Women’s empowerment: Prof. Osinbajo’s admirable model for breaking the bias
This year’s edition of the International Women’s Day came with a harsh reckoning for ‘brands’, both private and public. No longer will women tolerate the appropriation of that day – with glossy images and droll videos – by those with the power but without commensurate efforts towards advancing the inclusion of women.
To break the bias, as this year’s edition rallied the world to, will require more than rote media statements and campaigns aimed at earning public applause – or more fittingly, ‘retweets’ and ‘likes’. That just won’t cut it, and women made that much clear in their impassioned feedback, especially to the worst suspects by their calculation.
It is without a doubt that the feedback will trigger a tense meeting between these entities and their media minders. However, they must note that the solution is not a glossier image or nicer concepts for ‘media content’, as one suspects the managers are likely to suggest. Rather, it is to interrogate their systems and check for exclusionary practices, which are sometimes inadvertent, and commit to creating an enabling environment for women to join and thrive. In other words, they must tow a path that produces results truly worth advertising, not cheeky contortions of the annual themes.
Should they require an example or guidance on how to achieve this, then the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is a worthy model. His private and public service career is a lesson on the elevation of women and the effective elimination of bias that places hurdles on the path of their progress. He is a veritable ally, in every sense of the word, and a true believer in the enormous talents and capabilities of the Nigerian woman.
One of the many women who would readily attest to this – and perhaps advertise the fact with a moving tribute on special days dedicated to celebrating women and giving a big thumbs up to their allies in power – is his official photographer as the Vice President, Ms. Tolani Alli.
One does not require a nationwide survey to make the safe assumption that photography is a male-dominated creative field, at least in Nigeria. And the implication of this fact for women in the profession is an extra effort to demonstrate competence and combat an in-built, unnoticed but very powerful bias that those who account for the majority and are seen performing the task every other day, naturally possess the ability to do a better job. It is a great hurdle that denies opportunities to highly talented women in the field.
This fact makes the appointment and platforming of Ms. Tolani Alli by Prof. Osinbajo a hugely symbolic and transformative act. Not just for her but every single woman in that profession.
Only recently she released a collection of fascinating images that told powerful stories of pivotal and intimate moments in the life of the Vice President and other members of the second family. It was a body of work that showcased the dedication of Ms. Tolani Alli to her craft and her almost innate sense of historic moments. She was always there, camera at the ready, and well-positioned to freeze in time moments that may well define the future.
Equally important, and more to the point, is the fact that the body of work was also a testimony to the level of access and support Ms. Tolani Alli enjoys from her principal, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Her integration into his daily routine, inclusion in certain private moments, and constant acknowledgment as captured in several images, told another story: that of a boss keen on ensuring that this young woman gets her time in the sun and her skills get deserved praise and reward. He would even join the promotion of the work on his immensely popular social media platforms.
Of course, Prof Osinbajo didn’t have to. Other public officials have staff on their personal details that no one hears of. But his alliance with women, and genuine desire to see them blossom and succeed, informs the support and elevation that Ms. Tolani Alli continues to enjoy. And because of that, she has obviously improved her craft, secured firm footing in the profession, and perhaps more importantly, provided the impetus and courage for other young women in the same profession to reach for more and aspire for the top.
This is how to break the bias. This is how to celebrate women. This is how to inspire a generation.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo spent the International Women’s Day at an event organized by the Coalition of Women’s National Women Summit on Girl Child education. While there, he emphasized the importance of another cause he has devoted time and resources to in his public service career; the education of girls and young women.
“The education of girls and young women is important for every nation. The poorest countries of the world are those that have low rates of education of women. All rich countries, small or large, have over 80% of their women educated. Nigeria has almost an equal number of men and women, if we do not intentionally educate women, it means we are not educating half of our population,” he remarked.
His plan for the empowerment of women is clear and on the matter, he doesn’t just deal in mere rhetoric or ‘clout-chasing’ as the digital citizens would say. He has the working to show, whether in the composition of his team or policy drive in the management of the country’s economy, particularly when he steered it to unprecedented and record-setting pandemic recovery, as well as the country’s biggest social investment program.
He is breaking the bias. Others who so wish should follow his lead.
By: Ohadoma Blessed Chidiebube
Saturday 19th of March 2022