Miracle Nwankwo

Women around the world are linked by a similar pursuit which is their aspiration for the comfort and welfare of their children and families. They all hope for a world and a future where their children can have improved lives than they have had without war, disease, poor education, injustice, and the destruction of the environment.

To this end, about 99% of women all over the world are working tirelessly for the future they have hoped for. In different spheres of life and at all levels, at the center of every woman’s labor is a purpose driven agenda to make the world a better place. This is why they are the world’s best bet in solving global challenges including climate change.

We have seen situations and ordeals change for the better when a woman comes into the equation, this might still be the only solution to the problems in the world as many have predicted. The earlier the world begins to realize this, the better for all of us.

Climate Change according to the UN is the defining issue of the present and we are at a defining moment. Although the impacts of climate change are felt by everyone but at the time not equally. The fact has been that the vulnerable people of the society are the most affected, both in developed or developing countries. However, women bear the greater brunt from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty and due to existing roles, responsibilities and cultural values.

In a world where global warming and environmental degradation continues to threaten the pursuit of the sustainable development goals, women have maintained dedicated effort towards influencing health, food security, nutrition, production, and people’s income. This is a pointer that they are not only well suited to find solutions to prevent further degradation and adapt to the changing climate, they also have a vested interest in doing so due to their customary roles in agricultural production, and as the procurers of water, cooking fuel, and other household resources. For this reason, many including experts have come to the conclusion that in tackling the challenges of climate change empowering women to safeguard the environment is the very first step to consider.

Investing in women brings back multiple benefits, because it extends to their families, communities and the countries where they reside.  Extensive studies have proven this in many ways. A particular study on women in leadership found that countries with higher female parliamentary representation are easily given to legislative frameworks and resolutions that build environmental development. To further buttress this, some data have suggested that when women have rights to land and many other amenities, they utilize resources sustainably. Therefore, involving women in climate change solutions is a guarantee to adequate safe drinking water, food, clean air, and shelter for the present and future generation. 

Women have priceless and helpful knowledge of societal values, if harnessed will bring about lasting solutions to climate change. This fact has been revealed by various studies and researches on women who have also advised the involvement of women as decision makers when plans on resilience and disaster are undertaking, because they adapt easily to the effects. Their contributions as policy makers, educators, stakeholders, caregivers will go a long way in averting the problem of climate change.

In the light of this, it is important to note that opportunities for enlightenment and sensitization should be focused on women. More gender-friendly (sponsored) training and workshops should be facilitated so that women can acquire the requisite knowledge and gain skills necessary to combat climate change. With their inherent ability to instill knowledge it can be guaranteed that the knowledge will be extensively used. On the other hand, tackling climate change with a gender lens, automatically address women’s rights, tackling rather than exacerbating existing gender inequalities.

Despite the patriarchal nature of most Middle East countries, women from the region have been able to carve a niche for themselves in almost all facets of life.

Among these women is Iba Masood, a successful woman in STEM. Iba is a Pakistani woman born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. She is the co-founder and CEO of a project-planning and recruiting company called Tara AI.

Iba is a hardworking and purpose-driven woman, who currently heads the evolution of TARA Intelligence Inc. in Silicon Valley. Her company has recently raised $3 million in new seed funding from YCombinator, Moment Ventures, GSV and others. Prestigious organisations like; Ford, Cisco and Orange Telecom are using artificial intelligence from Tara AI to find top coders for freelance software projects.

She was thirteen-years-old when she bore the dream that births her present status. She had always wanted to own a tech-related company in the United States, one that would come to being with her ignition, and grow to become a huge, useful, successful, and resourceful to the technology industry.

In pursuit of this dream, she went on to study and at the age of nineteen, Iba gained a Bachelor’s in Finance and was the top of her class. Unfortunately, she had graduated at a time when the world was hit with global economic recession. Despite her good grades, getting hired was a huge problem for Iba, so she was unemployed for a long time. However, she stayed focused and continued to apply jobs while looking out for opportunities to begin creating the future she had dreamt of. 

