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How effective communication can boost women’s careers – SpeakHer co-founder



Co-founder of SpeakHer Hub Network, Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, tells EMMANUEL OJO how the organisation is empowering women with communication skills to improve their careers

Your team at the SpeakHer Hub Network has scheduled the maiden edition of the SpeakHer conference for October 14, what is the inspiration behind the initiative?

Sometime last year, I think it was November, I attended a women’s conference and one of the speakers, the final speaker at the conference, mentioned the need to collaborate and form partnerships with like-minded people for impact and there was this idea that one cannot do it alone. Before that conference, I had the SpeakHer idea in mind, about how I can help women become better communicators but I didn’t quite know what to do with the idea of coaching, public speaking, and communication for a while. However, I thought I needed to focus on women as the demographic because they might go in as corporate executives and I noticed that women in many industries struggle to express themselves. They have fantastic talent and they have skills that are required for what they do but the ability to speak with confidence, give a powerful presentation, and pitch ideas before investors is an aspect that many women find challenging. So, it wasn’t until that conference held that I figured that there was something I had in mind to collaborate with someone with a good initiative. I then approached her and that person was Ayo Mairo-Ese, who is now a co-founder. So, that was really the birth of the idea and I know Ayo, in her own right, is really passionate about women empowerment in the area of communicating excellently. So, we came together and talked about launching this SpeakHer maiden conference and we named our brand, SpeakHer. When you hear it pronounced, it sounds like ‘speaker’ but it’s actually SpeakHer, referring to the feminine gender and we decided that our slogan will be ‘empowering women with excellence’.

We want women to be fluent communicators because it can open doors of opportunities for them in the area of public speaking and communication and we decided that a flagship way of doing that to impact hundreds of women will be to do an annual conference. So, this year’s theme, which is the maiden edition, will be ‘Find Your Roar’. It’s not just finding your voice, that is, your physical voice. It means finding your authentic message and voice in the philosophical sense. What is your voice? It is the message you want to bring to the world as an entrepreneur, and as a professional woman and how you can leverage that voice to impact your community, your industry, your circle, and your network in a way that will catalyse change.

Is there any reason why it is coming at this time?

Yes, there are several reasons but first of all, the world and industry at large have become strongly aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion across society and so, we see an opportunity to capitalise on the interest, the corporate interest not just in the private sector but the public sector, around women and diversity and the impact that empowering a woman will make, not just in her life but in the society. So, we are capitalising on a moment in time.

The second part of it is that between Ayo and myself, we get a lot of demands and calls and 70 to 80 per cent of them are women asking for assistance, help, and masterclasses. They want to be better communicators. They want to be better entrepreneurs, they want to be better speakers and between the two of us, we can’t be having one-on-one coaching for everyone. So, the idea is to bring everyone together and deliver some high-impact masterclasses, using external facilitators, notable people, and industry people from the media. We have facilitators like Bimbo Oloyede, who is a veteran broadcaster.

What other activities are involved?

Generally, we have judges for a ‘speakathon’ competition and women have already submitted entries and it has been shortlisted. It is going to be a competition and we have judges like Stephanie Busari of CNN (Cable News Network) on that judging panel. So, it will get women to see other women like them, who have put themselves out there, to expose them to world-class training by accomplished coaches and facilitators, and then help to spur that desire and motivation for them to want to improve and to believe that they can deliver and perform. If you recall what I said, this is not just about speaking. Speaking is not just an end in itself; it is a means to achieving something.

Imagine a woman who is an accomplished economist or finance guru, who has a fantastic business idea and wants to win $200m for her business idea. She got her presentation and everything together but she doesn’t have the delivery skills needed to stand up confidently and pitch her business idea in front of some investors. Her brilliance won’t be shown to the world and she won’t have the opportunity to unlock that door that will then enable people to believe in her ideas and aspirations and back her financially.

That is one example of our targeted audience, that is one example of our targeted demographic. A woman’s ability to communicate can make a difference. Think about the woman going into a banking hall and planning to obtain funding from the Bank of Industry. She has this brilliant idea of agriculture and a value chain that will empower women and hundreds of other small-scale farmers. However, can she communicate perfectly? It’s beyond ability, it’s beyond being on the platform. It’s also about helping women. It’s an economic empowerment team and there are corporate people, who are excited by our ideas and want to put the weight of their financial prowess behind our ideas.

Is there a reason why it is limited to women, or is it aimed at closing the gap between both genders?

