By Vivian Onyebukwa
Nnabugwu Chinyere Peace, is an Applied Physicist and a serial entrepreneur. What she does is to promote products to showcase the science behind those product. A lead development advocate, her core area of expertise is system design for renewable energy in homes and in industry.
Nnabugwu is the brain behind the award tagged, “African Women Industrialisation Award” (AWIA), where she honours professional women who have contributed immensely to the development of young women and youths in their different communities through their profession.
In this interview, she spoke about the upcoming award, and other related women issues
What do you have to do with the award that is coming up?
Yes, because I talk about products and the science behind products, I work with a lot of business people, and that has helped me come in contact with a lot of women who owns businesses. And seeing their challenges, and what they face, it dawned on me that we need to celebrate these women. It goes beyond wishing them happy mothers day, happy women day, and so on, but actually putting into action our words. We need to recognise and support them, because they are actually doing a great deal of work. It is when their businesses thrive that they create more jobs, and help reduce the level of unemployment. So they really need the part in the back.
Tell us about the award.
It is tagged the African Women Industrialisation Award (AWIA). Specifically, it is created to celebrate women entrepreneurs, professionals in different industry. It is actually to show them more support. We have a singular objective which is also to bridge academia and industry. This issue with the level of unemployment that we see, most people want to employ, but their concern is that some of the youths that they want to employ, cannot fit into the roles that they have vacant in their organisation. That goes to say that young people also have a gap to fill with applying what they have learnt in school in the industry. And that is what is also creating the disconnect.
So we have to use this award t help young leaners understand the role of science and technology in building sustainable businesses by learning from these role models. Our vision is to celebrate generally African women across the globe wherever they are practcing as professionals by showcasing her richness and rewarding her excellent stride in building sustainable businesses because they are really doing a great deal of work for us.
We have a singular mission to breach the gap between academy and industry by making learning relatable through celebrating and immortalising the fleet of industry female child using technology to build sustainable businesses for a secured future. How we are doing that is by profiling their roles in their work place in a book, detailing how their career are being applied in their businesses so that the younger people can see and understand. So when we profile them, they stay from generation to generation. The book is titled “Fun Physics”. Some young people are having some kind of disconnect today. With the kind of role models they see, students who studied medicine end up being musicians, and so on. So I think it is just disconnect of the knowledge, that is why this award is not just a regular award to celebrate them and go. We profile their work so that the next generation can see, read, and apply it and move on with it. And with that we are able to build a sustainable ecosystem, more viable one where everyone’s knowledge becomes useful to each and everyone of us.
We have two tiers of the awardees. There are the upper strata which are the seniors, some of whom have retied, or those whose businesses are over 5 years. Then, there are start up mums. These are those whose businesses are from 5 years below, and who are nursing mothers. They are the once that will get access to free health care, and also get paired with the upper strata awardees who will in turn mentor them.
How long have you done this award?
Unofficially, about 16 years, but we are now taking the bull by the horn to say, we have been winking in the dark, lets take this to the next level. So officially, we unveiled it last year November, 2020.
What is the criteria for selecting the awardees?
One of the criteria is that you must have been impactful to your community. You must have created job with business, it is not a one man business. Another criteria for selection is what your business corporate social responsibility is all about.
What are some of your achievements over the years?
What we have done over the years is to appreciate them, and go for industry visit with young people. We are more focused on the young people, but we discovered that it is not balanced, we have to also focus on the women who are really doing the job if we want it to be sustainable. We have recorded achievements because some of the young people who were able to learn from these women have gone to become professionals, and they are very articulate in their businesses now. Unlike when young young ones finish, they don’t understand how to put together their business frame work, proposals, goals, or understanding what their vision is, etc. With this initiative, young people who are able to learn from the professionals are doing very well now. Se we want to scale that up.
Can you mention some of the beneficiaries of this year’s award?
Among them are Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, First Lady of Ondo state, Dr. Mrs Abiola-Bashorun, Barrister Ugochi Okpe, Module Oyekunle, Lt. Col. Shola Asenuga. Others are Affiong Ibanga, , Tessy Igomu from the media, and many others. We have them from different aspects of life that we have thriving professional women. We are celebrating these women in commemoration of with Nigeria at 60. The programme will take place on the International Women’s Day.
What are some of the activities expected on that day?
We will have panel discussions by the representatives of different industries-Political, corporate social work, media/ social media, banking, investment, legal, and industry.
How do you fund this project?
I said to myself that this is not my project. Women are special. When you say you are a the weaker vessel, it is not that you are weak but it is that softness in you, use it wisely. Don’t do like the man. Show him that God has given you the sixth sense to see the things that he cannot see. That’s really where the power of the woman lies. We didn’t have any form of funding channel. Women do a lot. They go through a lot of stress to fund their business. But in growing their businesses, they don’t put structure. And it is only when their businesses are sustainable that they can create more jobs. A young woman who just gave birth suddenly slumped and died while selling food in a market because she had to settle her bank loan. So it felt like a wake up call for me. I just couldn’t sit back anymore. It dawned on me that there are so much to be done to help women grow their businesses appropriately and also live to grow the business. That’s why Women Empowerment for Leadership and Longevity (WELLCO) was born. So WELLCO is championing the award. So we began to look at the health of the women. This year, the awardees are championing free access to health care for women who just gave birth. So we are going to be working with the bank to do that. Some of the awardees are also funding the project with support from their families who are celebrating them.
