Elisha Attai is a Media, Communications and Public Relations Practitioner and Publisher.A strong advocate for the development and advancement of the African woman, he is the Founder of the African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) and the initiator/convener of the famed African Women in Leadership Conference (AWLC), a global movement of Women of African descent changing the narratives of leadership in the world.
He was recently honored by the Global Oved Dei Seminary & University in the United States with an Honorary Doctorate Degree for his commitment to gender-parity. The United Nations Women National Committee Canada has also honored me him as their Ambassador for his contributions to gender equality and women empowerment over the years.
An honorary citizen of the State of Georgia, USA, he is an ardent sports fan and loves football.
What motivated you to start AWLO?
Having worked as a media consultant for years, I have had opportunities to work with women. I was inspired ‘to bring women together’ – to raise each other up; as this was the edge that we the male counterparts had over women.
I witnessed firsthand the incidence of how a woman’s lack of support for another closed a potential door of opportunity, and I was moved to bring women together to form a support system and build each other up. It also began a movement of getting women prepared for Leadership Opportunities.
Looking back now at how AWLO has succeeded through the Chapters model of support systems, and our succession plan; we have AWLO Chapters in 12 Countries and we are bridging the gap to the next generation also. I would say that gap of women’s leadership is being bridged and women are taking the global front.
What were the challenges you faced when you started?
One peculiar one is being a man and spearheading a cause for women. AWLO is still standing because dreams are valid, and I believe over time people have gotten to understand that I am genuinely concerned about the development of African Women. Others are cultural practices that limit the ideologies we are propounding, and then as a Not-for-Profit, raising funds.
What are some of the achievements your organization has recorded so far?
Consistency is our first milestone. It’s been 10 years and we are still standing by God’s Grace.
Raising the Next Generation of Female Leaders through AWLO Leadership School has been another significant milestone. Getting young women involved in leadership through our outstanding Leadership Development Curriculum.
Connecting the dots in leadership down to the next generation, not letting them stray. Teaching them rudimentary self-leadership and connecting them to women of worth who have gone ahead of them to show them the way.
Changing the narrative of women’s leadership in Africa through our conferences has given us a huge leverage because it is on a global scale. In a room full of leaders from other countries, having deliberations and afterwards producing a communique that will influence actions taken to attain women’s leadership in our corners- workplaces, boardrooms, legislation. For instance, the 35% Affirmative Action for women in Nigeria.
We are looking forward to equal representation very soon and we are delighted to be represented well in Liberia as the current Vice President is our member.
What is AWLO doing to ensure we have more women in leadership positions in Nigeria?
More women must get involved in leadership and that is the reason for AWLO in the first place.We are set up in Chapters so that we can shine our candle in the little corners from the grass root level influencing one woman at a time.
We call it Leadership capacity building – harnessing the leadership potential of women, indoctrinating them with a leadership mindset and values. We have got to conquer their minds before they can conquer in boardrooms.
So, we are creating a Leadership experience for women – intellective and experiential. And we are sure that they will conquer the world.
Women cannot be lagging behind. Beginning from the fact that they bring life into the world; that means they have the capacity to influence and we have to tap into more of this power.
There is an AWLO HeforShe Movement. We set up Hangouts for men to have conversations on empowering women. Men are a key part of the gender equality and equity movement, and we are actively involving them.
This attempt has made us realize that men have to first be open to the idea, and little conversations here and there can make the idea sink in. But it starts with believing in that idea and that’s what we are trying to achieve. You won’t believe how revealing some of these conversations have been. There is still a lot of work to be done.
What role is your wife playing in AWLO?
My wife is not actively involved in the day-to-day running of the Organisation mainly because she runs her own Business. She is involved in major decision-making as a Director, and my life-partner.
She gives life to AWLO in many unimaginable ways. From giving me all the support I need, through prayers and ample time to go out there to fulfil my dreams. I couldn’t have done this without her.
Your child (AWLO) is 10. Tell us about celebrating this milestone?
