The Nigerian Women Trust Fund held a webinar on “Women Leaders Leading the Pack in Response to COVID-19” The webinar was specifically for young women between the ages of 18 – 35. Forty (40) young women participated in the webinar including two (2) young experienced speakers who were the panelists – Chioma Agwegbo (Founder TechHer) and Idayat Hassan who was ably represented by Jasper Ukachukwu (Senior Programme Officer, CDD). The Webinar was moderated by one of NWTF’s Mentees Blessing Abani-Elem (Community Mobilizer and Gender Activist) and Lois Chinedu (Programme Officer, NWTF).

The conversation was intense with practical examples drawn from countries that have been able to flatten their curves due to the role women are playing in the response and recovery of COVID 19.  Some of the key highlights from the panelist and participants at the webinar are listed below:

The panelist agreed that women leaders’ approaches have been effective because they incorporate empathy and compassion, preparedness, and an ability to collaborate and listen before making policy decisions. They also stated that these women leaders know how to inspire their populations to make the necessary sacrifices to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also looking at the Nigeria context, the panelists agreed that the obstacles facing women are numerous, such as shuttling between home and the workplace, the gender gap in wage, etc. but yet women have always found ways to surmount them. This however has not helped in terms of inclusive participation as Nigeria, like most African countries are deeply patriarchal.

One of the panelists Chioma Agwuegbo, specifically noted that a double standard exists for women leaders in Nigeria and yet, the few who have made it to leadership have succeeded despite the obstacles. She re-iterated that those women were able to achieve such success because the various countries they lead had adequate data that could be worked with which is a major fall out for Nigeria as a country. She emphasized the need for strategic steps to be taken to promote gender-responsive programming in Nigeria going forward.

Jasper Ukachukwu noted that leadership is not gender specific as anyone could be a leader. While speaking from an angle of monitoring and evaluation of the attributes of the women leading the pack, he noted that those women being praised now also did not find it easy at the early stage of their careers. They had to also push through all the barriers and have remained focused to achieve their aims. He highlighted that it was important for women to be strategic and be deliberate in showcasing their potentials in their circle of influence as nobody knows who is watching.

In conclusion,  the panelists agreed that the way forward should include women capturing the moment and writing their own stories blowing the trumpet of women who are especially leading the way during this pandemic as their stories will serve as a source of motivation for other young women, and learning from their successes.