On a rainy Saturday morning, a group of women steadily fill an auditorium in the heart of Victoria Island, Nigeria. Reason: to fall in love with themselves.
“I hear stories about how men treat women and it gets me really angry and emotional. We have to make a stand as women and say enough is enough. This is why I created The Circle,” says Chinny Okoye, founder of The Woman International (TWI), a woman empowerment movement designed to help women thrive.
The theme for this year’s The Circle is The 21st Century Self Love Woman and Okoye has over 200 women all desperately craving for the pearls of wisdom from her motivational speakers to inspire them to achieve their fullest potential.
“I feel like this is my passion. I believe my purpose is to make a difference in the lives of women in one way or the other. I thought to myself that a lot of women are hard on ourselves and we judge each other a lot. So I felt it would be good to start with something on self-improvement. The aim is to make sure that every aspect of your life is balanced as a woman because I believe that if one aspect is lacking then the other areas will lack as well,” says Okoye.
In just a year, her self-improvement and self-empowerment movement has garnered a loyal following offline and online of about 600 and 11,000 respectively and it is still growing. Born in the United Kingdom but educated in America, Okoye landed on the idea of TWI when she first did a thesis at the University of Massachusetts in Boston focused on violence against women in Nigeria.
“I think through that research and studying women on the continent, it prompted me to move back and try to change policies that affect women in a negative way. I feel like women in Nigeria are blindsided in a way and I felt that moving back I would work with an organization focused on women that will change a lot of policies that do not bring women to the limelight,” she says.
In October 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made headlines when he claimed his wife’s place was in the “kitchen, the living room and the other room”. Okoye is on a mission to ensure statements like that never become commonplace in a country where women face an arduous journey to achieve gender parity.
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