That is a great question. Between my co-founder and I, we also coach men in our individual time. I coach anybody, either man or woman, but we recognise the gap. There is still a gender inequality gap in society and being able to empower with soft skills has been shown to add a significant multiplier effect to economic development. So, it’s not an exclusion of others but we believe that when the woman is empowered, she will empower her community, she will empower her children. In that community, there are men and women, boys and girls. So, it’s really just a specific focus and we believe that that’s our target demographic for this particular initiative but as I mentioned, myself and my co-founder, as professionals, empower hundreds of men and women in our everyday endeavours. It’s just that we recognise a specific need for women to really up their game.

Nigeria has made progress in key industries. If you look at financial services for instance, you have more women sitting on boards, you have more women emerging in key positions, at senior levels and the executive levels, so, gradually, women are breaking boundaries but what we are saying is that we need to see more changes because many women are still falling off the ladder at mid-level than men in companies and organisations.

What will be the highlights of the ‘speakathon’?

For the speakathon, it is part two of the programmes for that day. In part one, we have four masterclasses. Part two is the ‘speakathon’ in four categories. The first category is called marketplace oracle. These are women who basically want to talk about a critical economic or industry issue, using data to deliver insight that will then spur quality change. Then we have the pitcher for people who want to pitch innovative and interesting products to convince the audience to buy or take their product. Then we have the faith and inspiration angels which involve people who want to talk and inspire us with ideas that can inspire life changes; to talk to us about how divine guidance has made a difference in their lives. Finally, we have the story-teller category and these are the ones who want to reveal the power of storytelling to inspire us, make us laugh and cry. So, these are the four ‘speakathon’ categories. We had entries from over 50 women and we shortlisted three into each of those categories. During the ‘speakathon,’ a panel of five judges will determine winners in each category. They will come up and deliver a talk for about three to five minutes and a winner will be decided in each category and then, the overall winner in the ‘speakathon’ will also be decided. Imagine the energy of having these women on stage and how it’s going to inspire other women as well.

Where will you place communication as a skill required for career growth?

I will place it at number one. It is because if one cannot communicate, how can one be able to pitch their products and services? How can one showcase the work that they do and how can one communicate to the team as a leader to drive the vision and strategy to the stakeholders, board, team members, and customers? So, communication is key and it is a skill that can be acquired; that’s why it is called communication skill and we all can develop that skill through nurturing

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Kwara Gov receives VP Kashim Shettima in Ilorin hails peace harmony in Kwara



Kwara State Governor and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Saturday received Vice President Kashim Shettima (GCON) in Ilorin, the state capital, amid a rousing welcome by several APC leaders and people of the state.

Vice President Shettima was received by the Governor at the Tunde Idiagbon Airport, joined by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi; Speaker Kwara House of Assembly Rt Hon Yakubu Salihu Danladi; Sen Salihu Mustapha (Kwara Central); Sen. Sadiq Umar (North); some members of the state executive council; and CEO KAM Holdings Nigeria Alhaji Kamaru Yusuf.

The Vice President touched down at the airport at exactly 3p.m., accompanied by his Special Assistant on Political Matters Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed; and top APC chieftain Dr. Isia’q Modibbo Kawu; among others.

Shettima headed to the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, where he commissioned the institution’s Nursing Science Complex, which has been named after him.

The Vice President then delivered the university’s 13th convocation lecture that was themed ‘Addressing Nigeria’s Food Security Challenges Through Hi-Tech Approach: The Role of Nigerian Universities’.

Other dignitaries at the occasion included the Inspector General of Police IGP Kayode Egbetokun, who has just received his doctoral degree from the institution; founder of the University Chief AbdulRaheem Oladimeji (OFR); and Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. Noah Yusuf.

Shettima, in his lecture, said Nigeria’s reliance on oil since the early 70s and the neglect of the agricultural sector are responsible for what has today become a national security challenge in the form of food insecurity.

He said the challenge assumed a disturbing proportion as a result of policy inconsistencies, mismanagement of resources, corruption, climate change, insurgencies, and natural disasters, among others.

He said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu understands the nexus between food production and national security, and has declared a state of emergency on food security alongside a policy commitment to improve productivity by injecting more funds in the sector.

Tertiary institutions are playing critical roles in assisting the Federal Government to promote food security in Nigeria through research and the integration of agricultural study in their curriculum, the vice president said.

He said no appreciable progress can be made in agricultural production without mechanization, calling for increased and efficient use of modern technology to maximise yield.

The Vice President described Governor AbdulRazaq as a prudent leader and commended him for various agricultural initiatives the administration has introduced to boost food production in the state.

