Expanding Possibilities for women is Key as ANWBN holds 2021 Summit
By Yemisi Suleiman
Otunba Gbemisola Oduntan is chairperson of the Association of Nigeria Women in Business Network (ANWBN) 2021 summit.
ANWBN a coalition of 52 women entrepreneurs was created with the soul aim of creating better lives for women in business, while advocating for inclusiveness and favourable government policies.
As the association sets to hold its second national summit on October 27th and 28th in Lagos, Odunton, who is also CEO, Sophie Foods, Seyi Odunton Farms Limited, and the deputy president South, of Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprise, (NASME) talks more on the Summit’s agenda and dreams of the Coalition amongst other issues.
What is the top agenda for this year’s Summit?
The theme of this year’s summit is ‘Expanding Possibilities,’ as a women group we felt that with regard to what is happening at the moment, we believe that we need to expand our possibilities. We are looking at ways to beat competition, ways to position ourselves in the right places and come to the table where decisions are being taken for women, they so that we will be part of that table. In addition to that, we will be looking at how women can scale up their business and strive in the times of post COVID.
We have different clusters we are looking at. We have MSMEs and youths as well. During this summit, we will be giving out incentives to start ups. We will be looking at women businesses that have done very well in their spaces. We will be giving women tips on how to succeed in the political space.
As we all are aware, COVID 19 affected businesses and the worst hits are women, because they are the most vulnerable, what is your coalition doing to stem the effect of the Pandemic on women in business?
Because the coalition has a lot of associations under it, in different associations, they are doing different things but, what we will be doing in the coalition is looking at ways to remain resilient, post COVID. We will be taking trainings and having people talk to us on how we can overcome. We have women national business agendas telling us how we can cushion effects of COVID. We have issues around security, road network, power, gender-inequality. It is an advocacy we are doing and we know this will impact women as a whole and make us get better atpost COVID-19.
How many groups make up the ANWBN Coalition? And what’s the idea behind the coalition?
We are 52 groups of women entrepreneurs that have come together as a coalition. We are trying to use the power of the coalition to make sure that we advocate for and push our women, to make our situation better and make ease of doing business for women a reality.
Are you looking at holding subsequent confresences to push your agenda?
Yes. For every quarter, we have a conference on different things that pertains to pushing our agenda forward. For example, we had one on the 30th of September about Gender inequality and how it affects women bussinesses and our access to finance. Again, we are trying to go down to even the informal sector and we want them all to be financially included in business. A lot of market women keep their money in their houses because they don’t trust the financial institutions, and they are not sure of getting anything from them. The financial institutions do not have these people in mind, whereas they are the masses. The low income consumers and earners are the ones that make up the population. So, we are trying to see how we can educate them and give them the necessary information and get them into the financial space, so they can benefit from what is going on and the financial space.
Does your coalition support businesses financially ?
We don’t give money to people. We bring in stake holders, match them with stakeholders to help them.
We partner with banks and other financial institutions to help train these women out.
Beyond having conferences and seminars, what plans do you have to ensure your decisions are being implemented?
Because we are not just one but 52 organisations. In each organisation everyone is doing something to ensure that whatever we are trying to do is implemented and we have feedback, for example in NASME we sure to assist everyone. We have different desk for different issues, we have legal, tax, capacity building and we have the access to finance. So we make sure to look for loans for women and follow through to ensure that they get the loans and also pay back the loans.
How long and far do you intend to pursue the goal of the Coalition?
We are pushing because we want the government to do something, to say because you are a woman we will do this or that for you, for them to give some kind of tax relief for women. We believe they are not taking care of women enough, despite what we bring to the table and we feel that should change.