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Breaking Glass Ceiling Challenges [column]
Posted by: administrator (Feb-22-2009)

by Chinyere Okoye
Lagos, Feb 20, 2009 --

Many Nigerian women have shattered the glass ceiling syndrome in every endeavour. They are found in the academia, politics, economy, banking, legal profession and in government. Chinyere Okoye profiles some of these women who, apart from getting to the tops are also role models to the younger ones

The challenge of 21st century womanhood no doubt has faced a lot of criticism. It is no subject of debate that women all over the world are duly respected and given their pride of place in the society. However, in Nigerian case, it has been revealed that over 70 per cent of women end up uneducated which in turn rob them the opportunity of participating in partisan politics.

The few who have come out are poorly voted for as they are regarded as people who should play second fiddle. Interestingly, there are also some women who have proved their mettle despite all odds. Today, many see them as those who broke the glass ceiling to conquer their world, they are role models. These women of valour include the Minister for information, Professor Dora Akunyili, Anambra State Deputy Governor, Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba, Managing Director World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria Stock Exchange D-G, Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke, EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, Chief Folanke Solanke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and many others.

A lecturer, Mr. James Chimaobi once argued that politics or top-grade jobs are masculine. How would a woman leave the comfort of her husband's house to go and vie for political appointments? What will the men do? A woman should be a housewife, a homemaker and also have the reflection of the way things are or how things should be. Women in the midst of marriage and motherhood duties should always be close to their children and husbands, he said. But some of these women have conquered and combined their home and profession effectively.

Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili is the former Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and in December 17, 2008, she was appointed Nigerian Minister of Information. She is a pharmacist, professor and consumate administrator who has gained international recognition and won many awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights.

She was a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Pharmacologist in the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu Campus, before she came into government. Since she took over the leadership of NAFDAC, she established as a top priority the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe food in Nigeria. Before Akunyili assumed that responsibility, Nigeria was a safe haven for fake and substandard foods and drugs.

She became angry because, many countrymen and women were fighting killer diseases like malaria and tuberculosis with little more than sugar syrup and chalk tablets, cynically packaged to look like the real thing. When she assumed duty, she faced considerable risk of her personal safety in order to combat the issue of fake drugs.

Akunyili is a devout Catholic and happily married to Dr. J.C. Akunyili, of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, and they are blessed with six children.

Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba was the Governor of Anambra State, a state in south-central Nigeria, from November 2006 to February 2007. She is the first female governor in Nigeria's history. Her instatement came as the previous governor, Peter Obi, was impeached by the state legislature for alleged gross misconduct. She transferred her powers back to Obi three months later when an appeal court nullified the impeachment.

Etiaba is a native of Umudim Nnewi, in the Nnewi North Local Council of Anambra State. For 35 years, she worked as a teacher and headed several schools in Kafanchan, Aba, Port Harcourt, and Nnewi. She retired from the services of the Anambra State Government in 1991 and founded the Bennet Etiaba Memorial Schools, Nnewi, of which she was the proprietress.

In March 2006, she resigned to assume the position of the Deputy Governor of Anambra State. She was a member of the Association of women Entrepreneurs, International Literacy Programme for the Nnewi North Local Council, the Environmental International Vanguard and the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education (OMEP). She was also a Synod member of the Church of Nigerian (Anglican Communion), a member of the Christian Association of Nigerian Schools, a member of the Board of Governors of the Okongwu Memorial Grammar School Nnewi, member of the Board of Governors Holy Child Convent School, Amichi and a Juvenile Court Assessor for the Nnewi Magisterial District.

She is the widow of the late B. M. C Etiaba, a legal practitioner, and mother of six.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the managing director World Bank and former World Bank vice president who graduated from Harvard University. She later earned a PhD in regional economics and development at MIT and is currently serving as a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

As finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala battled political and financial corruption and helped bring efficiency to the African nation's financial institutions. She also helped engineer a debt relief program between Nigeria and the World Bank during her tenure.

In 2003, Okonjo-Iweala left her job as World Bank vice-president and family in Washington to work in Nigeria's capital, Abuja as minister. Her task was nothing less than a total shake-up of the country ranked the second most corrupt in the world, after Bangladesh. Her goal was to ensure that more of its oil money, rather than being squandered by a tiny elite, goes towards providing clean water, schools and health care for its 137 million population, most of whom survive on stipends a day.