Speaking about the cultural composition of Ilorin, which he said exemplifies a spirit of brotherhood, Shettima said Nigeria has a lot to learn from the ancient city, calling on all indigenes of Ilorin to continue to be tolerant and supportive of one another.


Rafiu Ajakaye

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor

December 9, 2023

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Japa: Feel free to leave, Bishop Kukah tells Nigerian youths



The Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, has advised young Nigerians wishing to leave the country (the popular Japa syndrome) not to hesitate.

However, he prayed that the right and conducive environment be created so that those left behind can compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.

Bishop Kukah, the Pro-chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of Veritas University, Abuja, said this while addressing graduands of Veritas University, on Saturday. It was the school’s convocation ceremony.

The Bishop said: “I encourage young people who want to leave Nigeria to please, feel free to leave. The country is big enough. We can assure you that by the time you settle down in the United States of America or wherever you have gone, you will discover that Nigeria needs you.

“And for those you left behind, our hope and prayer is that they will be competing at the same level with you. We have everything that it takes to turn the corner.


“We are Veritas University will continue to inspire and shape the new generation so that the change we expect in our country is not the change we expect from politicians.

“It is the change that will come with a big intellectual understanding of the complex nature of this country. So every graduate who walks out of the portals of Veritas will be truly equipped mentally and intellectually to conquer Nigeria.”

Kukah tasked the graduates to remain focused and remember the school they were leaving behind. He also appealed to teachers to strive to be role models for the students.

According to him, “The quality of help and support you will get from the alumni will be determined by how they left this university.

“As you prepare to spend a new chapter in your life, I encourage you to remain focused on your dream. Do not forget your alma mater because you are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before you. Do not forget the sacrifices you have made.

“This is why we also appeal to teachers to become sources of inspiration because the quality of help and support you will get from the alumni will be determined by how they left this university. If they leave this university feeling sorrowful, they are not likely to look back.

“So we want to encourage you parents to please endeavour to serve as models and mentors to these young people. Remember it could have been done anywhere. It’s not by accident that they are in Nigeria,” he added.

He noted that some teachers were sacrificing to give their best to the country. Kukah said contrary to the claim that teachers’ rewards were in heaven, they are here on earth, appealing to them not to rest on their oars.

‘How pilot delayed plane for me’

He narrated an experience: “I have a personal experience of coming late to catch a flight to Sokoto. I was the last person to get on the plane.

“Miraculously, the plane continued to wait and when I got to the aircraft, the pilot was waiting at the foot of the plane.

“I tried to take my seat and knelt to greet me. I was quite embarrassed because I had never seen this gentleman in my life. But he said, ‘Well, Bishop, I have to kneel and greet you because you are the one who recommended me over 10 years ago for the job as a pilot’.

“We never know as teachers. Do not fall victims to the claim that your rewards are in heaven. Your rewards are actually here and they will also be in heaven.”

He congratulated the management and staff of the university, headed by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ichoku Hyacinth.

Kukah said the VC’s outstanding leadership and qualities “have been very clearly enunciated on how far the university had travelled.

“We hope that this university will achieve the elasticity that all those who started with Veritas will be able to secure the place.”

He appealed to the bodies that regulate university admissions to expand the opportunity for some universities, including Veritas University so that they can contribute their quota to the education of the citizens.

… to parents

Turning to the parents and guardians, Kukah said: “As a chairman of the Council, I’m fully aware of the sacrifices that people have made. (I am) also taking notes of the rising amount of internally generated revenue without necessarily punishing anybody.

“These things, we don’t take for granted. I, therefore, salute the management and staff of Veritas University for their courage and determination in fulfilling their obligation.

“As Pro-chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Veritas University, we assure you of the unequivocal support of the council for the ongoing development of Veritas University.

“Once again, we appeal to you to please let your name be printed somewhere in this university. It doesn’t matter how big and how little. Step forward and make your commitment because it is through this that we can expand the frontier of knowledge through Veritas University.”

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PHOTOS: El-Rufai, Former Emir Of Kano, Visit Kaduna Community Bombed By Army



The Former Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai and the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, have visited Tudun Biri in Kaduna State where villagers attending Maulud celebration were bombed on Sunday evening.

The village was struck by an accidental airstrike on Sunday during a Maulud celebration, resulting in the loss of scores of lives.

The two leaders joined other leaders from the Tijjaniyya Islamic sect for a visit to the village on Friday.

Sanusi is a spiritual leader in the Tijanniyah Sufi order of Nigeria.



Credit: X | MuyiwaAdekeye


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