L’Oreal, Paris

By Kaosarat Morenikeji Atobiloye, edited by Peace Akinwale

Gender issues are something you are familiar with. The rise in bias against women for several reasons, top of the chart being religion, has become a threat. Women can play reasonable roles in both economy and politics, and you can improve their chances by doing a few things.

You don’t need to be the government. You don’t need to be as rich as Femi Otedola or Dangote. You don’t even need to be a feminist to do this. You only need to be a human who knows that women need to be empowered. You can empower women in four major ways:

  1. Social Empowerment

Social empowerment strengthens women’s social relations and their position in social structures. You can do this in various means, which include but are not limited to;

Be conscious of biases and assumptions about women

Unconscious biases often influence decision-making and lead to different opportunities for people, with females often getting the short end of the stick. While this won’t be an easy walk in the park, you can learn it. You can start by letting go of assumptions, cultural conditioning, internalised misogyny and stereotypes about women. You can do these by seeing women in a new light:

Disagreeing without dismissing 

It is okay to have different views. However, do so respectfully and without disregarding the other person’s opinion. Avoid stepping on toes because you want your opinions to be considered right and 100% correct.

Offer support to women and advocate for their rights

It is okay to feel that women in power are a threat. But there’s no big deal to it: They just want to do things differently, just like men like doing things differently. So stand up for their rights when you feel they are being cheated at work. If a woman reaches out for help, support them. If you feel circumstances are threatening their rights, offer help. This will go a long way in showing they are welcomed in corporate spaces, especially where they are respected.

  1. Economic Empowerment

You can empower women economically so they can be economically independent, self-reliant, and valuable to their families. There are several ways to do this, some of which are:

Create more job opportunities for women

Despite being significant contributors to social and financial development, women don’t have access to equal job opportunities. You can open your job portals to them for application if you are in a powerful position. You can even be intentional about considering women for some roles in your organisation. If a role always had men fill in, consider women. All you need for some roles is the ability and confidence of an applicant, not the applicant’s gender.

Invest in the entrepreneurial ideas of women

Several women with entrepreneurial ideas without the capacity to fund them are around you. You can fund their ideas and get your money back. We, as an organisation, know individuals who give people money to fund their business with an agreement to be paid back in full (with a bit of interest) after a specific time. You can invest #100,000 in someone’s business and get a little plus after a year or less. You can do this with #500,000 too. It all depends on your ability, but doing this will change things. You can even invest in people who are helping women. There is She Leads Africa, an organisation founded by Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, dedicated to empowering the next generation of African Women entrepreneurs. If you can’t afford to fund them, refer them to NGOs like this.

  1. Educational Support

Fund their education if you want to help widen their intellectual horizons, well-being and potential. You can do that by;

Offering mentorship to females

If you have friends or know organisations that can effectively mentor women, refer the women you know to them. You can start with the Moremi Initiative, which provides young African women leadership development training. Its MILEAD program offers mentoring, research and advocacy support for women.

Bays Planet Foundation, in conjunction with Girl Up Nigeria, also offers mentorship programs to young girls to help them tap into their potential and fully maximise it. You’ll learn about this when there is another cohort. But if you want to support educationally, this will go a long way.

Educate a girl child

Now, we know we said you are not the government. Or Otedola, or any big names who can sponsor their academics. But you can organise weekend classes, help with their assignments, buy them essential textbooks, and improve their learning environment at home (by furnishing their rooms or buying them lamps). These will go a long way to how they study, focus on academics, and get the best out of their lives.

  1. Psychological Empowerment 

This is not about massaging your ego with women. It has nothing to do with reasserting your authority as a man or a woman over a woman/girl who looks up to you for a psychological boost. You can empower women psychologically by:

Boosting her self-esteem and confidence 

Encourage women to speak up for themselves, help women fight their fears, and reduce the feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. For example, invite a female colleague to share her views at a meeting, encourage them to contribute their bit to the matter on the ground, and let them know how brilliant their opinions are. You can even criticise them constructively while offering suggestions on what to improve and how to improve. If you criticise them without telling them what to change, you are not helping. And if you tell them what to change without showing them now, it doesn’t help anyone.

Appreciate the women around you

Women have an enormous impact on the well-being of their families. But they are not acknowledged for this. The average man thrives on acknowledgement and appreciation, and it’s the same for women. If a woman did something well, appreciate them. If they did something well, acknowledge it. If they did something important, talk about it and give them credit. This will go a long way to boost their confidence.

If you do all these and still feel you need to do more. You can fund our initiative. We have a project we are yet to launch or execute due to a lack of funding. Please, don’t hesitate to talk to us here: [email protected].

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