Mrs Tinuade Oni-Ihama is the immediate past President of the Nigeria chapter of Business and Professional Women (BPW). BPW is a gathering of professional and business women with the aim of improving the lots of the women folk.
The Lagos chapter headed by its presidents, Mrs Yetunde Oladehinde, recently gave cash rewards to some widows in the state. The beneficiaries were also presented with goods such as food products and clothing materials.
At the presentation of the goods, Mrs Oni-Ihama, who represented the National President of the organization, Mrs Angela Ajayi told TAKE A BREAK PAPER that government should create a level ground for women to be competing with men both in business and politics.
What is the reason behind the presentation of gifts to the beneficiaries?
It is one of the projects of this international organization which is to improve the lives of women. We asked each of our members to nominate a widow that can be assisted financially. Some members brought their church members who are widows while some brought their neighbours.
Our mission is to improve the lives of women folks and this we do through seminars, lectures and enlightenment because we want women to be in position where decisions are made. We want them to have knowledge of what is happening around them and use their God given talents to better their lives and that of the people in their community.
Is it only for business women?
Fundamentally, the organization is for women who are into business but we have women who are also not into business. Being a housewife is a profession. There are women who do not necessarily have to be lawyers, doctors or entrepreneurs but as long as a woman is in a position of responsibility, she is qualified to be a member.
There are fewer women participating in government. How do you think this situation can be remedy?
Women participation in government in Nigeria is improving but what I can say is that we don’t want anything handed to us on a platter of gold. We want a situation where we hold positions because we are qualified for it. We don’t want them to discriminate against us. A lot of positions in government are there to be taken but because men are more in government, they give these positions to their friends first before thinking of women. It is very difficult for women in Nigeria to participate in government because of issues of violence and financial constraints.
Also, most women don’t have the ability financially to compete with men but if government create a level ground for everybody to compete, we would have a better representation of women in government. We have come a long way as women.
Many women want to go into business especially small scale businesses but do not have the financial ability. Some women have been victims of domestic violence because they depend on their husbands for a living. How do you help your members to be financially independent and self-sustaining?
What women need to learn is that they need to start business small to sustain themselves. We give training because sometimes people want to do business but they don’t know what to do. It is not enough to say one wants to go into a business because others are doing the same business otherwise the person would be wasting his time. One of the problems for many women is how to sustain business so we give training on this. We teach them how to raise capital and give them support where needed.