iwd2024 -SPOTLIGHTING Change Makers

Tell us about your passion for creating inclusive workspaces for women as a talent acquisition manager.

For me, the desire to build more inclusive workspaces for other women is a way of paying forward the hand I was dealt, as I have met many women during my career. When I first started in HR, I worked as an HR manager, and although it was a highly strategic role, it became very evident to me that I needed to be someone who would create some of the things that I wanted to see in the workplace as a woman but wasn’t seeing. As a woman in any corporate function, it requires self-awareness and consciousness to recognize the role you must play and determine that this is what you want, and that is how you build more inclusive workspaces.

Tell us about your job and why you prioritize hiring women. 

I switched from law to human resources, and I remember coming in so ignorant that a woman practically held my hand and helped guide me through my transition process. I had someone I was looking up to as a mentor who came from a similar background as mine. She aided me with resources, information, and opportunities. Having all of that as a woman when I first entered the corporate sector was incredibly affirming because it’s not something you see very often. So I realized I needed to take active steps to make the workplaces that I work in as a woman more inclusive. 

So, as a talent acquisition manager, aside from my experience in general HR, when I hire, I must always be the person who advocates for increased chances for women. I am grateful that where I currently work, they have a comprehensive understanding of gender and wish to be more inclusive of women in leadership positions. My organization now has a policy that requires us to hire women for at least 30% of our positions.  

What are some backlash you have faced as a result of your preference to hire women? 

I don’t think I’ve received any backlash other than people saying, “Oh, you only prefer women.” Now, for example, I would specify in my job applications that I prefer women. If feasible, I only want women to apply for this job, but males are also encouraged. When more women apply, a lot of people come to me and question everything, saying you’re doing “favoritism,” and they begin to doubt your motives. 

What does inclusivity mean to you as regards workplace diversity?

Fostering an environment where everyone feels appreciated, valued, and heard. Like they have something to offer and they contribute. People can produce their finest work when they feel appreciated because they know their importance. Even the most inclusive-looking workspace is not inclusive enough. That’s how you should be thinking about inclusivity, like something that can always be worked on. That’s my opinion. So, you should constantly consider how far you can go when you’re in a situation where you can acquire that. How can I actively dismantle barriers that lead to further inequality and, in essence, establish a setting where everyone is free to be the best version of themselves?

What will be registered as successful to you in your pursuit?

I believe that when promoting gender equality and diversity, you’re creating an equal playing ground for everybody because you already recognize that there is inequality. Success to me would be the 50-50 hiring disposition. 70-30 sounds okay-ish, but it’s still not fair enough for me. Companies should push for 50-50. 

1. What is the name of your pad drive? Can you tell us about your personal journey 

There’s no name for the Pad Drive in itself; it started as a project; I was the state coordinator for Health Leads Initiative, a non-governmental organization in Bayelsa State, where we worked towards satisfying different community needs, and the Pad Drive happened to be one of those needs. Over the years, I have volunteered and worked on a number of women or girl-child-centered projects. I have looked at the needs of women and girls and how my privilege allows me to step in. I think that in itself summarizes my personal journey. As for my motivations, having experienced period poverty myself and seen girls and women like me struggle with periods is all the motivation I needed.

2. What is period poverty, and how does it affect women?
Period poverty simply put, is the lack of access to menstrual health, sanitary products, menstrual health education, and all necessary information and materials or facilities needed to deal with periods; the inaccessibility of any or all of those things is period poverty. It affects women a great deal, and It has a significant impact on women. It impacts nearly every group of women (but I can’t say that all women are affected at the same level.)

I believe that every class of woman or young girl you speak with has a unique experience with menstruation, and that uniqueness has drawbacks. This is the point when you are affected by period poverty. Particularly when it comes to education, some are unaware that what they are going through is indeed poverty and that their lack of access to knowledge makes their life and period experiences more challenging. Many times, when menstruation occurs alongside its numerous symptoms like PMDD, nausea, moods, the inexplainable sensitivity before it, the mild to extreme physical breakdown in your health, and the list goes on, people are unaware of what is happening to their bodies. However, you hear someone else remark or share their personal experiences, such as, “Oh, I experienced that too during my period.” And then you realize, “Oh wait, this is tied to my period?” And I assure you that awareness alone helps you manage yourself better during your periods. So whether we’re talking about period education or the access to sanitary materials, period poverty affects all women at different levels.

