Amujae Leaders Hadiza Bala Usman, Jumoke Oduwole, and Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings recently came together to share their experiences, challenges, and triumphs as women in public leadership during a recent panel discussion held as part of the Leading Ladies’ Network (LLN) 11th Anniversary Conference. Fellow Amujae Leader Farida Bedwei was also present as a member of the audience.
The discussion was moderated by Amujae Leader and LLN Founder Yawa Hansen-Quao, who is the Executive Director of Emerging Public Leaders, an organization that aims to build a stronger civil service from the ground up.
Ms. Bala Usman began the discussion by sharing her experience as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), noting that being the first woman to hold this position allowed her to challenge policies that could stop other women from rising up in the ranks. When she joined the NPA in 2016, Ms. Bala Usman said she actively challenged an existing policy which didn’t allow unmarried women to take maternity leave. She felt it was important to speak out on behalf of other women, saying: “These are things that a man would not even think of as a policy.” Changing such policies would mean fewer women having to choose between keeping their jobs or having children, thereby allowing them to pursue their career ambitions, she said.
Dr. Oduwole, who serves as Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on Ease of Doing Business, maintained that it can be helpful—and, often, necessary—to create your own opportunities as a woman in public service: “If you see where you can add value, make a contribution.”
Dr. Agyeman-Rawlings, Member of Parliament for the Klottey-Korle Constituency in Ghana, stressed that today’s women leaders have a responsibility when it comes to paving the way for the women leaders of tomorrow:
“I want to be in a position where I can have an impact on young people, I can make a difference so that young women who want to get into political office don’t have to go through some of the things I went through.”
The panellists placed a strong emphasis on the importance of building networks of support among women leaders. Ms. Hansen-Quao said she was especially grateful to be part of the EJS Center’s Amujae Initiative, which has brought together an inspiring group of African women leaders who share the common goal of “influencing the world for good.” She concluded by expressing her hope for the future:
“I envisage a world where women will be normalized as leaders, and that does not happen in a vacuum… Making sure you’re taking others along with you is a critical part of this journey.”