Engaging young women in intellectual discourse fosters better understanding and appreciation of governance issues, form independent opinions and take action to contribute to nation building. This is particularly necessary in Nigeria where gender issues, particularly, women’s leadership and political participation are not taught in school curriculum; leading to a dearth of knowledge on gender roles and its implication for women’s inclusion in governance.

The Nigerian Women Trust Fund, with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) under the auspices of the Young Women Leaders Project organized a series of essay and debate competitions in Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja and the Federal University of Technology, Oweeri, on June 7 and June 9, 2017 respectively. The aim of the competitions was to generate discourse on gender issues and encourage young women to aspire to leadership positions in their schools as well as the society.

The debate topic: ‘A Woman’s Place, To Lead or To Be Led?’  saw 40 participants analyze the issues with some appreciable level of understanding of how social norms and gender roles could be strengths as well as impediments to women’s leadership. The passion and commitment shown are a pointer to the practice changes the young women have experienced over the last 12 months of the Young Women Leaders Project.

The online essay competition however ran on virtual platforms in May 2017 with winners emerging in each institution.