3. What are some challenges you have faced in this fight? And how can we, as people, support you? 

The majority of the challenges I have encountered would be funding, yes. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to get access to these girls, even in cases where we already have period care supplies like pads. For instance, when we started the period drive, girls in rural areas in secondary schools were our target groups.

So, every time we approached a school, it was a struggle. Mostly it was challenging trying to get the principal’s consent, this part was never easy. Some schools will tell you that the principal has to talk to the parents to determine if their children can get menstrual health education and materials from you. Then, some schools tell you, no, they can’t let you talk to children under their care; they don’t want children to have too much information. They ask questions like, what do you want to tell them? Where did you get the sanitary materials from? What are inside the pads? Etc.  Perhaps it’s religion or simply how the Nigerian society is set up, how Nigerians just either like to judge people or make life unnecessarily hard and complicated, but it’s so difficult even to do charity in Nigeria.

Speaking of judging, I encounter some ridiculous judgments of my person or how I present regarding what I wear. Sometimes my hair is colored, or I have piercings, and people are just looking at me first like, what are you? How could you possibly have anything impactful to say? They would view me that way first, and their drawbacks come as a result of some of those biases against how I look, but once we were able to bypass this, when we could get past this, these bridges, it’s always a fun experience. I don’t think there are so many challenges after that. 

4. What does inclusivity mean to you in the fight against period poverty? 

To me, being inclusive entails serving every one of these individuals. It involves looking beyond the most visible groups of people to ensure that every girl, woman, and menstruating person gets access to, is taken into consideration for, or is put on the table when these strategies to end period poverty are being developed. When drafting projects for Menstrual Health Drives, keep in mind every woman, people in smaller villages, people or women in fishing camps, and just about anywhere else you can think of where there’s a group of women or young girls that you know will have trouble accessing or affording period care. That is, in my opinion, what inclusion entails.

5. What does success mean to you in the fight against period poverty

Success would mean sitting back and realizing that no girl out there has to worry about dealing with periods every other month; that would be a success. That no girl, no woman, no person who mensurates has to manage their periods with little or no sanitary materials or inadequate education. And that’s possible If we as a society set up sustainable methods to handle period poverty, that would be a success to me that everyone has got their period in check. Like, I have pads, check. I have tampons, check. I know that this is my body reacting because of periods, and I know how to deal with it. I know what to use to deal with it, check. Just check for everyone. Yeah, that would mean success. That’s success to me.

1. What is the name of your campaign? Can you tell us about your personal journey and what motivated you to become a change leader fighting against FGM?

The name of my campaign, “Save Young Girls from Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast and Southwest Nigeria,” is extremely meaningful, particularly in light of my own experience with the horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). It has been a burden for me as a teenager. I was troubled by tales of acquaintances who had gone through this horrific ordeal, frequently with the use of unrefined implements like brooms or pistols—a shocking introduction to the hard reality that many young girls had to endure.

When I saw instances of intersex genital mutilation (IGM), which is just as painful and familiar, my awareness of the problem grew. I became really motivated to stop these horrors as a result of these experiences. However, I didn’t become aware of the terrible effects of FGM until I was serving in the West for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which is when I decided to step in and ask for assistance from the government.

This initiative, which aims to defend the rights and well-being of vulnerable girls and make sure that their voices are heard and respected, is motivated by my own experiences and commitment to justice.

 2. What is FGM, and how does it affect women? 

Female circumcision is another name for female genital mutilation or FGM. The destructive practice known as “female genital mutilation” involves the partial or total removal or injury of a woman’s or girl’s genitalia for purposes unrelated to medical treatment. Community members, rather than medical professionals, typically carry it out and are frequently connected to outdated stereotypes about women. The foundation of this behaviour is patriarchy.  

3. What does inclusivity mean to you in the fight against FGM? 

I often bring up Audre Lorde when discussing intersectionality and diversity because of all the amazing work she has done in these areas. The quote is as follows. “I can’t limit my resistance to just one kind of tyranny. I have to battle every one of them. I find it unbelievable that one particular group should be exempt from bigotry. The way we treat each other now will determine our future.” To me, inclusion entails this. Combating injustice in all its manifestations.

4. What does success mean to you in the fight against FGM

It’s a triumph when you can get folks to discuss the risks associated with FGM. Bringing people together and pointing out the errors in a long-held belief is a significant step. Thus, any little step we take forward in this battle is a win. Every accomplishment we have made in bringing attention to FGM feels like a victory today. 

Thank you so much for your time. 

Happy International Women’s Day.