Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli. Image: Wikipedia
Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, MFR is a Co-Founder of Sahel Consulting and serves as its managing partner. She has 23 years of experience in international development, and through her work with Sahel has shaped agriculture strategy and policy in West Africa for a range of clients in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
She is also the co-founder of AACE Foods, a social enterprise which processes nutritious food made from the best of West Africa’s cereals, herbs, pulses and spices. She is the founder of LEAP Africa which works across Africa inspiring, empowering and equipping the next generation of dynamic, principled and innovative young leaders. In this interview, she speaks on the need to change the Nigeria education curriculum which she said poses danger to the lives of a Nigerian woman, girl child in ensuring she takes her place at the table.
What are your views about the Nigeria education curriculum and issues hampering quality of the girl child?
There are several issues to talk about. I have the two major angles and these are education and policy. Nigerian women today are scared to open a bank account for themselves and they are also know that if their husbands find out it will be trouble. What is happening in the society is so terrible what women have become. It is an atmosphere of fear for women. Some women are trapped in economic abusive relationship.
My first point is the fact that the educational system need to be changed. There is the book that says the father goes to and the mother clean the house. This is the ministry of education. Today my children’s book also have it. I know that we have many Influenced people in the country, we have to change the ministry of education curriculum. A father can stay in the home, there is nothing wrong with that. The efforts made by both the father and the mother are supposed to be such that can make a 5 years old boy say, my mother can not sit at home, she has to work. It is a very sad situation if it is only the fathers that are the soul providers.
I am an igbo woman and I have learned over to years to be able to work alongside my husband because I know that, together we can rise. That mindset is really important because together, we can rise. So, the impression that the men have that women should be a full time house wife is difficult in our environment especially with the economic downturn our country is experiencing, we have to do it together.
The second big change that we have to make is really around our policies in this country and I am so happy that His Royal Highness, Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi spoke about it during his speech. He actually instituted processes for women in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and that we are seeing those positive changes. The question is what will it take to have policies in place across board to ensure that women are treated as an important vessel? Not just in the banking sector but every other sector in the society and to ensure that we can make a place at the table because we know that there are qualified women who can sit at the table.
We have to provide mentorship, practical role models to serve as experience for our girls. It is not just about education and I so happy that there is a foundation, ASMAF that is already doing something in that regard. There is an urgent need to ensure that mentorship for the girl child is given a prominent attention. If we should stop at education and we do not get around access to good mentorship to be able to take a seat at the table, if they do not have network, they cannot get a job because our society still believe in network which they call man know man. We must be able to do women know women also.
We must ensure that we have women who have access to the wealth of the nation. And when they get into such position, they need mentorship to rise up. There is something I see in a corporate Nigeria and it is a global phenomenon. Women are optimal because they have the right. But, if you ask them if she would like to become a board member, she will say no because, she believes she should not be too successful because the society believes if she is too successful, she will not get an husband. If she is too successful, the husband may be afraid, if she is too successful, the society will say, I am not a good mother and wife. There are huge challenges which I have been made to deal with as a woman in the society. The truth is, how do we ensure that what women are going through, they are mentored to become successful people in the society?
Women need the company and support of the male champions in the society. We have people including Dr. Kolade and Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, among others,men who are ready to take a risk and fight for women because they know that they are their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. We need more male champions in the society. Women need the wing of both male and female champions to be trained and fly. We need more men who are willing to do out and fight for women. We need more male champions that would be able to promote women in the society. Any society that failed to harness the energy and creativity of women is a huge disadvantage in the global world. These are quotes from male champions. And that is the reality that we are faced with.
Engagement of female teachers
The country is faced with the challenge of engaging female teachers. More female teachers need to be educated and mentored in Nigeria. We have seen examples in the African countries. Currently Rwanda is having 57 percent of women in his parliament. And I know how many people have been to Rwanda? The strive that have been recorded in that country is a demonstration of what is possible when women are given opportunities to impact and be their best to achieve the highest potential. In Nigeria, we have many organizations including Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ. We have organization that are having mentioned programmes, we need more women in leadership and in the decision making. I know that I have given a few messages to all the stakeholders.
Message to the young girls
As young girl, it is important to be focused. The young girl should not fear. The Holy Bible has fear not written in it multiple times. I always warn young people not to be afraid of what anybody else thinks about you. Focus on what God has called you to be. Many young girls care so much about what their peers say about them. So many young people are struggling with the sense of identity. Know That’s has destined you for a purpose and that you have a great future. The second thing is that young people should take advantage of opportunity.
There are so many opportunities for young ladies today than what I experienced as a young child. With ASMAF, there are lots of opportunities that the girl child can take advantage of. These are opportunities are boundless which means that you can do so much with your life. Young people should also know that character is key to a successful position. You need a positive and strong character and the foundation of a strong character is integrity. There is need to have integrity. Your words should be your bond. It means young people should not cheat and lie.
As young people, there is pressure in all quarters to become evil in the society but if you possess good and strong characters and you are known to be an honest person, you will always succeed. Young people must also know that they are unique. There is nobody who is the same. No woman is the same, we are not the same size and colour. And what God has deposits in us is not the same. If we realize that we are unique, you can accomplish anything. And finally, service is so important. Young people must desire to serve because there is huge success is pure service to humanity. It will make tremendous influence in your life.
I set a foundation for women. That foundation depicts the role of a wife as a pillar of strength and someone who should possess wealth. And I started the organisation because I believed there were more to be done in terms of helping the female folks. When my brother was born, the whole Enugu came to our house because they believed that a male child is so important. There were prayers that mother should have a male child because the impression was that the son will succeed the family’s name. Thank God, that is changing in Nigeria today.
We must be begin to clean our mindset so that young women will believe that they can attain the highest potential. Every day, we build an alumni for the foundation because we realize that the biggest battle is the mind. Young people should be focused to ensure that they achieve their God’s given potential. The older people should also know that they must set up a legacy that would bring about positive changes forever.
They should think about what they will be remembered for and how they positively change the society. Older people must be conscious of what the younger generation will say about them. They should commit the rest of their days to fighting for equity because that is the key to the Nigeria’s future. You must fight about gender discrimination. You must ensure that we leave a legacy in this country, so that in ten years from now, we have female governor, female president, female vice chancellor, there will be more female CEOs. We must plant a seed that can transform the future of Nigeria.