When you think women empowerment, you naturally think economic and political emancipation with little or emphasis on ‘formal education’. Mrs Furo Giami, a real estate practitioner and an unapologetic advocate for women empowerment, however firmly believes holistic empowerment, even for the least woman, will be impossible without formal education. The Founder of Centre for Economic & Leadership Development, an organization inspiring women across different continents, including America, Asia and Africa, speaks on the vision behind her forthcoming Nigeria Power Women Conference billed to hold in Abuja later this month; and more in this interview with Woman’s Own.

WHAT sparked in you the interest for women empowerment? After I got married and started having kids, I began developing passion to start up something for kids. That triggered the establishment of the Centre for Economic & Leadership Development, CELD. We had children we were taking care of and we also went to schools to engage in advocacy. Till date, we also go into homes to talk to parents about children. We eventually started giving scholarships to children who couldn’t go to school.

I realized that in taking care of a child, you have to take care of the mother; that’s how you tackle the real issues from their roots. Soon, we evolved into a level where our whole vision and mission changed. We had realised that when you empower a woman, you have done a whole lot of work for the family because everything within the home revolves around her. What exactly is your definition of an empowered woman? My definition of empowerment is both education and entrepreneur-inspired. An empowered woman is basically that woman who is standing in all ramifications; she is educated (even if it is adult education) and has a means of livelihood,

When a woman suffers in the home because she has to depend entirely on her husband, the children bear the brunt. That’s why every woman must have something doing. Also, education is essential to the growth of any business. But what role do you think education will play in the lives of women traders at the lowest rung of the ladder? Beyond having a business, there is also the need for sustainability. Most of these women cannot position their businesses in a way that it can even outlive them or qualify for a loan. Is your organization structured to compliment what your husband does? Because I understand you both publish too… Yes and no. He is the publisher of African Leadership Magazine, and we are like the CSR arm of the group. The group sponsors the education of the children under our care. They also support our women empowerment initiatives. We are very independent. Except for the little support we get from his magazine. Meanwhile, I’m the Publisher of Amazons Watch Magazine, a new quarterly publication born out of the desire to continually highlight the giant strides of women from emerging nations of Africa, South America, Middle East, and Asia. What’s the inspiration behind the theme of your forthcoming conference? The theme ‘An Empowered Woman in the New Nigeria’ was inspired by the fact that Nigeria is evolving under a new dispensation. At the same time, a lot of opportunities are opening up, like we have noticed so, how can women key into those opportunities? To that effect, we’re inviting professionals to teach women how to get access to funds. We have a whole lot of sessions lined up for women entrepreneurs at different levels, and the First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, will also be there to tell us how to get women to top positions again, both in business and politics. Aside this premier Nigeria Power Women Conference, CELD’s yearly flagship event is the South America-Africa-Middle East-Asia Women Summit which holds in Dubai-UAE. Many have come up with different, unimaginable opinions of the Nigerian woman. What’s your assessment of her? The Nigerian woman possesses a dogged, deep personality. The only challenge we have is this silent war to meet or measure up with our male counterparts. Glass ceiling restraints Unfortunately, most women get to the middle of the road and then retrieve. You only need to be fierce enough to pull through that battle. I’ve had a relationship with most of the women in government and other key offices, and it’s a real battle. Every day, they fight to keep their position. We constantly have to prove ourselves by working twice as hard as the men. So, the Nigerian woman is a dogged woman who can deliver anytime. Her only glitch is the glass ceiling restraints. You cannot talk empowerment without political relevance; in what ways are you upping the game politically for women, considering the setbacks of 2015 elections? Already, we have a session for Women in Politics, in which we will discuss the way forward for 2019. We hope to come up with a strategic plan. The problem we envisage, however, is how to roll these ideas. This is because women, we’ve realized, fight fellow women a lot.