By Agatha Emeadi
Ifeoma Monye is the 65th president of International Women’s Society Nigeria, which she joined 20 years ago when she returned from the UK after her studies.
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In an investiture chat with her, she said, she is set to work on three agenda: “I am set to work on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM), Chess and Mentorship.”
Monye is also very ready to impact into young girls the opportunity to fly to various heights like her father who believed in girl-child education, empowerment and accomplishment.
What does ‘Breaking the Bias’, the topic for year 2022 International Women’s Day mean to you?
Break-the-bias, for me, refers to that which the society do which women are not considered to be a part of. Why are women being excluded from and how do we ensure that women come into those conversations and considerations? So, breaking the bias is one of the things we are doing in International Women’s Society (IWS); it is ensuring that we have more girls that are empowered and equipped in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We are spending money and time, giving girls scholarship, ensuring that they have school certificate to be able to go into the science and Technology programmes. We need more girls and women at such curricula. All such boil down to solution and innovation in the society. Then politics which is around the corner needs women to be involved in the game. Our voices need to be heard because nobody else knows the situation and what we go through if not that we are women. Then again, women are more empathetic, they understand the issues and look at them more wholistically. It is also important that as women we realize that we have the power to vote the women into various offices.
In the spirit of the International Women’s Day, whose hands are you holding as women, where are your wrappers to cover other women according to Ekiti First Lady, Mrs Bisi Fayemi?
We are holding many hands especially those of the widows. We do a lot for them because the society and culture make them to face a lot of challenges; so, we empower them to make sure they are independent and take care of their children. I will ensure that not only do they have education, but to be mentored because they need the right role models to hold their hands and tell them the right way to go. Again, we have a home for abandoned children in Ijebu-Ode; ensuring that even though they have been abandoned, but they have a family with IWS.
Do you get these charity works done in rural communities or mostly an Island stuff?
We are doing something with Makoko; I went there in November and was shocked that there are a lot to be done. One of the things we will do today is to sponsor a 20-seater boat to Makoko for them to be able to send the kids in and out for school. Yet again, it is not to give them fish, but to teach them how to fish which is sustainable.
What are some of the programmes you proposed for your tenure as the 65th president of IWS?
IWS has six existing projects already. There is a programme for the market women which is already in existence in Yaba which ensures that their children have the right foundation. We have skill acquisition centre in Lekki where we teach ladies catering and event planning, fashion designing, adult education and Information Technology (IT). Our scholarship programme for the abandoned children’s home in Ijebu-Ode and our Widow’s Trust Fund; all these are all on-going. Now for my tenure, I mapped out three major areas that I will focus on; and they are STEM, Chess-game, and Mentorship. Chess as a game is very important because most people do not realize the skills-set they have, how they can strategize and be steps ahead their opponent. How one thinks of steps ahead is what we want to introduce to schools which they will use in different areas of their lives in future. Then, mentorship is not about giving them the needed education, but to understand the issues they have and how to go about it.
Where are you coming from, what is that background that would lead IWS?
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I am a strategist and management consultant; I am a partner at Ciuci Consulting; a management consulting firm. I studied Economics and Politics in UK and moved back to Nigeria 20 years ago; I wanted to work for the United Nations, coming up with policies that affect businesses, but realized that things are slightly different here; I went into management consulting; also worked with Mrs. Funke Osibodu where I learnt from her. I moved over to Minaj where I was the head of strategy for the media, real estate etc. So, my background has been that of Strategy, Management and Consulting.
Women have been struggling politically over the years. How can women break the bias in this dispensation?
It starts with the home; if women are respected in the homes; it will improve a lot of issues at hand. The question is how do the husbands, fathers and sons treat the mothers, daughters, girls and wives; it will translate into our every other spheres? It is important we start having these conversations at home; we need the men in our lives like our husbands, brothers and sons to be part of this conversation and get them by our side because they have a role to play.
What do you think about that popular saying; women are their own enemies?
I honestly do not think that women are their own enemies. How have we all progressed? Guess we saw some females who have climbed the ladder and that inspired us differently. We, women are the ones who give inspiration to young girls because we are not enemies to ourselves, but great pillars of support especially to the younger generation. When other people say it, it is to our disadvantage and the earlier we realize that we are the ones to create an enabling environment and work together in sisterhood, the better for us all.
Now, the gender bill is raging at the house, what is your take and what do you think government should do?
It comes back to us having this conversation and seeing our importance as women; but at the same time, it is very significant that we keep emphasizing our importance through different ways, whether in rallies, protests or conversations etc; and it does not stop us from putting women in power. If we see a woman that is worthy of our support, we should support and elect her; we have the power and number. We need to realize that whether the bill is rejected or not, we can still vote in as many women as possible because we have the power and the number.
What is your personal leadership style?
When I joined IWS, I tried to survey and see how things are done first, I wanted to understand why people did things in different ways. I also like to understand people and environment because I am a stickler for excellence, I do not like excuses. When I understand issues and expect explanations, I am looking for solutions, but once we all come up with an agreement, then we go. I like to be professional, like excellence. We will not be charity givers, but expect excellence in all endeavours.
Is there anything different that your predecessors did not do that you want to bring on board?
We already have our six-set goals, but I feel with the advancement of technology, how and where the world is navigating to, we need to equip our girls to learn coding, programming, IT skills in schools both on the Island and mainland; this is the opportunity to show them the way. Again, IWS cannot do it all, so we are partnering with other organizations that will join efforts with us and do it. We already have Chest-to-front which is already at Oshodi, Yaba, Makoko etc. Let us all work together. We are willing to spread, but are there people on ground who will spread with us?
How was growing up and family setting?
My father is Senator Mike Ajegbo, I am the first child and has never felt that I should have been a boy. We have conversations and I was part of decision-makings and policies. I grew up feeling I could do anything I wanted because of the opportunity given to me. I got the best education, I do have a brother who is the last in the family, when he came it was not like oh, we now have a boy; I am still the first and everything still passes through me; it is quite different from a lot of parents and that is the teaching we are trying to embark on. I appreciate I was able to do what I wanted to do and till date, my father still allows me do what I want to do.