Asmau Benzies Leo, a certified trainer and development consultant, is the executive director Centre for Non-violence and Gender Advocacy in Nigeria. She is also the convener of Peace Hub-Nigeria, an online campaign on the engagement of young people in governance, democracy, and peace building and Women in Public Service Initiative (WIPSER). In this interview with ENE OSANG, speaks on the recently lunched women organisation Female Wave of Change among others.
You are the Country Coordinator and Ambassador for the Northern Nigeria Chapter of the Female Wave of Change. What is it all about?
Female Wave of Change (FWoC) is a global network of women leaders who are committed to influencing change in their communities, women who are working to transform the world into a better place.
The organization was founded by Ms. Ingun Bol de Bock from the Netherlands in January 2017. Ingun believes that every woman has all it takes to create that feminine energy, those feminine values that can change the world for the better.
We need women to take responsibility to create their own future and a future for the next generation. So, FWoC offers women a platform to connect globally, to share knowledge and experiences, embrace change and create opportunities together.
In the past year we have built a large network of international Ambassadors and Wavemakers who are now in over 35 countries across the world and the number is still increasing. The countries include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, USA, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Australia, Brazil, Belgium.
In this changing world, we need to join forces. Women can uplift each other and make sure our goals will be realized faster and in the best way possible.
Building bridges between other international women organizations will serve to open up a large network and expand the power of our voices.
Globally, Female Wave of Change offers women a safe place where they can be their authentic self, be economically empowered and grow into the change-makers who will shape the world.
The aim of the network is to create a better and more sustainable world where every woman can exercise her right, live in a peaceful and prosperous world. A constituency where women become more confident, make their voices heard, where they are present and visible at decision making levels that affect them and their families.
FWoC is a network that celebrates diversity amongst the various groups of women from all backgrounds, culture and races.
We create an environment where every woman is unique and treated with respect. It offers equal chances to women from all walks of life, to develop their talents and to be all that they desired to be. This in turn stimulates women to be pro-active and effect the needed change thereby women can start dreaming again and have the courage to dream big.
What prompted the launch of the Nigerian chapter?
Women in Nigeria no doubt have been subjugated by culture and patriarchy and have generally become a disadvantaged group in the society compared to their male counterparts for reasons beyond their making and control.
There are obviously no deliberate policies to address violence against women and discrimination in Nigeria, yet some obnoxious traditions, habits and ideas about women inhibit their progress and active participation in national affairs not to think of involvement in International affairs.
In spite of the seemingly remarkable achievements recorded by women the world over, Nigerian women remain severely constrained in their efforts to play a major and decisive role in the socio-political and economic development of the nation.
Women empowerment provides adequate opportunities for women to develop their potential and contribute to the development of the nation in particular and the world in general.
It has been observed that women have been disempowered since pre-colonial times. Efforts made so far towards women empowerment has yielded little results hence the launch of the Female Wave of Change which is an attempt to re-emphasize and re-awaken the mind of humanity on the undisputable role of women in the society.
Female Wave of Change is presently represented in over 35 countries and has a growing network of Ambassadors, Wavemakers and a Circle of Wise Women, a dedicated group of women from across the globe, including Africa, working to implement the goal of the network in their various capacities. The launch of the Nigerian Chapter is therefore timely and commendable owing to the strategic position Nigeria occupies in Africa, if Nigerian women can get it right every other Nation in Africa will align automatically.
It is therefore necessary for the launch of FWoC Nigeria because we are aware that we live in a world that is ever-changing and interconnected and the dynamics of change is exponential. So, Nigeria cannot afford to be lagging behind. We to contribute to the growing wave of change sweeping the world.
As an Ambassador of the Female Wave of change in Nigeria, It is my singular honour to experience the launch of the Nigerian Chapter.
It will suffice you to know that Nigeria has two chapters, the Northern Chapter, which I oversee, and one other in the Southern region.
