be able to raise the next generation of female leaders, we must be intentional, systematic, consistent and move with speed as our generation will not forgive us if we neglect this role.

17.  We resolve to stop paying lip service, leaving things to others to take the lead. We further resolve to take the lead, invest and make a difference in the lives of women who are in need.

18.  That each and every one of us has the power to effect real and meaningful change in our communities by using the skills we already have as women.

19.  That African women are leaders and women of courage, strength, tenacity and purpose and thus women must stick together and make lasting impacts in the hearts and lives of people they meet.

20.  We should utilize every interaction with our children as an opportunity we have, as mothers, to change the world.

21.  Knowing that as women we are home builders, nation leaders and community pillars thus our greatest resource is ourselves, our family and our neighbourhood.

22.  Women have to stand out in refined leadership standards, in virtues of integrity and focus, refusing to compromise our values for therein lies our undeniable strength, resoluteness, resilience and determination.

Once again, in aiming for the best, African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO) has achieved "The Great" at the launch of its widely advertised maiden Youth Council and Mentorship Summit, held in Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria on the 24th, October 2016. 

Africa, and indeed the world cannot help, but associate AWLO with being consistently innovative, visionary, deeply committed and highly focused on its vision and goals. 

Great and accomplished personalities and speakers added colour, class, elegance and glamour to the event in the likes of Chief (Dr.) Opral Mason Benson,  CON, Chairperson, Board of Trustees of AWLO, HRH Erelu Abiola Dosunmu; Erelu of Egbaland, Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos, Dr. Violet Arene (Founder of Voice of Eve TV Program), Mrs Remi Abere, Mrs Florence

Olumodimu ( Founder Life Developers Network), Mrs Toun Okewale Sonaiya, MD WFm 91.7, Mr. Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, Miss Tubosoye Charles Dokubo, the reigning Ms. Africa Ambassador United Nation, Frank Edwards and a host of other dignitaries. 

On hand to receive the dignitaries was the amiable and indefatigable host, Founder/President of AWLO, Hon. Elisha Attai, and the Lagos State Chapter Executive Council and members of AWLO; who warmly welcomed all delegates. In pursuit of AWLO's vision, he expressed the fervent desire of AWLO to raise strong, ambitious, fearless and bold youths in preparation for leadership roles in the country, Africa and the world. 

Our little Princess Daniella Emmanuel who read the AWLO Pledge, mesmerized the audience with her elocution and set the tone for what was to be an invigorating and highly educative summit. 

Dr. Violet Arene, AWLO's Global Youth Matron, took the audience through the blueprint of this great vision, capping it with the phrase that It Is Time For Women To Rise Up. She is passionate in her advocacy for the girl child, the youth and women with the dream that women should empower themselves, be adequately equipped and motivated to be great. Her ideas for the establishment of of a finishing leadership school for women was well received and applauded. 

HRH Erelu Abiola Dosunmu, Erelu of Egbaland, Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos, in her keynote speech captured the audience with her glamorous carriage and Royal presence. Surely, her advice of "Make The Best Of Who You Are" resonated deeply in the psyche of everyone present. She called on everyone to practice diligence and perfection in any vocation; be it housekeeping, driving, tailoring, mother, trader, entrepreneur, MD, wife or a professional. In a profound way, she elaborated the importance of moving on in life irrespective of the errors or mistakes of the past. Continuous education she emphasized, remains the key to self development and went further on to surprise the crowd on her desire to study Philosophy in the University, even at the age of 70yrs. 

In the words of Mrs Remi Abere, the woman who shared her feat of climbing the Kilimanjaro mountain twice, at the age of 51yrs; It is important for women to overcome challenges in life, especially if it is said, 'It cannot be done.' She led us to know that the prosperity of a nation, is measured by the prosperity of its women. And it therefore lies within us, to push ourselves, be self motivated, believe in ourselves and aim for the dreams of our heart. She gave a personal experience of motivation and challenged that if we hope enough, believe enough, our biggest driver should be that when someone says you cannot do something, you forge ahead, go forward and prove them wrong.

 Mrs Florence Olumodimu, Founder Life Developers Network stirred the minds of participants with the topic, "Personal Branding For The Next Generation Female Leaders." Impressing that Personal Brand is your reputation, she further prompted the youths to note down six words..that describes them.  Now, we know that your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room. Learn elocution, how to communicate and connect with people for effective leadership. She stressed on meaningful, impactful, deliberate, and guided branding; to avoid giving anyone else the power to brand us. Citing popular and successful examples like Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Job and the young Malala Yousafzai; whose age was not an impediment to winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Her parting words were "get ready to use technology, invest in knowledge, have an online presence, volunteer, and do things tied to your passion.
The only male speaker, Mr Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, spoke on "Catalyzing Young African Women: Get Ready To Run." And what better advice considering the people who will stand as stumbling blocks to the aspirations and dreams of achievers using culture, religion, tradition or self inadequacies as excuses. Youths, all you can do is run from career success derailers; who steer you off course in the quest for fulfilling your purpose in life. 

Mrs Toun Okewale Sonaiya, MD WFm 91.7 reminded the youths of the importance of self confidence, urging a reorientation of raising the male child in domestic skills to be self relevant in life, without subjecting the females to patriarchal roles of submission into gender specific chores. 

Hallelujah! Let the Young Women of Worth (YWOW) shout aloud in jubilation at the awesome, awesome performance of Frank Edwards, the international gospel sensation who thrilled us all into soulful worship and roof-raising praise. I doubt anyone was seated during his ministration. Thanks also to Cynthia, and David Daniels (Didi Moon) for gracing the event with their presence.

Special mention to the moderators, Mmanti Umo, Udeme Etibensi, the media partners, Mrs Maureen Omeibe, Dr. Violet Arene and Hulder Lynnes. Our indefatigable and special Mummy Opral Benson deserves our accolades and appreciation. We love you, Ma.

We cannot but acknowledge and applaud the AWLO Rivers State Contribution to the success of this event, who was ably represented by Mrs Ajoke Enebeli, the State Coordinator, who also opened the conference with a prayer. You are so very appreciated for the passion and drive that you exude! Thank you very much.

Life is said to be a succession of lessons and some never to be understood, but appreciated . It is also, often said that our best successes often come after our greatest disappointments. AWLO has had no disappointments thus far, we are forging ahead in greatness as African Women Of Worth! 

In closing, this quote aptly summarizes the conference experience that "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

AWLO thanks all participants and our gratitude goes to all who have sacrificed their time, finances, most especially our able media partners and sponsors, who have been instrumental to the success of this event and we pray that you will be bountifully rewarded.

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