Finally, her dedicated efforts began to bear fruits when she was accepted into a trainee program at McKinsey which paved the way for her new role at GE. Although on getting to GE she was offered a very low salary, she was not perturbed, rather, finding herself in a job that pushed her towards her career extremely challenged her. The job exposed her career instability, which made her realized that she needed to grow and gain capability in order to support herself financially, do work that was rewarding to her, and have the potential for growth and development in her future.

So she stayed focused in gaining stability which was her topmost priority at the time and it pushed her to take premeditated risks to attain her goals. She foresaw the beauty in taking risks because of the potential reward that it could bring. She had resolved that if she was not getting what she expected she would go the extra mile to get to her dreams.

Iba founded her first company at age 21, which started out as a career platform for graduates to find jobs. At its inception, the platform was dedicated to catering for hundreds of Enterprise customers in the Middle East. She had always wanted to create a platform that would yield profit, jobs, and many more useful tools and products for the technology industry. Iba belived in herself that she had something that would be an advantage to the tech industry. She wanted to create something that had even more potential, and her previous success boosted her confidence to move forward.

Iba first came to the US on a visit visa and eventually stayed with the pull of her latest dream and entrepreneurial endeavor called TARA. She soon realized that her preconceived faultless view of the U.S.’s technology sector was not so true to reality. She had thought that the industry was a merit-based space in which everyone had a fair and equal shot. However, contrary to her perception she realized that being a woman and/or a person of color in the start-up world means it may be more challenging for you to get funding, or get opportunities for starting out/growth that others may get more easily. Having lived/worked in multiple countries/cultures, Iba resolved that the US has a long way to go in improving opportunity for minority groups.

Facing these challenges, Iba’s resolve was strengthened that the platform she was working on, TARA.AI, was a tool with which she could make positive and required impact in the industry. TARA’s Intelligence is used by software companies to predict and build an early version of their product. This allows a company to predict the tasks they will have to accomplish, and the milestones they will have to reach in order to successfully execute launching a new product.

A part of her journey that Iba is very proud of is having TARA become a YCombinator company. Iba first applied to YC at 17, and was not accepted. When she was 26, she gave it another shot but this time she was intimidated, feeling that as someone without an ivy league degree and as a Silicon Valley outsider, she may not get accepted. But despite the very real fear, she applied anyway – and not only got an interview, she also got the job.

She often tells her team that no woman is an island. Learn to build a network of friends, partnerships, mentors, peers, advisors, so you never feel that you are working alone. A solid way to ensure consistent development and growth is to surround yourself with a network of people who will constantly push you to grow, look at problems from different angles, and above all, keep believing in your innate ability. 

Her words to other women: At every stage of the process (even when you’ve seen years of success), surround yourself with people who are smarter than you – absorb their wisdom to ensure broadened understanding, and ever-increasing knowledge toward happiness and success.

Iranian women fans are free to enter a football stadium Thursday for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the Islamic republic over its controversial male-only policy. 

Iran has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

World football’s governing body FIFA last month ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restrictions and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

The directive came after a fan dubbed “Blue Girl” died after setting herself on fire in fear of being jailed for dressing up as a boy in order to attend a match.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday. 

The first batch sold out in under an hour, and additional seats were also snapped up in short order, state media said.

A sports ministry official said the 100,000-capacity stadium — whose name means “Freedom” in Farsi — was ready to host even more women.

One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a football journalist.

“I still can’t believe this is going to happen because after all these years of working in this field, watching everything on television, now I can experience everything in person,” she told AFP. 

 ‘Blue girl’

But Poorbakhsh said she was aware of many other women without tickets and some were expected to travel from as far away as Ahvaz in southern Iran in the hope of still getting one.

Those lucky enough to attend will be segregated from men and watched over by 150 female police officers, according to Fars news agency.

People on the streets of Tehran said they supported the decision to allow women into stadiums.

“I would like there to be freedom for women, like men, to go freely and even sit side by side without any restrictions, like other countries,” said a woman who only gave her name as Hasti.

Nader Fathi, who runs a clothing business, said the presence of women could improve the atmosphere in stadiums, but added that “they will regret it” if they are exposed to “really bad swear words” and “bad behaviour”.

