Friday, 2 October 2015

Access Bank's W Initiative and the Question of Honouring Women

It is a well-documented (and these days, much-discussed) fact that those who embody the social identity of ‘woman’ are very often prescribed limiting possibilities and are perceived as having a limited ability to contribute meaningfully in the public arena. Expectations of women are generally set fairly low, and any kind of excellence we exhibit or success we achieve is dismissed, minimised or even completely erased. The systemic factors that conspire to confine women to background roles are significant and pervasive, and the result of this is a phenomenon succinctly described by the late environmentalist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai: “The higher you go, the fewer women there are.”

Still, despite the historical and current exclusion of women from locations of power and the unfortunate reality that our world is generally not set up to enable women to succeed, many of us still find ways to rise to great heights. It is a deeply held belief of mine, supported by the evidence of the odds stacked against us, that women who do make it into positions of corporate, financial or political power work much harder and make more sacrifices than men in similar positions, simply because there are implicit and explicit reminders every step of the way that they do not belong there.

The above is why it is so important that the work that women do -- and the heights we aspire to and attain -- be recognised as inherently valuable; no ifs, ands or buts. Access Bank’s W Initiative seems poised to do just that. Described as having been set up “to support inclusive banking in Nigeria, so that we can support women’s growth and their progress,” the initiative aims to enable women to take advantage of opportunities in business and entrepreneurship, and its W Awards place the achievements of Nigerian women front and center.