Young women from YWCA branches across the country came together at a forum as part YWCA of Nigeria’s 110th Anniversary celebration to evaluate young women’s participation in advancing the aims of the organisation and explore ways their participation can be more effective in the planning and implementation of programmes and activities around YWCA’s core areas of work and towards achieving our bold global goal.

Mrs. Hilda Nwanekwu, Co-Chair of the 110th anniversary committee encouraged young women in attendance to have fun but also make the most of the forum by ensuring that any outcome agreed to must be followed with commitment and zeal in order for the gathering to be a success.

Linda Agbo who is the National Youth Coordinator tasked all the young women to take charge of their lives and work towards creating more opportunities for other young women too, adding that “young women and girls should know that we are the real agents of change and we should support ourselves to empower us all.”

Delivering a session on the World YWCA Envisioning 2035 goal, Sarah Choji highlighted the global shift in focus to scale up reach and impact on young women and girls as leaders and for the protection of their rights. She reiterated that young women must make themselves available for service to attain the bold goal; and shared a brief history of the YWCA and Safe space model.

With the growing global move towards ICT and the need for young YWCA members to remain equipped for the current trend, the event also featured a presentation on ICT and its advantages in the fast growing digital world and an expose on creating and sustaining YWCA’s advocacy initiatives by Oluwadamilola Fagade.

The highlight of the forum was the Mentoring Session which had as panellists: Mrs. Amy Olukunle – a feminist and Gender equality advocate; Dr. Arinola A.A. Oluwo – Founder/President, Women Advancement and Youth Research Foundation (WAYREF) and Initiative for Promotion of Research on Women and Gender Development (ROWAG) and a politician; Mrs. Kemi Oderinde – a past YWCA branch Youth Coordinator; Miss Sarah Choji – Coordinator, Potters Youth Club and Miss Linda Agbo, YWCA National Youth coordinator.

The mentoring session was focused on encouraging young women to reach out for their dreams by committing and working hard towards making it come true by sharing real life stories. Mrs. Amy Oyekunle shared her many years of work experience as a gender rights advocate and dropped motivational one-liners such as “if you can’t name it, you can’t own it”, “fake it till you make it” as she encouraged the young women. She encouraged young women and girls to know themselves, outline their life goals and set all out to achieve them, assuring them that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to do.

Dr. Oluwo shared her passion for women’s empowerment and how that was translated into research for her thesis for PHD which focused on Gender and Empowerment. She also shared how she started her political journey and the lessons learnt, encouraging young women to be bold and assertive about what they want, learn to say no to whatever ills they are facing and mean it. Dr. Arinola also stated that focus is the key as that enables one to prepare by getting the requisite/basic knowledge and experience, and remain firm by not allowing distractions to keep one down.

Miss Sarah contributed in encouraging participants by using herself as an example and her journey after her first degree to her running her own business presently. She said it is good to take one step at a time so as to excel in whatever one does at each particular time, and concluded by saying getting involved in too many things at the same time, especially when one does not yet have the requisite years of experience makes life stressful and discouraging and does not allow one to also enjoy one’s youth.

Responding to a question raised during the Q& A session concerning the woes an African woman has to cope with in family life and career and in so many cases, having to dump her career pursuit for family life, the panellists allayed concerns by sharing how they were able to juggle family life with their daily commitments and career pursuit, and reiteratied that balance in everything is vital. They also added that there is need for focus to enable one successfully take fate into ones hands.

Mrs. Kemi Oderinde rounded up the session by further encouraging young women to stand up for what they believe and come together to support the YWCA Envisioning 2035 goal as active participants towards actualising the fulfilment of  goal.

Blessing Bodunde, a young woman and member of YWCA Omuo-Iludofin branch in Ekiti State, who was at the forum enthused “I am blessed to have been part of the young women’s forum. It has bolstered my confidence a great deal as to what I can achieve if I commit myself to it. I am setting up my life goals now as a guide to my future actions, trusting that YWCA will continue to provide platforms for encouragement as we take steps towards that.”