The bumpy road Iranian women have travelled in order to gain free access to stadiums has not been without tragedy.

Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself ablaze outside a court in fear of being jailed for attending a match. Dubbed “blue girl” because of the colours of the club she supported, Esteghlal FC, she had reportedly been detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a boy.

Her death sparked an outcry, with many calling on FIFA to ban Iran and for fans to boycott matches.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili at the time , dismissed reports she had been told she would be jailed for six months as “fabricated rumours and hearsay”.

And Khodayari’s father told Mehr news agency that she did not “sacrifice” herself for any cause.

Shadow of FIFA 

Ahead of Qatar 2022, Iran has come under pressure from FIFA to allow women to attend this round of World Cup qualifiers.

The ban on women in stadiums is not written into law or regulations, but it has been strictly enforced.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have only had rare access to stadiums in Iran.

About 20 Irish women attended a World Cup qualifier in 2001, and four years later a few dozen Iranian women were allowed to watch the national “Team Melli” take on Bahrain.

In October, as many as 100 Iranian “handpicked” women entered Azadi for a friendly against Bolivia.

But the day after, the prosecutor general warned there would be no repeat, saying it would “lead to sin”.

The issue has been divisive in Iran.

The reformist camp has welcomed the decision to allow women into Thursday’s match, while conservatives have argued that football is not a priority for women.

The Donya-e-Eqtesad financial newspaper called it “a step to weaken a taboo and also free Iran’s football of the looming shadow of FIFA’s punishment”.

But the ultra-conservative Keyhan daily said women were more concerned about economic issues.

“There are many girls still single and at home, afraid of the cost of marriage. The government should be thinking of this, not sending them to stadiums,” it quoted a mother as saying.

Source: THAI PBS World

The study, published on Wednesday in The Lancet – an influential peer-reviewed science journal – was carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria, and found that 42 percent of the 2,016 women observed had experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination during labour and childbirth. 

According to WHO, quality support, particularly from midwives for women in labour, can make the difference between life and death. Midwifery has been shown to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates, by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent. Yet, more than 800 women still die every day during the process. 

Younger, less-educated women were found to be most vulnerable to mistreatment, in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, undergoing medical procedures without consent; the use of force in procedures; or abandonment or neglect by health workers.  

Some 14 percent of women experienced physical abuse in the form of being slapped, hit or punched, while others experienced non-consensual caesarean sections, and episiotiomies (surgical cuts to the vagina during childbirth) and vaginal examinations. 

Interviews were also conducted with 2,672 women after giving birth, which indicated similar levels of mistreatment. 

Researchers observed 35 cases of caesarean births conducted without the mother’s consent, along with 190 of 253 episiotomies reported, and 2,611 vaginal examinations, comprising 59 per cent of the total. 

Some 752 (38 per cent) of the women in the study experienced some form of verbal abuse, whether being shouted at, scolded or mocked. Eleven women were targets of discrimination or stigma, on the basis of their race or ethnicity. 

Strategies for prevention

The health agency recommends a framework of strategies to ensure women are treated with compassion and dignity – from holding health systems accountable, to ensuring enough resources are available for quality health care and clear policies on women’s rights: 

  • Designing labour wards bearing in mind the needs of women. 
  • Improving the informed consent process around medical interventions. 
  • Up scaling mentorship and support to health workers to foster quality care. 
  • Allowing all women the right to a companion during labour and childbirth. 
  • Building public demand for quality maternity services, which does not tolerate mistreatment or abuse. 

WHO has urged professional associations to partake in promoting and supporting quality care among maternity providers, from obstetricians to midwives.  

Last year the agency put forward recommendations on intrapartum care, highlighting the importance of a woman-centered approach in optimizing expecting mothers’ childbirth experiences. 

An integral part support in fast-tracking progress toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC) is the quality design of maternal and newborn health, in line with SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 3, the target to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. 

Source: UN News

Beyond the overarching pursuit of gender equality, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has started the active monitoring of disbursed loan to women on the continent through its newly introduced initiative, the Women Financing Index (WFI).

According to the President of the bank, Akinwunmi Adesina, the index is to take note of African countries that accord women a priority in loan disbursement. Nations that perform well according to data obtained would benefit more from financing from AfDB.

