"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." - Madeline Albright, Former US Secretary of State in her Keynote speech at the Celebrating Inspiration luncheon with the WNBA's All-Decade Team, 2006

I have enjoyed many privileges of speaking to and engaging Women of various ages, classes and sizes at different fora and usually, in my openings, I would pose a quick question to the audience; "Can all the women in this room who believe they were MADE BY WOMEN please indicate by a show of hands?" I most often will see just a few hands lost in the crowd jostling for attention. And then I switch the question, "Where are the Women who were MADE BY MEN?" Then, PRONTO, there'll be hands, palms and fingers in plenty, many of their owners smiling, with almost a feeling of certain superiority and maybe a sense of guilt too.

I have been bothered for a while now and I have made effort to lead this conversation in my public and private spaces but before we head along on this dialogue, YES, I was made by WOMEN but I must confess, it was a few Men who kick started me.

As I grew up from my University Days as a Student Union Leader up until I graduated and chose the path of social entrepreneurship, I have observed that Men have deliberately invested in grooming their Boys into Men. One Governor today is probably a "product" of some ex- Governor or some other Political God Father, a hugely Successful Business Leader who sits atop a conglomerate as CEO has either been mentored by an older man somewhere or has been empowered through his Mentor's influence or perhaps affluence to attain such enviable feat. Everywhere one turns, the Older Men have a retinue of younger Men in their kitty to whom they owe their continued relevance. They mentor, support, teach and create opportunities for the next generation of Men and thereby lives their dreams in these young Men. There are so many God Fathers in Nigeria, where are the God Mothers? The Men are making the Boys, Dear Nigerian Women, where are your Girls?

I'm afraid Nigerian Women are not doing the same aside from only a handful, and forgive me, you may not agree but I write from a standpoint of an informed young woman who has stayed involved and carefully observed this process and I am ready and willing to debate this position.

I am an emerging Nigerian Leader and Enterprise Powerhouse {shebi we were taught to confess positive abi, so shout amen if you dream that for yourself or your daughter}. I wasn't born with accomplishments around my neck and having lived 3 decades on earth and in Nigeria, I feel grateful for a few achievements here and there. I owe my education through school, quality upbringing, a strong personal value orientation of humility, respect and the indomitable will to achieve remarkable success to my Mother. I owe my education through Life and every other thing I have become to other well spirited Nigerian Women. EVERYTHING. Women who are comfortable in their own skin and do not feel threatened by a young woman with zeal and determination. Women who have their own biological children but continue to see reason to develop other people's children, women who know that there is nothing anyone can do to stop an idea whose time has come and some of the ones I give personal credit include Folorunsho Alakija, Funke Egbemode, Jumoke Adenowo, Iquo Ukoh, Adesuwa Oyenokwe, Tara Fela Durotoye, Adeola Azeez, Bola Adesola, Yemi Keri, Wilma Aguele, Osayi Alile Oruene, Oby Ezekwesili, Audrey Joe Ezigbo, Mairo Mandara and Joe Okei Odumakin. I describe, discuss and analyze my Mentors with such gusto, exhilaration and delight. I do not value the mentoring of these formidable women of the new school because of any material rewards I receive from them. I am a result of their chastisements, love and deep commitment to replicate themselves and hand down greatness in practical terms to myself and other young Women. Beyond those, their Lives are exemplary and I am continually energized that despite the crippling stereotypes against Women in Africa, it is possible to have it all - Be successful in Business or Career, be recognized as a Leading Light across the world and still have a happy husband and children to cuddle up to after a hard day's Job.

I wonder how many more accomplished women under 35 Nigeria can produce in the coming years if the women Leaders in Government, Private Sector, Civil Society etc will make a modicum of investment in some young girl/ woman somewhere. It takes no skin off your nose Ma and it doesn't diminish you in any manner whatsoever.

