Founded in 2011, Women4Africa (W4A) is an annual event dedicated to celebrating African women who have made a great impact in their communities.
This year’s event will be held on May 10th in London (UK). We spoke to founder Tola Onigbanjo, to learn more about the W4A event and to get an insight into this year’s proceedings.
Women for Africa was founded by you and your husband Sam. How did the idea for Women4Africa come about?
Women4Africa came about from my passion for Women and my husband’s passion for Africa. I was a hairdresser for over 20 years and used to hear some of the most amazing stories from my clients. The stories were so extraordinary that I told myself “People need to hear this”. I was not quite sure what I wanted to do but I thought to myself, celebrities are always awarded and acknowledged but what about the ordinary woman making a difference. So I mentioned it to my husband and with his passion for Africa we came up with Women4Africa and decided that it would be about the celebration and elevation of the African Woman.
Why was it important to set up an organisation focusing on African women and the issues surrounding them?
We all have a time lease on earth, on average as an individual 70-90 years each, collectively that is thousands of years per “Race” Our responsibility is to develop our land, people and community. The West have developed their land and people the East are rapidly doing the same.
It is the responsibility of Any and every African to develop Africa, not a government, chief or Politician, it is for the people to do. So to answer this question, Women4africa is a response to a call to develop Africa, if we don’t the next generation will be born asking the same question, why is Africa an embarrassment? Why are women beaten viciously in Africa? Why do girls get married off at age 8 in Africa?…
You were born and raised in the UK to Nigerian parents. You are also a qualified mentor in family resolution issues. Do you feel like your upbringing and education has prepared you for your work with the organisation?
I believe that what I am today and the things I do are as a result of my upbringing and my environment. Seeing the role that women play not just in the home, but in the work place, in society and in the community, I realised that one of the ways in which it could be more visible was to create a platform that would highlight this and bring people from all walks of life to be part of that celebration.
Women4Africa are working with several platforms to bring awareness to sexual exploitation of girls and the ending of girl-child labour. Can you elaborate on what the organisation is doing to bring attention to these issues?
What we at Women4Africa decided from the beginning was that even though these issues are close to our heart, we were not going to start a separate organisation to now address them. We agreed that there were already organisations that were committed to dealing with such issues, so we now would partner with them to bring awareness to them and also we donate proceeds from our events to these organisations. Each year we pick a charity to support and we put that charity up on our website as our chosen charity to support.
As well as being the founder of W4A, you are also an author, a radio personality, a wife and a mother. How do you find time to juggle home life with the running of the business?
I have learnt to manage my time very well. I believe there are enough hours in each day and if managed well, one can achieve much. My family time is just that. I always make time for them no matter what. I have a healthy work-life balance and constantly review it and make any changes when needed.
What motivates you?
My family motivates me. They are the ones that keep me going. Their ongoing support and contribution continuously motivates me and the things I do.
The 2014 Women4Africa award is taking place in May. What can we expect from this year’s show? Anything different from previous editions?
This year we have a number of things in store for the night. Without giving too much away, I will say that this year we will be having 3 of our past winners tell their story on the night. Their stories will now enlighten everyone as to what Women4africa is all about.
Is there a specific criteria that you look for when selecting the nominees for each category?
We keep most of the categories the same each year with just changes to a few. We try to have categories that will encompass a diverse range of outstanding women.-
W4A is now in its 3rd year. Where do you see the organization in the next 5 years?
In 5 years time Women4Africa would have evolved. Most of those plans I cannot mention right now. However the end result will always elevate Africa and its women.
What advice would you give to future African entrepreneurs that are inspired by the work that Women4Africa do?
Intelligence, team-work, continuous momentum, courage and wisdom, these are the natural ingredients of success and the foundation and growth ingredients of Women4Africa. Once you have a team that are passionate about your passion, you will find that it makes everything a great deal easier.
How can our readers learn more about the organisation and the main event?
All the information is on our website www.women4africa.com and there they can join our mailing list to receive further updates.
I want to thank Tola Onigbanjo for granting us this interview – she is truly an inspiration.
Image Source: Women4Africa (Facebook).