Empowering women for nigeria’s future through policy, advocacy, and enterprise, by Seun Olufemi-White

Two years ago, I stood at a crossroads that few around me understood. I was a corporate lawyer in the bustling city of London, working at Clifford Chance, one of the world’s most prestigious law firms. It was an environment that demanded excellence, where I was surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the legal field. However, having closed one of the largest finance deals in history at 25 financing a sale for Saudi Aramco’s pipeline, I knew that my path was meant for something more — a challenge that transcended conventional success metrics.

Having closed a $12billion dollar financing, I left behind the comfort of corporate walls, I embarked on a journey fuelled by a deep-seated desire to contribute to nation-building through the electoral campaign. During the campaign I witnessed first-hand the power of collective youth action and the importance of advocacy in shaping policies that impact us all, as a result I am convinced that progressive policy forms the bedrock of Nigeria’s future.

In Nigeria, there are over 250 parastatals and agencies, offering more than 2000 positions for appointments. These appointees typically emerge from the electioneering process, aligning closely with the government’s policy direction. Appointees deliver the policies that shapes your life and mine. Therefore, as a young person, particularly as a young woman aspiring to influence policies and regulations that shape your life, active involvement in the political process becomes imperative. We must stop allowing others, often no different from us, to dictate our lives based on their values, benchmarks, and aspirations. I commend this government, I am heartened to see young women actively involved in politics, representing government policies, and driving agendas through a youth-focused lens.

Honorable Minister for Youth, SSA to the President on Citizenship and Leadership, SSA to the President on Youth Initiatives — we are deeply grateful to have you championing the cause for young Nigerian women.

Returning to the private sector with a newfound perspective, I immersed myself in social entrepreneurship, leveraging the network and experiences gained from my time in London, Dubai, New York and Abu Dhabi. In this time I have experienced the resilience, creativity, and execution power that we as young women bring to the table.

To the business leaders who have come before us, you hold a moral responsibility to provide support, resources, and mentorship so that we can unlock the next wave of innovation that will propel Nigeria into the 4th Industrial Revolution.

I urge you in this room, many now in influential public positions, to go beyond and address the poverty-inducing effects of gender disparity. The NYSC is represented here, every year 400, 000 bank accounts are opened with various banks for NYSC students, banks what have you done for the thousands of NYSC students you profit of annually? To the DGs and senior public servants present, how many of you have or moving to implement Mr President’s 30% representation benchmark for women?

Our Ministers and DGs, we have seen your various initiatives which signal your positivity towards young women, and so we want to present you with a unique opportunity here today to ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ We call upon you to collectively commit to establishing a young women’s leadership fellowship program, selecting six promising young women from each political zone. Let us move beyond dialogue and transform our conversations into tangible actions. Together, we can forge a more responsive and inclusive society that ensures no one is left behind.

In closing, let us remember that in our collective actions today we shape the Nigeria of tomorrow. Let us continue to nurture the flames of progress, ignite the power of women, and tirelessly work towards a future that is inclusive, just, and teeming with opportunities for all.

To every young girl watching or who may one day see this, I say, that fire burning inside you, the one that makes you “troublesome”, that makes you “emotional”, to “ambitious”, that is your essence — protect it from laziness as laziness is the secret ingredient for failure, eschew greed as it is a bottomless pit, and arrogance, pray against it for it destroys. Trust your instincts as you carve your path — you are the future; the future is yours.

May your life, your home and endeavours be filled with joy today, tomorrow and always.

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