At 30, I am mentoring Girls who are progressing sporadically, their successes may beat mine in a few years to come and I feel happy and the better for it. Gbemisola Osadua, now 23, worked directly with me as an Intern in an Organization I founded 7years ago. Today, and I state this with all sense of humility and modesty, under my tutelage, she has become one force to reckon with in our generation; the first female to ever run as President of Students' Union Government of the University of Ibadan. At that miniature level of student politics, Gbemi secured more support and buy in from more boys than Girls. She did not win but her male counterparts remain in absolute awe of her till date and I organized a victory party for her after their elections. I stayed on the phone with her many hours as she sobbed and taught and encouraged her to assume the Martin Luther King position of a forerunner who may not clinch the ultimate prize but would have inspired others to go for the jugular. Today, Gbemisola is a final year Law Student and now Chairperson of the Euro Africa Youth Parliament House Committee on Constitutional Policy in Germany. An indefatigable leader, under her watch and mentoring, a Girl, Ifeoluwa Egunjobi contested for the position of the Speaker of the Students Parliament in UI and WON. More Girls in UI as a result of Gbemisola's courage, responsibility, ambition and intellect now believe that Women who have the capacity and competence can lead effectively especially when their fellow women give of themselves and take ownership of the aspirations of one another.

Gbemi is one of the many Girls I mentor and while I do not want to seem responsible for her various exploits, I stay convinced that more Nigerian women must take time to listen to and invest their time, resources, money, network of friends and associates in the younger women. Designer Bags, Fancy Phones, Social Cliques and Classes are exciting but they are not sustainable. The rate at which our generation has embraced independence, entrepreneurship and leadership, it will be difficult to set us aside. The world is changing, the worm will turn and we are the ones who will drive society.

You are in your 40s or 50s today, Minister for ABC or D, MD of that Company or the other, Wife of the Governor of State A, General Manager or HOD of Department Q, one day, you'll be just a memory for some People so please do your best to be a good one because there is a place called TOMORROW when the younger woman you despised few years ago will now be the one occupying the position you currently have.

It will be a shame that she may never make reference to you, you may never touch her life and those of many others, there will be a new Louis Vuitton or Chanel Bag in vogue, the one you had 15years ago would be stale, there would be several new models of your Toyota Prado SUV, you won't be invited to deliver speeches at many Events anymore as before because a new Set of successful women with inspiring fresh stories would have emerged, that young reporter won't consider you for an Interview because you treated her with contempt the last time she came close so you also rarely or never get into the Newspapers. Life would have happened to you. You won't be doling out contracts anymore so our People would have moved on to the next one, hence your phone wouldn't ring as much as it used to so please pick our phone calls now. And guess what, if money and influence doesn't finish, one still cannot live forever. Sometimes the more flash, the less the substances.

You can start now. You can build a Legacy. An Army, a circle of young, strong women into whom you pour yourself often, to whom you make yourself accessible; sometimes it's not your money we want, a simple line of encouragement or guide on ways to run a business or advice on how to deal with sexual harassment at work or a word of prayer can change the world. You may give a book sometimes. You can also give money to those who need it if you have some extra cash. I understand not all the young woman are ready to learn and give honour and I believe in service and respecting my elders. Please don't give up on them and don't use them as a yardstick to judge all of us. Please don't spoon feed us too. Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. And if you cannot give anything, just be kind. Smile. {laughs}. Let's do it for each other. It's called Collective Emancipation. 

If and when you bequeath a Legacy of Powerful and successful Women who sidestepped their challenges and fulfilled their destinies because you gave what other women were too afraid or too arrogant to give, then you will go to heaven like Elijah. Without seeing death.

by Toyosi Akerele - 08035906378 -


  1. This is so true. Most of us have become so self involved. And there are many girls out there who really need people to stand up as mothers to direct and show care

  2. Waoh!
    Very astute observations. We women sometimes spend more time pulling other women down than trying to raise them up.
    The article has given me food for thought.
    Have I ever mentored anyone?
    No. But I will look into it now.

  3. this is inspiring!God bless you sisi for this lovely writeup.where are the GOD MOTHERS?Can i find one here?

  4. Well Said! Spot On!!!
    Thank you Toyosi for writing this and Sisi Yemmie for sharing this

  5. Lovely write up. We need more women like this. Will start looking for someone to mentor.

  6. Truer words were never written. Excellently written piece.

  7. I have very strong women in my life, and I went to a girls' school, so I really have a hard time understanding why it doesn't come naturally to all of us girls to be there for one another. We need to support each other.


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