American Civil Rights Activist and Baptist Minister, Reverend Jesse Jackson kicked off the event charging the participants to continue their various endeavours, ‘it is possible for a woman to become Nigeria’s President’ he stated.
In addition, the Keynote Speaker, Ben Murray Bruce, Chairman Silverbird Group challenged the delegates of the conference to make an impact in their immediate environment. He emphasized that, “We have fundamental problems, there is no point just talking about them, steps should be taken to solve these problems”.
Bruce shared his life experiences with the participants, recounting his experience in the Civil War to starting his career in entertainment. He highlighted that people like Obafemi Awolowo, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and James Brown have influenced his career. Jeffery Daniel of the hit music band, Shalamar, who accompanied Ben Bruce took a few minutes to encourage the women and pledge his support to making Nigeria a better place.
The Plenary session led to an inspiration Panel of change leaders tagged, ‘Inspire me: Everyday People impacting their world’. Rev. Dele George, MD, Little Saints Orphanage, Dr. Efunbo Dosekun, Chief Medical Director, Outreach Children’s Hospital, Mrs. Koko Kolango, Founder, Rainbow Book Club, Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO, Main One Cable Company and Mobolaji Akiode, Founder, Hope4Girls (H4G) Africa. All the speakers encouraged the women to step out of their comfort zones and seek creative ways in providing solutions to the many problems facing the Nigerian society.
Later on, Dr. Tony Rapu of the Freedom Foundation shared his work with rehabilitating individuals with addiction to drugs and the participants engaged him and other officials of the foundation on their work. With tears flowing freely and emotions unhindered, many more readily volunteered to work with the foundation towards achieving its goals.
The second day’s activities commenced with a quick recap of the highlights of Day 1 by Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Chairman, Accenture and Trustee of WIMBIZ. The Executive Secretary, Ini Onuk delivered an update on the activities held all through the year and plans for the year 2011 which will be the 10th year of the existence of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ) in Nigeria. She sited the key issue facing WIMBIZ, which is the lack of funding for their various programmes.
The first plenary session for the day was on ‘Raising Children in a Difficult World’. It not only stirred a lot of questions as regards to bringing up children in the jet age and era of misplaced cultural values, the speakers also advised women to ensure their children imbibed cultural values and are instilled with discipline from early ages whilst seeking spiritual guidance in home training.
Shortly afterwards, the women were educated on the investment opportunities available in the real estate industry and implored to be inquisitive about their stocks and investments. Mr Tunde Fowler, the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Internal Revenue was the most ‘controversial’ speaker as the issues of multiple taxation and corruption with taxpayer’s money, tax remittance and other tax-related issues attracted an avalanche of questions, experiences and commentaries in the session tagged, ‘Show Me the Money’. Whilst attempting to tackle the issues one after the other, Fowler gave a detailed explanation of Lagos State Government’s usage of tax income and took the participants through personal assessments and taxable finances. In the end, the women resolved to be more responsible with their taxes and to shun evasive tendencies.
This upbeat mood set the pace for the debate on ‘Do I Have to Be In Politics to Impact my World’ that followed. Here, the current statistics of 6% population of Nigerian women in political offices in Nigeria was highlighted. This figure is against the UN recommendation of 30% as Hon. Funmi Tejuoso and Hon. Jumoke Okoya – Thomas shared their experiences and encouraged more women to vie for political offices in future.
The conference ended with the very encouraging closing remarks of the Conference Chairperson, Hon. Justice Fati Abubakar who commended the initiative of WIMBIZ whilst Mrs Yewande Zaccheaus, WIMBIZ Chairperson, appreciated the presence of Hon. Justice Fati Abubakar, all speakers and delegated further challenging them to impact their world.
The WIMBIZ 2010 conference came on the heels of a hugely successful stakeholders’ forum co-organised by WIMBIZ with the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN and other Executives of the State in attendance. Governor Fashola, who was the Keynote Speaker at the 2009 Conference, had promised to meet with the women if they could make it happen. The Trustees and Members of the organisation, at that event engaged the Governor on challenges of doing business in Lagos State.
WIMBIZ has also just completed the maiden phase of her Mentoring Program where 36 young women were attached to mentors for a period of four months in two batches. The model was adopted from the Vital Voices Foundation Program for Women, pioneered by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
WIMBIZ Annual Conferences have become a reference point as an important gathering of the nation’s most powerful women in commerce and corporate Nigeria attracting international delegates from the world’s most influential corporations.