Stigmatisation and negative narratives are among drivers that discourage most women from attaining excellence. Against this background, participants at the 2022 Women In Media (WIM) conference advocated positive narratives to enhance the achievements of women across board, reports APPOLONIA ADEYEMI
From the beginning of time, there has always been the mentality that women are supposed to be supportive just on the home front and are not supposed to engage in any work outside their home. As time passed, women have continued to defy this narrative and have proved themselves to be able to do things that they had otherwise been dissuaded from doing. Under the auspices of Women In Media (WIM) Conference & Awards 2022, distinguished women that have excelled, attaining the peak in their media career including the print, electronic and social media gathered in Lagos recently to push this narrative and encourage womenfolk to do their best in whatever profession or business that they might be engaged in.
Why not a woman
The programme with the theme ‘Why Not A Woman,’ attracted the who is who not only in the media industry, but also women achievers from other professions including the music and movie industries, the academia, among other fields. Some personalities at the event include Ace Nollywood veteran, Joke Silva, who was the honorary president, Agatha Amata, the MD/CEO, RAVE TV, Dr. Ngozi Okara of the Pan Atlantic University and Joy Osawaru Akinyemi of the Guild of Nigerian Nollywood among others. The WIM project, which began in 2009, also received some recognition at the 2022 conference. Awardees include Chief Wale Adenuga: Pillar of Support Award; Mary Remmy Njoku: Award for Distinction in Electronic Media (Motion Pictures); Juliet Bumah: Award for Distinction in Print Editorial, Jire Kola-Kuforiji who got an Award for Distinction in Electronic Media, among others. Ace veteran broadcaster, Bimbo Oloyede, who was the keynote speaker at the programme, spoke on the need for women to work together to rewrite their own stories and end the many misconceptions that were being peddled against them in order to reduce their chances of contributing more to develop the society. “What we are talking about in this conference is women in the media shattering the ceiling and from my perspective I identified some areas that I thought were ceilings. By ceilings, I mean stigmatisation. I feel like there are a lot of people who say things that are not true about women in the media. They are false stories. I felt it was important for us to look at women in the media from a different perspective and indeed a positive perspective. There were a lot of contributions from way back till now and young women are making their mark in various professions. I would say that the message really is that women should remember the people who brought us into this industry; remember those who are in positions where they can help other women and then let the younger women also make sure that they are in this industry for the right reasons and that they are making positive contributions and behaving in a way that makes it possible for others to come into this same industry after them,” she said.
Oloyede spoke extensively on how these wrong narratives could be effectively used to limit the growth of women in not just the media but in other industries. She also recognised another false story that was being peddled in order to discourage young ladies from venturing into the media; the issue of older women not being supportive to their younger counterparts. “I’m not sure that I agree that older women are oppressing younger women. I haven’t seen that because I have seen older women who have gone out of their way to make sure other women learn and improve. I would just advise younger women to ensure that they are constantly learning and improving themselves. There are many opportunities within and outside the country and many of them are online. It is possible for you to develop yourself to a point where it is not possible to ignore your contributions; your work speaks for you. When that is the case, whether you are a man or woman doesn’t matter. Whether they try to make life difficult for you doesn’t matter because your work is what will stand you in good stead,” she said. Oloyede concluded by encouraging women to improve upon themselves at whatever point they found themselves as that would be the key to liberating not just themselves, but other women as well. “I identified 10 areas where I thought ceilings were. There are a variety of ceilings I identified and I believe that they are what I can call stigma or stereotypes. Amongst them were the false story that women from good homes don’t join the media, that media women don’t have successful marriages, that we are dropouts, that we are just pretty faces, that we are selfish, that all we want to do is enjoy the good life and utilise the media as a stepping stone to travel abroad. I mentioned a variety of things but they are all false stories. I was able to make some examples of women in the media who were not in those categories, who defied those stereotypes and who showed clearly that these myths are yesterday’s stories and they don’t belong to us anymore,” she said.
On her part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) WIM, Daisy Madu- Chikwendu said it was time women started to take control and be in positions of authority in their various professions including politics. “The topic of discussion today is informed by the fact that we are entering election period so it is reminding us that in this period everything is almost always about men. Presidency: men governors: men, even the women that are taken as vice are not appreciated and when it comes to the media, we need people that are high up to speak up. Even the men in those positions need to recognise women as being worthy to take part in moving the country forward,” she said. The CEO of WIM also pointed out that if women were given equal opportunities and the same free rights to demonstrate their talents, they would be just as good as any man in whatever profession. She advocated that women be granted this opportunity as it would end up being for the good of the larger society.
“We know as women that we can do a lot and most of us are self-made. We get to where we are by struggling and making ourselves what we are. We are asking: ‘Why not a woman?’ Why can’t a woman be all these things that men are because we know that given the opportunity we can sometimes do better than men.” Therefore, Madu-Chikwendu advised that women should go out, try their best, do as much as they can and for the men, “please give us the opportunity,” she added.
Speaking in a similar vein, Kenny St. Brown, a gospel artist, said that women have to be persistent and keep pushing rather than blaming the society or factors around them. “It’s a personal decision. What do you want to do with your career? Passion is not enough but how willingly are you to do what you have to do. Don’t blame marriage; it happens to anything. Don’t blame Nigeria; Nigeria happens to everyone. Don’t blame financial situations either. Despite all these challenges, there are women who are successful. For me we have the same opportunity and it’s what you can make of it that matters,” she said. The gospel artist encouraged women to keep on working because they are yet to get to the point where they need to be. “Persistence is key. It’s about knowing what works and keeping at it. I’ve grown my passion, dream and vision. We need to define it in today’s society,” she said.