By Biodun Da-Silva
“ To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams ” – Hillary Clinton
Empowerment comes in different forms. People of all age ranges, social and cultural background has been empowered differently. Some have been trained to go to school so they can choose a career and trade their expertise for a decent income.
Some have been trained as artisans to trade their skills for money, while some rely on their natural talents to earn a living. The bottom line is that at the end of the day, money, in most cases, is the sole motivator for being in a business or profession. Very few rely on intrinsic motivation to be in business. It is extremely crucial to empower our next generation with adequate knowledge about entrepreneurship and how they can play a pivotal role in changing the face of commerce for their generation.
With the direction the world is heading, some profession and skills will become obsolete or will be replaced by technology in the near future and many more will be born. The industry that may not be heavily affected are the ones that serve the crucial needs of humanity. That has been established in light of the recent COVID-19 lockdown where only businesses mandated to operate are the ones that falls within the essential service market. What that should reiterate to us is to carve our niche in areas of essential services and also encourage our children to do the same.
I was reflecting on my trajectories as an entrepreneur. As a young girl in primary 4 at Army Children School in Ikeja Cantonment, I was selling jotter to my classmates because they liked the one I was using at the time. I can’t remember exactly what led to that decision but my younger self was just thinking of how to turn N10 to N20. That small business venture was short lived when my father was invited to school, he was informed of my ‘trading’. My ‘ancestors’ were entrepreneurs and I believe entrepreneurship will positively shape the future of the girl-child, if encouraged. I’m also of the opinion that not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is wired to be a doctor.
However, one incontrovertible fact is that women are underrepresented in top leadership positions. That can be eliminated when it becomes socially acceptable to tell our children to go to school to learn the rudiments of business, as opposed to going to school with the sole intention of getting a job that pays well in exchange for their time and skill-sets. Their time and skills can be used to create much more value without their creative minds being stunted.
Again, this is the best time to start shifting our paradigm, most especially for the next generation of the African child. With our generation of African women experiencing subliminal sexism, age, gender and racial discrimination in the workplaces around the world. It is high time we shielded the next generation from experiencing those biases, either from the workplaces or in the society.
We live at a time when biases are formed based on pigmentation, antecedents and our socioeconomic status. Our girl-child will be at a disadvantage if they aren’t enlightened, prepared and trained to face the world that awaits them. We, as parent, must help them develop a ‘boss mindset’ right from their teenage years. They should be trained to think as a producer rather than a consumer. It is vital that they understand the differences between trading their time, skills and intelligence for money and having their money work for them. Also, they should be encouraged to be a contributing member of the society as well as be a high performer, irrespective of who their competitor is.
This can happen when we start empowering them to start taking steps in the right direction. Instead of struggling to get a sit at the table, we should own the table so our girl-child can dream of owning their own table, chair and conference room. We are their biggest role model and as such, it will enable them function and reason at an optimal level, thereby bringing nothing short of excellence to the table when the time is right.
Educating a girl-child is the gateway to poverty alleviation. When girls are armed with the right tool to succeed, they are given a leveled playing field to compete with the opposite sex. That is, they are given equal opportunity to succeed. Even though it may not seem like it, sexism is real and we, as women, must develop an impregnable psychology in other to succeed in today’s world.
There’s been a lot of advocacy in recent times for the need for government to close the gender pay gap. Our girl-child must be trained to create real value by discovering what makes them valuable to the society. Recognizing their values eliminates mediocrity, enhances productivity and sets them up for success.
Our values are what makes us unique as individual. They are our strength and it is essential for our girls to get trained in their areas of strength, as well as set up their practice in those areas. That will enable them work meaningfully, impact more lives positively and work on their own terms. That value is what will earn them respect and ultimately create wealth.