In recent times, the world has had to respond to the clamour and agitation for women inclusiveness in all aspect of life. From private organizations to governmental establishments as well as part of government, women have to had prove themselves so as to break free from the saying that ‘they are to be seen but not heard.’ More women have found the courage to stand firm against gender discrimination and inequality though it may seem like a herculean task, success has been recorded. In Margaret Thatcher’s words, “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.” Though the home and the work place are two distinct entities, women tend to have the inbuilt ability to excel when faced with daunting challenges. A few Nigerian women have been beacon of hope and icons of possibilities to other women who haven’t found their voice. Mrs Okonjo Iweala stands out when we talk of women who have climbed the slippery ladder of success to the top.

Born on the 13th of June, 1954 in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, to Chukwuka and Kamene Okonjo who were both professors at the University of Ibadan. Since her parents worked and lived in Ibadan, she began her primary education there and then proceeded to International School Ibadan and St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan for her secondary education before gaining admission at Harvard University where she graduated with an AB honours in Economics in 1977. In 1979, she got married to Dr Ikemba Iweala, a Neurosurgeon, and had four children. She later bagged a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981. Starting her career as an Intern at the world bank group where she later worked for over 20 years as a development economist. Working hard at being good at her job, she worked her way to the top and became the vice president of world bank group.

To Dolly Parton, an American Icon, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” Mrs Okonji’s intellectual capability as well as leadership skills prompted President Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint her as Nigeria’s finance minister in 2003.  With a desire to bolster the country’s economy, she developed reforms programs that improved the country’s transparency and the economy. At the end of her tenure as finance minister, she was appointed as a Managing Director of World Bank Group. As the Managing Director, she led several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during food and financial crises. She was then reappointed as Finance minister under president Goodluck jonathans administration in 2011, introducing policies that led to Nigeria becoming the fastest growing and largest economy in Africa. She then joined Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm and served as a Senior Advisor in the organization in 2015.

Though a busy woman, she finds time to write books as well as go for talk shows where she educates all by sharing her experiences while in government. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is also an author. Some of the books she has written include; Economic Reforms: Progress and Challenges, Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Public Funds, Reforming the Unreformable and Fighting Corruption is Dangerous published in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2018 respectively. Some of the talk shows she has spoken at include 2015 Global Landscapes Forum, TED Talk, African Development Bank Group Annual Meetings, 2016 SIPA’s Graduation amongst many others.

Mrs Ngozi’s sits on a number of boards and advisory groups which include non-executive director at Standard Chartered PLC, Twitter board of directors, Nelson Mandela Institution, Lionwork Capital, African University of Science and Technology in Nigeria amongst others. She’s also a member of the Asian Infrastructure Bank International Advisory Board, The Commission of Climate Economy, Rockfeller Foundation, the Harvard University Advisory Council, the Womens World Banking, Result for Development Institutes, and quite a lot more. She was the chairman of Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company PLC, World Bank’s Development Committee and Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and was also a member of International Monetary and Finance Committee of the IMF, the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High Level Panel, the Danish Government Led Commission on Africa, etc.

As an astute and courageous woman, her successful career has won her many awards and gotten recognitions from all around the globe. Some of these awards and recognitions include; Minister of the year at This Day awards in 2004,  Global Minister of the Year by EuroMoney Magazine in 2005, 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Polices in 2011, Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in World in 2011, 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policies in 2012, Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 2013, Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World in 2014, 50 Greatest World Leaders by Fortune Magazine 2015, Financial Minister of the Year by Africa Investor Magazine in 2015, Global Fairness Award by Global Fairness Initiatives in 2016, Aspen Institute Madeleine Albright Award 2017.

Seen as strong willed personality and one who cannot be intimated, Mrs Okonjo Iweala’s achievement over the years has stood her out amongst other. She has become a perfect example for women and young female youth to be confident in pursuing their dreams. Her life achievement has come out of hard work and determination to succeed and make an impact. As a mother and proud Nigerian, her desire is for the country to develop and she strongly believes that women are that engine that will bring about economic growth and development in the county.

This article was written for Fatherland Gazette by SOLA ALOGBA


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