What wave of Change is the organisation bringing on board as regards women development?
We believe that if we want to effect any change and create a better world for each and every woman, we will need to use our feminine values and our feminine energy. An authentic feminine leadership system is the way to go in order to make progress and create a better and more sustainable world for all, so as to build a legacy we can all benefit and be proud of. We are presently focusing on creating safe spaces where women can support each other to build their leadership and communication skills and be economically empowered and ultimately evolve into the change-makers who will Reshape the Future. Together we can actively create a more sustainable world based on more human values of compassion, collaboration and confidence building: a place where we celebrate diversity and create equal opportunities for everyone.
Nigeria boasts of many women-focused organisations yet issues affecting women’s growth has persisted. Why do you think this will be difference?
Female Wave of Change is not like any other NGO. It is a movement, a network that is open to supporting women not by imposing anything on them but working side by side to addressing their needs through a collaborative approach.
We often utilise the bottom – Top approach for problem solving. The issues have persisted because a lot of women hardly discover themselves and find it difficult to be their authentic selves.
Female Wave of Change Offers women of all walks of life a safe space where they can grow into the leaders and change makers who take responsibility for their future, the future of their community and of the world.
It also provides educative platform for self-transformation. The issue of transparency and accountability is one of the greatest undoing of many organisatons. As for the Nigerian Chapter of Female Wave of Change we will strive to be open, transparent and accountable in our dealings.
With women still pushing to reach the top, they are faced with a range of challenges that many of their male counterparts don’t have an understanding of. It is these issues that are preventing many women from achieving their goal of becoming leaders in both the public and private sectors and diminishing their ability to get ahead.
Many organisations are established with good ideas but lack of funds sometimes constraints their growth. How will you get funding for your activities or is government supporting?
Presently, FWoC generates its fund internally through membership dues, services rendered like organizing workshops and asked participants to pay. It’s going to be focusing on what more can be done to raise the money. Focus on international expansion, on local activities, on education and building a strong legal and financial foundation under the organisation.
Where do you envision the organisation in the next five years?
In the next five years the intervention strategy of our programmes will be to build a gender-transformative, integrated approach which stimulates household and community dialogue to challenge gender norms that shape resource allocation patterns.
To engage Men in dialogues and as allies in preventing gender discrimination, identify role models and community influencers to act as change agents.
To grow women’s enterprise’s viability and profitability, while encouraging more women to start businesses. We will work to strengthen women’s leadership and voice in organisations and institutions that govern their sphere of influence.
When women have decision making opportunities and power, they can challenge the structural barriers that cause inequalities, can advocate for better business terms and services towards economic empowerment in favour of equitable opportunities for women.
Many people believe that most NGO’s are out for profit making than touching lives. What is your take on this?
For anything good, there is always a counterfeit. Yes there are some NGOs that are out just to make money but also there are many more that are doing great things and changing people’s lives and affecting their communities positively through their interventions.
NGOs are there to complement government in terms of service provision.
In Nigeria, the NGO sector or the Civil Society Organisations have done excellently well as watchdogs of the society by engaging in safeguarding human rights, entrenching democratic principles, eradicating, health intervention programs and the achievement of Peace and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The International Women’s Day celebration is fast approaching and Nigeria joins other countries to celebrate yearly. Is it worth celebrating?
The Female Wave of Change will be actively involved in the celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day with the theme: I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights. The theme is in line with the UNWomen’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Adopted in 1995 at the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.
The year 2020 is a pivotal year for advancing gender equality worldwide, as the global community takes stock of progress made for women’s rights since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action.
It will also mark several other galvanizing moments in the gender equality movement: a five-year milestone towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment.
In Nigeria, many events are been planned and the Female Wave of Change is equally going to be involved in the Inter-Generational Dialogue organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the Inter-Generational Walk by the various actors; Civil Society Organisations and United Nations agencies in Nigeria.