Women’s suppression is one of the major problems in our society today. Many African women are still fighting a slowly detereorating patriarchal society, and as such more and more projects and initiatives are being born to help these women find their voice and their position in society. However it is not about how many projects are focusing on women’s empowerment today what we should focus on is how many of those projects are genuinely strengthening women economically, spiritually, educationally, politically and socially.
It is always refreshing to meet African women including those living in the diaspora doing something for their sisters and daughters in Africa. One such woman is Tola Onigbanjo, who is reaching great heights through Women4Africa and as such is a Powerful African Goddess in our eyes. Today we want to celebrate her by introducing you to what she has done for Africa lately.
EAMag: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
T: I am a wife and a mother of five. I was born and raised in the UK but both my parents are Nigerian. I have four siblings. My background has mostly been in hairdressing but now I am very much into media where I am a radio personality and writer among many other things. My motto is ‘if the cap fits, you better not just wear it, but wear it well’. I love people so I would say I am a people’s person, which I believe is something I inherited from my late Dad.
EAMag: You founded Women4Africa, an organisation that celebrates African women. Tell us more about it and how it came about?
T: Women4Africa was born after years of being a hairdresser and hearing about some of the amazing achievements and selfless acts my clients shared with me. As I would do their hair, they would sit and talk for hours and I was amazed. I said to myself, ‘people need to hear about some of these women and what they are doing’. I decided, with my husband who is very passionate about Africa, to create a platform where women would be celebrated and elevated. It occurred to me that I was just privy to a fraction of these women and that there were many more out there that I would probably never get a chance to meet who had equally amazing stories. The way Women4Africa works is that we get the public to nominate the women that they feel should be recognised.
EAMag: There is a Women4Africa Awards, what are they, how and when will they take place?
T: The Women4Africa Awards is an annual awards ceremony. We have various categories and two international categories. The public nominate African women they feel should be recognised in the various categories. In May we hold the awards where people from all over the world, not just the UK, come together and celebrate these amazing women. This year’s award is being held at The Great Hall in Kensington, Hornton Street, W8 7NX on Saturday 18th May from 7 pm.
EAMAg: What are the challenges you face in your organisation and how do you overcome them?
T: I would say that the main challenge we face is that we are not yet reaching all of the African countries. We would love to have every African country represented in our nominations. At present we have over 20 and we are doing all we can to reach all the others.
EAMag: What inspires you?
T: Life inspires me. Everything I see around me. My family and kids inspire me. Most of all God as I believe my inspiration comes from Him and also importantly my husband, he inspires me and drives me to go to greater heights with my dreams.
EAMag: Do you ever travel back to Nigeria and how do you compare the life there and that of the UK?
T: I only started travelling back to Nigeria five years ago which was my first time back since I was a baby. I love the country. I’m moved by some of the things I see and it makes me want to do more. I would say that life there compared to that of the UK is totally different but at the same time you can have just as good a life there as you can here in the UK, it really depends on the individual. Some people would say that in UK there are far more opportunities which to an extent I would agree is true, but at the same time I also believe that we can create our own opportunities.
EAMag: Nigeria is one of the richest countries in Africa but it has had its fair share of problems like corruption and a civil war. What do you think is the cause of this?
T: The destruction of original African systems of governance, such as the type that were developed in the Kanuri – Borno empire or the old Oyo empire, the shift and introduction of a western model of governance coupled with the forced amalgamation of not just the north and south of Nigeria but also over 200 ethnicities, has brought about internal tumult which stifles vision for true growth.
EAMag: Where do you see the women of Africa in ten years time?
T: I see the African women elevated with a voice and in positions of greatness being supported by the men who love and respect them.
EAMag: How do you juggle motherhood, entrepreneurship and being wife?
T: I manage my work/life balance so I make sure I stay on top of things. I plan my days and I make sure I fit in all I have to. I’m quiet flexible so I’m able to juggle a number of things and still have time to be a wife and mother. We women are master ‘Multi-taskers’.
EAMag: Name us five African women that you think Africa should know about and why?
1. Tola Onigbanjo aka WiseTola because I seek to elevate and empower women, this is key to developing Africa as more than 50% of the population are women.
2. Betty Makoni: She is a passionate gender activist Founder of ‘The Girl Child Network Worldwide’ and leads the liberation of the girl child from sexual abuse.
3. Rainatu Sow: She is the founder of ‘Make Every Woman Count’, she believes in the positioning of All African women as equals.
4. Dr Joe Okei Odumakin: She is a female warrior, a key example of a fine mind and discipline for social justice for her country.
5. Mary Akangbe: She is a great woman, a survivor of domestic violence and now actively working to see that more women are liberated from such abuse.