Sunlight: Empowering Women Through Fashion
Since its inception in the 1800’s, Sunlight’s purpose has been to improve the lives and wellbeing of people, with a focus on women.
Sunlight’s mission is to act as a bridge between women and their opportunities, to empower and encourage women to be the best they can be at every stage of their life’s.
Sunlight is a leading brand in the Unilever Shakti program that provides products for women in rural areas, which they resell to households and in their communities, thereby making a profit and generating an income stream for themselves.
This initiative to date has reached 3000 women. Sunlight has also created Sunlight Water Centers, an initiative started to improve the poor water situations in communities within Nigeria, by increasing access to water and improving the economic power of women.
This initiative is run by female entrepreneurs from the community with the profits going back to these women. Now, Sunlight is connecting with women through the stories of five Nigerian women who have made it their mission to empower other women, and Vanguard Allure is happy to showcase this amazing partnership.
These women are Bella Rose Okojie, Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi, Bolaji Chizoba Ayinde-Sekoni, Nelly Agbogu, and Ify Okoye. They will be wearing the Sunlight collection created by Morenikeji Akinsola of VATHISWA and Chibuzor Emordi of Zurizola; a collection that will be available for sale at the Lagos Fashion Week 2019 from the 23rd October 2019 – 26th October, 2019 with the proceeds going back to the designers.
Ify Okoye: Inspired To Lift Other Women
Ify Okoye is an ex-beauty queen whose love for beauty, motivated the launch of her business, The Painted Nail Ng. The Painted Nail provides affordable and accessible products that allow women to express their personality, style, and even their mood. She believes that colour truly has the power to change not just one’s look, but also, one’s outlook on life. Ify plans to educate and teach women proper nail care skills, which in turn, helps them grow sustainable businesses for themselves and their families..
What inspired you?
When I had my first daughter, I found it difficult to leave my house for the salon. I was trying to look pretty but realised I couldn’t buy quality products locally, so I ordered a few abroad. That sparked something in me and that’s how it started; because, I’m passionate about grooming, looking and feeling my best (Laughs).
If you had the power to take off one of the challenges faced by women, What would that be?
My biggest challenge is multi-tasking as a mum while focusing on other things. I would love the ability to multitask successfully.
How is the Sunlight Project in line with what you do?
We’re both trying to empower and uplift women in whatever possible way we can. I do it through a beauty brand, while Sunlight goes way farther than I do. I am grateful to be a part of an initiative that does that for my gender. Not every woman has the opportunity to have a dream and see it come to pass. In most cases, the major problem is financial constraints. Giving women the foundation to start up their businesses is really commendable because, being a woman is not easy. So, well done Sunlight!
How did you perceive women as a young girl, and what’s your current perception of Women?
As a young girl, I felt women were subjected to running the home and were always blamed for any mishap that happens in the house. Right now, I feel women are more in control and are running their business with so much finesse. In some cases, men are no longer dictators, it is more of a team effort. Women are strong go-getters. I am inspired by so many women.
As a young girl who is that one Woman that inspired you?
My Mum! She made it so easy, she took care of things so well that we were unaware of how bad things were. She made sure we stayed grounded with the value she instilled in us.
Nelly Agbogu: Shaped By Strong Women
Nelly Agbogu is the founder ofNaijaBrandChick, Nellies Nigeria, a healthy food company and an online social media platform. She’s also the convener of the NBC trade fair. Nelly is a mum and a business guru that helps women generally, by sharing healthy meal alternatives and also, helps women grow their businesses on social media.
What are the struggles you face handling Naija brand Chick as a woman?
Men thinking I shouldn’t be the one in charge, especially those older than me. They prefer talking to my husband in my stead, even after knowing that I’m the sole owner of the brand.
What inspired the initiative of Naija Brand Chick?
I learnt how to bake from Youtube. When I started Nellies, I was able to push sales on social media for the Nellies brand, and people asked how I made these sales through social media. I would say Naija Brand Chick became an information-sharing platform where I could share my knowledge, and details on how to replicate what I was doing which in turn, helped other brands and businesses.
How similar is the Sunlight campaign to your brand?
The Sunlight initiative is empowering women, helping them aspire for more. This is similar to my brand which is focused on building and lifting up women. That is why I’m very excited to be a part of this project.
If you had the opportunity to talk to your younger self what would you say?
I will say keep pushing, you were a mess, but, look at you right now (smiles)! You have been authentically you; so don’t change anything about yourself.
Growing up, how did you perceive women and how has time changed that perception for you?
I grew up around powerful women. The irony of it is that, my family treasure women even more than men. I grew up seeing my female cousins in politics, doing amazing things.
For people who don’t have an enabling environment which allows them to thrive, if the family doesn’t groom or support you – look for a place of succour to help you grow.
Who is that one woman that inspired you as a child?
My mum! At a time, my dad lost his job, it took a toll on my mum, but she was able to go the extra mile to fend for us. She is instrumental in moulding me to who I have become today.