Women are asking for 35 percent affirmative action, but some say, why not go out there and struggle it out with men since women have the notion that what men can do, women can do even better. Does it also mean that women are inferior to men by asking for this special percentage?
No, it is because of where we are coming from. Take for example, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala who is the Director General of World Trade Organisation now, and we are all excited, but she made it happen. It wasn’t overnight. She has been reading, putting in all the work. So women are not inferior, it is just a kind of background that we have. You are supposed to take care of the home, and all that. So if you are aiming for political position, you know you have to put in extra work. To read is not really easy. You are also raising children. The man gets you pregnant and he is off. But the woman is pregnant, reading, doing all that is required of her. So for you to run for a public office, you need a torn of women behind you cheering you up, because I am not sure the man also cheer at that moment. It is only when the spotlight comes on that they would become so proud of you, introducing you to everybody, but before then the work that needs to be done can’t be done by that woman alone. Were women getting that support? No. That’s where we are coming from. But now, women are awaking up to reality, because every woman who tried that road has felt what it feels like and would have said to herself that she has to be part of support group or system. So you now see that woman are becoming more responsive. We are not inferior, but we have always felt that your role is what was handed to you, until some women started breaking the stereotype, making you understand that you ca dream and actualise that dream. Until we saw those role models, there was nothing happening. So like I said, they are positive steps, because these women have blissed that thrill, you can now say that someone has done it, I can do it too. So that is the role of role models and that’s why we are doing this, because when we celebrate these women we bring the attention of the young once to them. So they don’t have to wait to become that old to start affirming to themselves that they can do it. So now is the right time.
What lesson should women learn from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?
Don’t eat “No” for breakfast. When they say “No”, just say, thank you, and move on. It will certainly pull through except you are not called into it. She knows she was called into it because from her story as a child how she was able to study Economics that she never wanted to study, you would know it. And having being a Finance Minister, working with World Bank, and now, DG, WTO, it would tell you that she eats “No” for breakfast. “No” is the next opportunity for her. So, don’t wait for the applaud. If you are convinced, just keep moving. When you eventually get to the top of the mountain, of course people who didn’t believe in you would say you were cut out to do it, but if you were waiting for people to give you a go ahead order, even their “Yes” might be weakening you. Look unto God, and the truth is that if you trust God, He will help you. So that’s one lesson we should learn from her. Don’t wait for conventional “Yes”. If it doesn’t come, keep going.
Are you satisfied with the number of women we have in both elective and appointive positions?
We are not yet there, but I am happy that a lot of women organisations are waking up, supporting their own, giving necessary support to women who are ready to run public offices. That is one encouraging aspect of the steps being taking to have more women represented. So, I wouldn’t say I am satisfied. I know we are not yet there, but the good thing is that, we are getting there as long as there are positive steps taken. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. As long as there is progress made in the steps, it is certain that we will get there. We don’t expect magic to happen overnight, but the good thing is that, we are seeing positive steps being taking, so we will just be very hopeful, optimistic, that it will get better, because once we have women ably represented, they will talk from the pin point. They would be able to put in proper policies that would help.
Domestic violence is on the increase despite all the awareness to curb it. What do you thing is responsible?
Lack of understanding. If a woman understands herself, once you are getting into a heated argument, at some point, just walk away because at the end of the day, you are the weaker person. A man wants to prove a point always, but you are the softer person. Like Delilah and Samson in the Bible, if Delilah was very confrontational with him, she would never had gotten what she intended to get, because Samson never gave in the first time, but I think until the third time, the way Bible puts it. She had a mission. She was subtle until she got what she wanted then she went away. We should begin to understand that we should not confront men, because other people who would come to the social media and argue why the man would beat the woman, were not there when they were beating you. So when the matter would get to the point of beating you, walk away. You can always make a point. If the matter is so painful to you, call a meeting. He won’t beat you in the presence of people. But when the man beats and inflicts pains on your body and people are now angry, they won’t even beat the man. The worse that can happen to that man is to ask the law to take care of him, but they won’t beat him. But maybe when he gets into the hands of the law they can beat him there, but you have gotten beaten up. So why don’t you walk away before he starts beating you.
And then shut your mouth. Go away. You might think you have all the powers, but our power is in our mouth, and before you know it, they slap you and you start shouting, crying, and start taking videos. If you understand your self worth, you won’t stand and involve yourself in unfruitful argument that would lead to your beaten up. I know some men are highly temperamental, but you are also the custodian of your dignity. So if you know this person, limit your exposure to him even if you live in the same house with the person. You are not keeping malice with him. Exchange greetings with the person in the morning. If it gets to that point and you know that you want to save your soul, please do. But having said that, there might be extreme cases somebody might go to bed and that is the time you might decide to wake her up and start beating her. Nobody would be there to save her.
Learn to keep quiet, even though it is not easy to do that. When you keep quiet, you avoid certain things that would anger the other person. Keeping quiet is the strategy used by the older generation of women and they succeeded. Perhaps, we should learn from them. Yes, we agree that they suffered in silence, but that also helped them somehow. Just like applying technology to business, apply wisdom to civilisation. We are more civilised, educated, and enlightened, but apply wisdom. When it is time to talk, do, but talk from afar. Or call a meeting and then talk. He can’t beat you in that meeting. Say everything you want to say. Shout, do everything if you want to. Let everybody see him that he is wrong, but he will never beat you. At least, don’t go home that day, stay somewhere else until everything calms down. So I advise that you apply wisdom to civilization.