By Linda Orajekwe
The Breaking Borders Network, a non-governmental organization focused on grooming women to be their best selves, last weekend at Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos, launched their Honey Bee project.
The Honeybee Project is a mentorship and networking event aimed at building strong, young women in Nigeria by connecting them to other great women who are making great strides in their various careers. The network also seeks to foster conversations that are beneficial to the growth of women.
This year, the mentorship project is focused on providing young girls with necessary coaching that will help them make better decisions in their passion and chosen fields. It was for this reason that a community of women that advocate for each other, was put together in other to break the popular, age- long myth that women do not support other women.
The one day conference had a panel of distinctive, young women who are making strides in their various careers; and their willingness to share their experiences, made the session more interactive. Drawn mainly from the media, they include, Tora Olaiya, Laila-Johnson Salami, Kemi Adeyemi and Tomisin Akinwunmi.
These panelists shared on careers, relationships and how they have fared in their various industries as women. According to Tora Olaiya, “we are in an era where the world is actually looking at women and saying, ‘you know what? Let’s bring them on board and see what they can do’. For that, I encourage you to work hard, so you can be that woman that will be considered to come on board, and make the change women are always known to make.”
To Laila Salami, “the Nigerian woman is a phenomenal woman.” She urged the participants to start placing that phenomenal idea on themselves and identifying themselves with the greatness that comes with being a Nigerian woman even though the environment doesn’t make it as conducive.
According to her, “the average Nigerian woman is not a normal woman. We go through so much to get to where we have to be: but still, we rise and still, we achieve. We have a leverage that we can actually use now that Nigerian women are doing great things all over the world. That could be you or me.”
The session was interactive, with participants seeking answers to the confusions and challenges around their passion and careers, especially, when such passions are in conflict with parents’ career expectations.
Responding, Tora Olaiya says: “I had the same issue with my mom. All I did was prove her wrong that the path I have chosen, is not just what I like, but I can also make something out of. So when your parents don’t want you to pursue a field you love, sometimes, you have to show them why they should trust you with the decision you have made. That comes with you showing results. But if you are young enough, try to do what they want you to do, and when you are done with school, you can pursue what you love. The beauty about education and your degree is that it is never wasted. There will always be a need for all those things you learned one day.”
Participants were later grouped for the mentorship segments where they had the opportunity to discuss their various challenges with their assigned mentors. This moment was one appreciated not just by the participants and host, but also by the mentors who believed this kind of initiative is necessary for such a time as this.
According to one of the mentors, a Nigerian award-winning designer, Toju Foyeh “I like the fact that young girls are given the opportunity to meet with women that they look up to and can have as mentors. It is really important in today’s world that young girls have people that can keep them in check, and one that they can look up to for advice. I’m also glad to be a part of it because for me, I love impacting lives as there’s no point being so blessed and not bless other people with what you have”
On how these mentors were selected, the convener, Chinyere Eze said: “The mentors were selected not just based on their achievements, but also on their lifestyle and how they have handled their various businesses. We intend to track the relationship between the mentors and mentees through monthly reports, for the purpose of feedback. It’ll be our joy to see that the mentees are growing and have been paired with the right mentor, and if there’s an issue with their relationship, the feedback process will help us fix it”
While appreciating all who made the event a success, she stated that “What is most important for me, is being able to build a community of women because we need women uplifting each other. I am happy to see that happen here today.”
The mentors for the conference were author Pat Obilor, Isioma Utomi, Fashion designer, Toju Foyeh, CEO of LSF PR Bidemi Zakariyau, MD Suffy Travels; Marie Therese Ukpo and Tech investor and ecosystem architect, Maya Horgan Famodu.