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Women For Women: Embracing Who We Are to Propel Us Forward

If one hasn’t experienced inequality as a woman, they’ve seen the headlines, heard the grievances, and watched people suffer through gender polarization. What is beginning to emerge now, though, is the belief that the discrimination

If one hasn’t experienced inequality as a woman, they’ve seen the headlines, heard the grievances, and watched people suffer through gender polarization. What is beginning to emerge now, though, is the belief that the discrimination women have faced in the past doesn’t have to–and will not–hinder their future. Women are still equipped to be thought leaders, business people, policymakers, and much more.

During the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of hearing from a few phenomenal women who are changing the landscape of leadership and entrepreneurship as members of the African Diaspora. They shared with me their personal endeavors and what it means to be an ambitious woman of color. Just as well, they highlighted and offered probable solutions to some of the issues that women of color face.

 

Rita Oluchi Obi

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Rita Oluchi Obi is a businesswoman and nonprofit professional. She is the founder of Building You Inc., a motivational-speaking business that provides motivational talks on various topics related to building “one’s best self” throughout New York City and Nigeria. Rita is also the Co-founder of Kor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that uses education to shatter poverty in rural areas of Nigeria. In addition, Rita is part-owner of Crystal Court Lekki Hotel, a 23-room luxury boutique hotel in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Q: What issues do you think we as women of color need to start focusing more on as a means of coming up with solutions?

A: As women of color I think we lack moral support for one another. My resolution would be to start collaborating on the things that both affect and matter to us. Women who are already established should make more of an effort to extend a helping hand to other women of color who are trying to excel; one does not need to be a millionaire or be at the top of the ladder to mentor someone else. The only way we will continue to rise above stigmas, push past our obstacles, and conquer our fields of interest is by constantly supporting and empowering each other.

 

Nekpen Osuan and Demi Ajayi

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Nekpen Osuan and Demi Ajayi, are co-founders of WomenWerk, a movement initiated to change the way women discuss, perceive, and overcome challenges. As well as reconstructing the terrain for women, Nekpen is Vice President of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, and serves on a number of nonprofit and community boards including the Junior Board of SEO Scholars, Manhattan Community Board 9, and the NYC Community Education 6. Demi is both a Columbia Technology Ventures Fellow and Graduate Research Assistant at Columbia University.

 

Q: In what ways do you see WomenWerk developing in the realms of community and leadership both in the diaspora and on the continent?

A: We shape our community in three main ways: first, we harness the attention and energies around International Women’s Day to shape authentic, educational dialogue about women and for women every March. Second, we host networking mixers and our annual WomenWerk Holiday Party each year to allow our community to create relationships and build the network to sustain success. We are looking to continue to develop local and international collaborations with like-minded organizations on issues relevant to our communities. Finally, we offer up-to-date resources and information for women on our social media feed in order to expand opportunities within our community.

 

Offiong Bassey

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Offiong Bassey is a singer/songwriter, poet, and music producer whose tunes feature an eclectic fusion of African soul, jazz, and gospel. Offiong uses her music as a platform to empower and encourage others to be bold and dynamic. She is the founder and CEO of the record label, Moonlit Media Group, and is currently working on her sophomore album. She also has a career in leadership development and marketing and is a member of Boston Women in Media & Entertainment.

 

Q: In what ways do you see your personal and professional lives transforming to meet the expectations you have set for yourself, if at all?

A: I no longer pursue perfect balance, because I believe that there is a rhythm to life – a stride that will allow us to walk in our purpose and serve the world around us. I am constantly assessing how I can be a better steward of my gifts, with the understanding that everything worthwhile requires some sacrifice. As for the dichotomy between the personal and professional, I see them as symbiotic. My relationships fuel my creativity, giving me a song to sing. My ability to strategize business in the office flows into my leadership in a non-profit. It is with that connection to the world around me that I am able to truly fulfill my calling as an artist. The love in my life gives me lyrics, and I’m all the better for the dynamics that make me, me.

 

Stephanie Arthur

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Stephanie Arthur is the founder of The African Leadership Project, an organization that harnesses the political talent, civic leadership, and business acumen of emerging African Leaders on the African continent and throughout the Diaspora. She is also a seasoned political strategist and government relations professional with experience in Political Management, Regulatory Affairs, and Government Relations.

 

 

Q: What issues do you think we as women of color need to start focusing more on as a means of coming up with solutions?

A: When I think of issues that are not labeled “black issues” or “women’s issues,” I think about environmental justice issues that should be on the radar of people of color. Flint, Michigan is a real-time example of why the sustainability of the environment is critical to people of color. The borough of the Bronx has the highest asthma rate in the country… not the city, but the country. The Bronx is overwhelmingly occupied by people of color; our children and seniors our suffering at exceptionally high rates from health complications as a result of this asthma crisis.

Additionally, we as women of color must become more vigilant in our fight against criminal justice issues. As we raise male children and have men of color in our lives, we need to be equally invested in the fight for reform as they. It goes without saying that we’ve all been witnesses to men of color being disproportionately housed in the criminal justice system. However, our children are now being criminalized in the early stages of their lives, leading to the development of criminal records that have long-term effects. In the case of Sandra Bland, there are instances of black women losing their lives at the hands of law enforcement. So, women of color ultimately have a serious stake in all these issues.

 

With those introductions made, I’ll leave you with this gem from author Diane Mariechild: “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

Hard work is worth it, dreams can be realized, and lives can be changed. Reshaping a society of women for women begins with you.

 

Nkem Chukwumerije
New York, NY – Nkem is an inquisitive and enthusiastic believer who’s always looking for inspiration. She thrives in discomfort and believes the journey is worth the destination. Follow her on Instagram @nkemster & Twitter @nkemistry
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