“WFI, which is currently under development, will rate banks and financial institutions who apply for loans from the African Development Bank, against the amounts they have lent or are lending to women,” Adesina said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The bank’s chief further explained that institutions will be rated by their development impact which is based on the rate and volume at which they lend to women. “Top institutions will be rewarded with preferential financing terms from the African Development Bank,” he added.

Over the past decade, the number of women entrepreneurs in Africa has grown substantially. AfDB’s Africa Gender Equality Index shows that female entrepreneurship on the continent is the highest in the world and they make a sizeable contribution to Africa’s economy.

Across steel manufacturing companies in South Africa, Ethiopia’s textile and clothing designing, high-tech development in East Africa and agribusinesses in West Africa, female entrepreneurs are taking their place in the business landscape.

However, access to finance for African women in business is still seriously impeded. As of 2018, estimates showed that the financing gap for African women in business was as large as $42 billion.

WFI is part of a broader strategy the AfDB is employing to ensure women get the financial help they need. The bank’s goal is to mobilize up to $3 billion – through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative – to bridge the financing gap for women on the continent.

The AFAWA program, launched at the 2016 Bank’s Annual Meetings, aims to provide available, accessible and affordable financial services to women in business through selected financial institutions.

Apart from the financing index, AfDB also tracks the development of gender equality in African countries through its Gender Equality Index, which was launched in 2015.

The instrument is an assessment of the state of gender equality on the continent, examining the role of women as producers, economic agents, in human development, and as leaders in public life. It helps inform policymaking to further mainstream gender, which will lead to more inclusive growth.

“There is no doubt that Africa’s economy could grow even faster when women are empowered,” Adesina said in a speech last year citing a McKinsey study that says if all countries reached gender equality, the global gains in economic growth would be as much as 26 percent. Africa stands to gain up to 12 percent of the potential rewards.

Source: Ventures Africa

By Miracle Nwankwo

The participation of women in the political life of a country is very pivotal to its development. In light of this, the recently held Women in Politics dialogue forum, organized by Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ was targeted towards discussions that will promote the participation of women in politics in Nigeria.

Speaking at the event moderated by Kadaria Ahmed, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the country cannot achieve political dependence based on the rights of the Nigerian people to choose their leaders in a free and fair election without interference and imposition and yet argue for the imposition of quotas in elective offices.

The Speaker, who says he owes his political achievements to his mother who he said encouraged his participation in politics, established that he wants to be remembered as someone who contributed positively to the promotion of women courses in the political life of the country.

“My participation in politics is a legacy of my mother and I owe my achievements in this arena to her. Now, I am a father of daughters for whom I hold the highest ambitions.”

“At the end of my career in politics, it is my hope that I would have contributed constructively to the achievement of a society where my daughters and all our daughters can live up to their highest aspirations, freed from discrimination on the basis of their gender, and protected from the worst consequences of our patriarchal society,” he said.

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani, represented by director in the ministry of women affairs and social development said that women must support each other in the course of political movements so as to get into the mainstream leadership circle and seat properly.

Hon. Gbajabiamila, went on to announce his intention to propose the creation of a special Women Victory Fund to support the next National Executive Committee meeting of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), this is to recruit more women who will contest elections on the platform of the party.

The forum which gathered together women with great interest in politics held on the 12 October 2019, at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton, Abuja Nigeria had other panel discussions on the sidelines.

WIMBIZ, a non-profit organisation started out resting on a sole vision; to be the catalyst that elevates the status and influence of women and their contribution to nation building. The organization which began 18 years ago, focused on having women in the private sector as well as business. However, there was need to have women in politics to push the course of women in every sphere. This idea did not sink until the kidnap of the Chibok girls which pushed the organization into women in politics. Launching out into politics, the organization had its first town hall meeting titled “Chibok and beyond” in 2014.

WIMBIZ is the first Nigerian NGO rated by NGO Advisor and ranked as 428 worldwide. It is also the only African/Nigerian affiliate partner and representative of the International Women Entrepreneurship Challenge (IWEC) Foundation.