Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle, the National co-ordinator Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN) in this interview speaks on the body advocating for issues that affect female entrepreneurs, the 2021 National Summit billed for October amongst other issues.
What does ANWBN do as a body?
The Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), is a coalition of 52 women member associations located all over Nigeria. So, it is the coming together of members’ Associations to speak with one voice. The purpose of that is that there is little we can do as individual organizations. For us, the first major work of the coalition is advocacy; advocating for issues that affect female entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
The second aspect is representation, people have issues, if you want to do something with female businesses across sectors, it is always difficult for them to find. But we pride ourselves to say that in Nigeria if you want to do anything across the 36 states including Federal Capital Territory (FCT), we have representation, accurate representation, and that is why we have zonal co-coordinators as well as states representatives. The state’s representatives can work with all the associations under ANWBN within their states so that if anything is happening, we can quickly mobilize. The third aspect is capacity building for female executives to run their membership Associations properly and efficiently. They need to be well trained and we have trained leaders of the Associations, in order to know how to manage their own associations.
For instance NASME (Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs) women or the president and executive of NNEW (NECAs Network of entrepreneurial Women) and AWEP (African Women Entrepreneurship Program) who are member organisations learn a lot from the leadership and how to engage membership within their primary associations.
ANWBN also partners with other bodies across the continent, which is the reason why we are attending the West African Business Forum, put together by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is actually to meant to look at a blue print for women and Youths with respect to entrepreneurship. The forum is an avenue to discuss issues and then they can capture all of these issues affecting women thereby finding solutions to be able to have a blueprint for women empowerment in Nigeria. Over 20 percent of our member organisations are represented at the event.
Tell us how the body has impacted the 52 female member Associations?
The impact has been felt through what we call the Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA); a document that we use to advocate on the issues that affect us as women. Issues such as high rate of insecurity, access to finance, gender inequality, lack of electricity, poor and dilapidated infrastructure especially road network, among others are the major issues that we focus on.
All the female entrepreneurs under the organization have one issue or the other affecting their businesses, what does the national body do to assist them?
Yes, it is part of the five critical areas that we are pushing out on policy implementation. Power is part of it and that is why we had a Policy Dialogue to discuss it and we know that is an issue of exclusivity and non-exclusivity within the constitution of our nation. So, this will not stop at only dialogue, we are continuing to see how we can reach out to others. We are reaching out to the house committee on power (at the federal level) where the discussion can be discussed to get us all we want. So, it is continuous advocacy, we are not going to stop at this.
Another major project that we are working on is our 10n months’ Advocacy Project which holds in all the states of the federation. Here we would take these five priority issues that we have identified to all the states so that when we take them there it trickles down to the grassroots what we are doing at the national level.
Our annual summit for this year will hold October 27th-28th, an avenue to bring together stakeholders, all the Presidents of the associations to continue our discourse on how we can expand opportunities for ourselves.
Let’s talk about the personalities expected at the Conference?
We are expecting the Centre for International Private Enterprise, they also have the female arm which is known as the Centre for Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment. Others include seasoned entrepreneurs, banks, and development funding organisations, and the theme for the conference is “Expanding possibilities.”
As the national coordinator, what has been the greatest challenge?
Time is a major challenge, for every member of the association. We are all entrepreneurs, this implies that everybody’s primary focus is on their business first, and we need to get other women on board. The second is for us to work together as a team, women supporting women. We need this and it is something that all of us must have as a mindset. We are different but, in our differences, we must come together to support one another, apart from that the only major challenge for me personally is time.
The Association is not a money-making venture, what is the motivation?
The motivation is service. For instance, I have been here, and beyond coming here, the opportunity has come to us. The more service you put in, the better it is. When you network, the information you don’t have, another person will have. You need networking to get information. If you want to run a business you cannot sit in your cocoon and know what others are doing.
Does the Association also ensure that women participate effectively in politics?
There are many sides to it, the first side is the family, you cannot take that away from us, we are mothers, we are wives, and that is a natural thing God has endowed us with. So, we need to be able to pull all of that together. The second aspect of it is money; to contest at the primary level (within the party) is not a child’s play. In fact, the cost of primaries, when you hear it you will need funding for it and then for preparation and capacity building for us to be ready for such positions for political appointment. We are not relenting because we are also partnering with International Republican Institute who will give us the necessary assistance. They are ready to support women that want to go into politics to work with us and look at all aspects because it is not only political appointment alone, it’s also about women engaging in governance. These among others are issues that will be our focus at the summit.
What is your message for other women entrepreneurs out there who are yet to be members of the Association?
Anyone that is running a female membership organization should be part of ANWBN. This is because it will get to a time whereby anybody that wants to do anything will be referred to ANWBN, and that is what is happening now, whether internationally or locally. If you want to do anything you will look for ANWBN.
The Association is seven years, where do you see it in the next five?
I see it as an apex body in the next five years, where anybody that runs a female association would be struggling to be part of our Association.