The Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General in Lagos, in collaboration with Access Bank Plc and Idea Builders Initiative, launched the 2015 International Women’s Month on March 5 with films, a panel discussion and a theatrical performance aimed at increasing women’s civic, corporate and political engagement in Nigeria showcasing the theme: “Make It Happen.”  Over 200 women participated in the program that took place at the Access Bank Headquarters.

International Women’s Day is observed yearly around the world to celebrate women and to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the history of their countries and communities. The IWD encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way and for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.

The U.S. Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins opened the event with remarks focusing on women’s role as civic leaders and political actors.  He noted that Nigeria will be better for it, if women are given more opportunities to participate in governance at all levels. The Public Diplomacy Officer, Rhonda J. Watson introduced a film about the first black woman to run for the office of President of the United States, Shirley Chisholm. 

A Twitter Forum program sent out live Tweets throughout the program. Women from eleven other countries were able to participate in the program gthrough the Twitter platform. The program also featured a panel discussion with speakers, including: Toyosi Akerele, Olajumoke Adenowo, Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Fela Durotoye, Amaechi Okobi and Ope Wemi-Jones, Access Bank executives.

One of the panelists, Akerele, who doubles as the CEO of Rise Network called on the older women in the society to mentor the younger ones, adding that the younger generation should submit themselves to such mentoring opportunities. For her part, Adenowo lamented that there were economic constraints negatively impacting against women, discouraging then from taking the lead on the political scene.  Renowned motivational speaker Durotoye gave remarks on gender inequality in the corporate environment,  while Adesuwa insisted that women are at a vantage position to “Make it Happen” in the Nigerian situation.

Access Bank, Plc. co-sponsored the event as part of its ‘W’ Initiative, which demonstrates Access Bank’s commitment to enhancing the economic and lifestyle status of women in Africa and expanding the services threshold to encapsulate what matters most to women, thus promoting financial inclusion.

The program was held in partnership with Idea Builders Initiative, a leading NGO that is dedicated to enabling women to see, understand, claim and demand their rights to economic freedom, gender equity, social justice and political inclusion.  The program concluded with a theatrical performance piece from the play HEAR WORD!  directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa and produced by iOpenEye.  The play shared a true-life story of inequality and injustice facing Nigerian women in order to examine the causes and effects of the lack of female support and leadership in our society.

Ibrahim Olalekan is a media writer and specialist. His enormous task as journalist has earned him media space in some leading online newspapers. Aside being a seasoned journalist, Olalekan has keen interest in advocacy, rural development and politics. Olalekan is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, and can be reach via: ibrahimolalekan001@yahoo.com or +2348101988313 and @lekanpaul

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