Bella Rose Okojie:Eager To Help Women
Bella Rose Okojie is the morning show host on City FM, who helps young, aspiring broadcasters by involving them in her projects, teach and share resource materials. As the co-founder of www.techcity.com, women empowerment remains at the heart of everything she does.
If you had the power to take off one of the challenges faced by women, What would that be?
I think it is the notion that women can only do some things. There is a very weird embargo, if I may say, that’s placed on the girl-child where people say, “you know there are some things you just can’t do”. I want to have the power to change that thought, and let women see they can do just about anything.
How does it feel working with Sunlight on this campaign?
It’s fulfilling! I want women to be a lot more confident and when you look at what Sunlight is doing; empowering women with start-up capital support for their businesses, they’re helping women level up. The encouragement we need as women is what Sunlight is providing. I’m hoping that this will also have a beautiful ripple effect so that other women can see what Sunlight has done for women, and just tap from that strength, and go ahead and do the same.
How did you see women growing up and how has time changed that perception?
My first exposure to a woman is my mother and cliche as it might sound, she’s the strongest woman I know and to a large extent, helped me to see that I can do just about anything I want to do. That’s why I also have an idea about women being amazing people because, my mom is that woman that made me see my strengths, and also showed my sister her strengths. She made me see women as supporters and backbones.
If you have the opportunity to talk to your younger self, what would you tell her?
Hmmm… I’ll say “make more female friends” because growing up, I was sort of a tomboy. I have a few female friends now but I think if I made more female friends when I was much younger, there would be a lot more women around me. That is why I’m usually excited, and ready to help any young woman that comes to me for help concerning her life and career.
Bolaji Chizoba Ayinde- Sekoni – Empowering Women Financially
She is the creative director of Nouva Couture. As a new mum, wife, and fashion entrepreneur, her day is engulfed with multitasking. At Nouva Couture, 60% of her staff are women. She provides them with a setting that allows them to grow into confident, empowered professionals. She does this because she believes that female empowerment must be centred around financial independence.
How do you handle the challenges of being an Entrepreneur?
It’s been pretty difficult and challenging being a female entrepreneur, a mother, a wife; especially, since I gave birth. I have not physically been to work in four months, and I still ensure that work is being done properly. I don’t have much sleep, but I am built for that.
If you have a superpower which of the issues facing women will you want to take off?
In terms of issues relating to women, I’ll say child marriage, no child should have to go through that.
What do you think about being a part of the Sunlight campaign?
I’m happy Sunlight has given me the platform, to show other women that they can do just about anything, if they put their heart to it. Personally, I have made it a point of duty to support one woman every year, with a token to help grow their business.
I started my business with just N30,000 and was able to scale. I feel any amount of money can be turned to millions if it is used wisely. Start small, see where you make mistakes, learn and forge forward.
I wish I knew to be more independent much earlier, because growing up, fathers were seen as the head of the home, but many women take up more responsibility in the home too. Now that I know better, and I have a daughter, I will teach her better.
How did you perceive women growing up?
I saw women as the individual behind the man. I never saw women side by side or even in front; but the truth is, women are doing much more. Times have changed, and the way we live is evolving and women are taking bold steps to be more vocal about the things they do.
Who is that one woman that inspired you growing up?
My Mother! She had over 80 shops in Alaba International Market, Alabarago. She had a furniture business, she was a woman like three men. She was that Iroko tree that I never thought could fall. She empowered herself and other people.
Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi – Empowering Women Through Education
Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi is a publisher (a founding member of Clever clogs book), an author, and the chairperson of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ). She is passionate about increasing the literacy rate in Nigeria. Aboderin-Talabi gives authors, especially women, the chance to showcase their books and share their craft at the Akada Children Book Festival – a fun festival in partnership with the British Council, to showcase children’s books written by African authors.
What are the challenges you face as an author?
Well, I think it’s the same challenges people who run business face in Nigeria, all we can do is take one step at a time. The high cost of production, getting the right printers who can get colour separation done right, also finding the right illustrators, because dealing with children’s books, you have to understand what you’re trying to say and interpret with pictures.
What do you think about what Sunlight is doing for women?
Anything that shed light on what women do, no matter how small, is a good thing. I think people feel women are given too much attention, but I don’t agree with that point of view.
Growing up as a young girl, how did you see yourself and how has that thought evolved?
I had no reason to think I wouldn’t be successful. In my family, education is highly-priced and I was very confident I could do anything I wanted to do. I’ll say we should nurture each child, and give each child the opportunity to learn, to teach the child how to think, so in future, the child can be in a position to turn things around.
f you had a superpower to eliminate one issue out of many issues faced by women, what would it be?
Bias! I would remove bias, both conscious and unconscious from the society. I will make people conscious they have the bias, and give women a fair chance to do whatever they want.
Who is that one woman that inspires you?
There are so many, but first my mother. She is the toughest, most resilient, most hardworking, focused woman that I know and that’s where I draw my strength from. She is not afraid and because of that, her work has been rewarded with success.