In 2006, Okonjo-Iweala left her post as finance minister to become Nigeria's foreign minister. However, she only held the post for a short time, resigning in August after President Olusegun Obasanjo removed from the nation's Economic Intelligence Team. In December 2007, she became the managing director of the World Bank.

Dr. Ndi Okereke Onyiuke is the Director General, Nigerian Stock Exchange. Before she assumed duty she was the manager and head of research and information services department (now research and infotech department) of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in January 1983, little did she realise that come January 2000-seven years after-she would be at the apex of the corporate ladder as the director-general and chief executive officer.

Okereke-Onyiuke's journey in the corporate world began at the New York Stock Exchange where she rose to managerial cadre before she answered the clarion call to come and develop her fatherland. She is a study in all round development.

Top on her sterling qualities is the divine gift of intellectual prowess. Her fertile imagination became noticeable right from her early education when she emerged as the best among her equals. The records are quite revealing: At Queen's School, Enugu, Nigeria, She passed out with Grade 1 in her West African School Certificate Examination in 1965. This was capped with a distinguished performance at Higher School Certificate Examination in same school in 1967. The intellectual strength manifested in her graduation with First Class Honors (Magna Cum Laude) in Business Administration, Computer Sciences and Economics at the prestigious Baruch College of the City University of New York in 1975.

Farida Waziri a retired Inspector General of Police (AIG), Mrs. Waziri, is currently the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a neutral candidate that can keep the anti-corruption fire aflame. She headed the police anti-fraud unit between 1996 and 1999 during which Ribadu and she trained the EFCC director of operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde.

Waziri is a tough woman in the mould of NAFDAC director-general. She is widely described as a tough and disciplined anti-graft crusader while in service. Mrs. Waziri retired from the police in 2000 with two degrees at Masters Level (LLM and International Relations).

Married to Ambassador Adamu Ajuji Waziri from Gombe State who until last year was the nation's ambassador to Turkey, Mrs. Waziri hails from Benue State.

Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is a senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District and a working mother. She started her education at the Corona school, Victoria Island, Lagos and proceeded to Capital School, Kaduna and completed her secondary school education in 1982, at Queens College, Lagos.

In 1988, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello obtained her degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. This was followed in 1990 and 1994 with her Masters and PhD degrees in Epidemiology from University of California, Davis and Cornell University respectively. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship in 1996 at Wake Forest University school of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Fondly called IOB, Iyabo began her professional career in 1992 as a Statistical Technical consultant at Cornell Information Technology, Cornell University, USA. In 1994, she became a research fellow at the Department of Comparative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine of Winston- Salem's.

As a progression to her career, in 1997, she became a Statistical Consultant at the nationally acclaimed research Triangle Institute of North Carolina, USA. A further progression led to the appointment in 1998 as the clinical research scientist, HIV market support studies, Glaxowellcome, Research Triangle Park NC, USA. Prior to her appointment as the Ogun State Commissioner for Health, she was the Senior Project Manager and Associate Director Quintiles Research Triangle as well as Consultant Therapy Edge Durham in the USA.

Cecilia Ibru is the First Lady of Banking, the managing director and chief executive officer of Oceanic Bank International, one of the fastest and most profitable banks in Nigeria, is by any measure a remarkable person. She confounds all expectations of what a banker must be, except in her ability to make some of the shrewdest decisions in the country's financial sector.

First, she went about rearranging the conference chairs. "I hate a disorderly place", she muttered. She is the pile driver working for Oceanic Bank International.

Oceanic, which started off, as a modest family bank has, in 17 years, become a publicly owned entity listed on The Nigerian Stock Exchange, one of the top five banks in Nigeria and ranks as one of the top 20 banks in Africa. Any banker anywhere in the world considers this an extraordinary performance.

She attributes her success to "a mindset that is dependent on God's inspiration and the desire to actualise. One thing is to have a vision," she says, "the other is the ability to dissect it, strategies and achieve it."

Folake Solanke has recorded many "firsts". She was the first woman state commissioner in the Western state during the military regime in 1972. She was also the first woman Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1981.

She is a firm believer in the cause of women. She achieved significant progress for the women of the world. Folake married Prof. Toriola Solanke, a surgeon from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa is the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, formally a Member of Board of Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation Vision 2010, Chairman, House Committee on Media 2003-2007. She is a B.A English (O.A.U) Msc Mass comm. (Unilag) Harvard University Kennedy School of Government June 2006 and a Broadcast Journalist.

She was awarded Role Model Award of unparallel Achievement 2008 by professional women on Rural Development and also City People Award for the best Female Politician of the year 2006.
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