Founder of The Women International (TWI), Chinny Okoye, believes self-improvement and personal development are a must for women to make more impact in society. She uses this platform to help women from all walks of life to build a better future. In this interview, she shares her views with Mabel Dimma on how more women can participate in politics and governance as well as TWIs’ achievements. Excerpt:
Can you tell us a bit about The Women International platform?
The Women International is a self-improvement and personal development platform dedicated to helping women from all walks of life build a better future for themselves, their families, and their business. The circle is a self-love and self-improvement initiative, a monthly social event/support group for women which takes place in Lagos and London. Our mission is to make the message and medicine of self-love accessible and attainable to African women worldwide so that within 3 generations we can create a world in which every girl is born connected to love and stays connected to that love, so that no matter what they face along their path in life they have the power within to stay true to and trust themselves, and to feel loved, supported, cared for, safe and strong. We touch on the physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and mental aspects of their lives.
We have a special edition circle coming up in Lagos themed ‘The 21st century “Self Love” Woman’, as we believe that a lack of self-love affects every aspect of a woman’s life; whatever the catalyst- relationship, career, health, money, a weak self-love is at the root. There will be four workshops that focus on the various aspects of a woman’s’ life which will take place in the morning and thereafter we will commence with ‘The Circle forum’ which will take place later that afternoon. Keturah King, the amazing media mogul and actress, will be the host as well as great speakers like Peace Hyde, Dr Vivian Oputa, Ndidi Nwuneli, Dr Ify Nwakwesi and Vanessa Banigo among others.
What has been your greatest achievement so far since you started TWI
I don’t think i would say i have had one greatest achievement; every step towards our goal, receive a positive feedback from a woman assist a woman to becoming the best version of herself…those are great achievements. Achievement is not what other people are seeing; our greatest achievements are the ones people can’t see. That feeling you have when you have touched a life no matter how small. It is actually indescribable!
In your view, how can governments at different levels affect the lives of women positively?
Women are in need of empowerment; we need the resources in order to improve and develop their skills. We need help with funding; there needs to be more resources and tools put in place to enable women get funding for their businesses. We need policies put in place that will help women go through issues like divorce smoothly. Right now women are literally left stranded with their children with nothing; that should not be the case and i can’t believe that in this 21st century such still happens. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals, development policies and actions that fail to take gender inequality into account or that fail to enable women to be actors in those policies and actions will have limited effectiveness and serious costs to societies. According to the UN, these seven interdependent priorities are the minimum necessary to empower women and alter the historical legacy of female disadvantage that remains in most societies of the world: strengthen opportunities for post-primary education for girls while simultaneously meeting commitments to universal primary education; guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights; invest in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls’ time burdens; guarantee women’s and girls’ property and inheritance rights; eliminate gender inequality in employment by decreasing women’s reliance on informal employment, closing gender gaps in earnings, and reducing occupational segregation; increase women’s share of seats in national parliaments and local governmental bodies; combat violence against girls and women.
You worked with the Centre for women in Politics and Public Policy in Boston. Here in Nigeria how can more women participate in politics and what do you think is the most limitations they face?
First of all, women need to be highly involved in the decision making of this country. Have you seen what women in Nigeria are able to accomplish on their own even with the little resources they have? It is indeed amazing! Research shows that women in politics raise issues that others overlook, pass bills that others oppose, invest in projects others dismiss and seek to end abuses that others ignore. Women need to be more aggressive in pushing for inclusion in politics. We need more of us in politics, with the right vision and process, more of us that are looking to lead the right way without being sucked into corruption and losing sight/track of what is important and what the focus really is. Women face a lot of limitations; I mean some people still laugh at the thought of a woman, especially a young woman saying she is interested in going into politics. At the individual level, women who are equally as qualified as men talk often themselves out of running for office out of the fear of maybe not being good or experienced enough and just merely being a woman with the fact that it isn’t a norm. At the institutional level, political bodies – like parties and legislatures – remain unwelcoming to female colleagues. At the socio-cultural level, the media – for example – focuses overwhelmingly on what a woman wears, her marital status or her voice, as opposed to her policy positions. The moment we begin to take women seriously and realise that they are indeed a strong part of building this country up, that is the exact moment this country will begin to improve.
How politically committed are you? Are you interested in going into politics?
Let’s just say I’m open to it; in Nigeria politics is not for the faint hearted. Right now I’m concentrating on improving and developing myself, if the need arises and i am called, then i will answer. I will be involved as much as i can, as I am very much eager to see this country improve and change for the better especially when it comes to women. Anything i can do to improve the lives of women in Nigeria for the better, I am here for that!
What do you think is the future of Nigerian women when compared to their counterparts abroad?
Nigerian women are rising! No matter what comes our way… we still rise! Everyday I am inspired by what a lot of our women are able to accomplish. We are strong, determined women, and very hardworking and we seem able to accomplish whatever we set our minds to do. The future is looking very bright and I am very hopeful; with all the organizations, platforms and initiatives being set up to empower the Nigerian woman I can tell you for free that we are moving in the right direction and when the time comes, we will make things happen!
Have you done anything with government women affair agencies?
No i haven’t as the need has not yet arisen but i definitely intend to in the future.
Tell us about the female owned companies you assist and manage their social media communities
TWI management agency is a social media management company, offering social media, search engine, and website design services. We create and manage social media campaigns for female owned businesses. Our company manages social media platforms on their behalf, using relevant social media marketing services to help businesses grow and meet their set goals.
What is your plan for the next two years regarding women?
For TWI to become a household name for women locally and internationally. The go to place to get inspiration, empowerment, and motivation, as well as the proper tools and resources to improve and develop oneself. We want to ensure that every woman is the best she can be in every aspect of her life financially, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.