It was just like a dream in my heart so now I can’t believe how far it has come. I give glory to God. It shows that he just plants a dream in your heart and the rest is history.
This 10th Year has been about Creating Transgenerational Impact through Innovative Leadership and you can’t believe how much success we have registered. From the Next Generation Female Leaders Program to a successful Conference.
I have been nursing the idea of authoring a compendium to celebrate the extraordinary works of African Women and the actualization has come. The Compendium, ‘African Women of Worth: 100 Amazons Vol 1’ was unveiled officially at the Conference and is being well received by African Leaders such as Chief Opral Benson, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, H.E Mohamed Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia, H.E Chief Dr. Jewel Taylor, Vice President of Liberia, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Director of Mo Ibrahim Foundation and a host of other leaders across the continent. I am starting the USA leg of the book tour this September in Houston, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta and Las Vegas… I hope that it will serve as a reference to the young ones and challenge women in general to be all they can be.
We had very engaging sessions and deliberations to throw more light and actualize our theme. The Women in Male Dominated Sectors Symposium walked young leaders through the terrain of such industries while the Women in Politics Symposium was aimed at bridging the gap of women representation in politics. All speakers and panelists did justice to the theme and connected especially with the younger generation all striving to create opportunities for them.
Takeaways and Action plans were drawn to form a communique. And it was indeed a successful one.
What Structure have you put in place to sustain the vision of AWLO especially for the Future Generation?
AWLO’s Leadership School enshrines our mandate as it pertains to the actual leadership development. We have an infrastructure that prepares women for leadership beginning at the basic level of self-leadership. We have also included experiential leadership modules such as mentorship and internship.
We believe the AWLO experience shouldn’t just be a one-off. While the Chapters are the harvesting ground for these potential leaders however a mechanism is in place to sustain our efforts to actualize the representation and involvement of women in leadership in Africa. The Leadership School is this mechanism.
You were recently selected among the 41 African Leaders to represent the African Continent at the African Leadership Forum at Kigali Rwanda. Tell us About this.
Yes. it was an honor and privilege to be among the selected 41 African Leaders at the African Leadership Forum 2018 on Financing Africa’s Transformation for Sustainable Development in Kigali, Rwanda alongside the President of Rwanda, H.E Paul Kagame, Former President of Mozambique; H.E Joaquim Chissano, Dr. Vera Songwe; Executive Secretary UNECA, Amb. Yonov Fredrick; Deputy General World Trade Organisation, Former President of Tunisia; H.E Mohammed Marzouki, Former President of Mozambique; H.E Armando Guebuza, Governor of Central Bank of Kenya; Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u, Former President of Nigeria; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, H.E Benjamin Mkapa; Former President of Tanzania and H.E Hassan Sheikh; Former President of Somalia and others across the Continent.
The forum is to engage high-level decision-makers and people of influence to deliberate on the prospect of increased, improved, and effective financing for Africa’s transformation. The three objectives were; Understanding the current and emerging context for financing Africa’s development, sharing successes and failures in national, regional, and continental attempts to address specific financial challenges; and Providing recommendations for critical areas where intervention will lead to unlocking increased financing for Africa’s development.
Tell us about one significant impact you have made in a woman’s life as a person
Being the Founder of a women’s organization, a lot of expectations already arise. In addition to that, dealing with women every single day of my life, one aspect of women’s life where I find that they need help is validation (please this is also not a generalization).
Every day, I have to step into the shoes of a cheerleader to remind women of their worth. Hence, I coined the phrase ‘woman of worth’ as a representation of who I see in them. Their innate potential and limitless capabilities are worthy of acknowledgment. I remind them of the light that is within them and urge them to shine it.
An example is my young General Manager. I have challenged and put her on a pedestal to deliver and she hasn’t failed. I believe that if women are given the right environment and their capabilities are harnessed they can attain their full potential and eventually toss the gender-box where they have been marginalized into. Truthfully, there is more to women than our long-held misconceptions
What advice do you have for young women out there?
Challenge yourself to get the best of yourself.
Don’t settle for handouts.