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Folorunso Alakija: Let’s Learn From Each Other

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Folorunso Alakija needs no introduction. As one of only two female billionaires in Africa, she has become an icon of enterprise. Alakija, through her philanthropic work with the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a movement she pioneered to help the plight of women and orphans in Nigeria, has been an advocate of women’s rights and the vital role women play in socioeconomic development. She recently launched her women’s empowerment platform, Flourish Africa, to galvanize women in Nigeria and across Africa to gain access to life-changing tools and advice. In an exclusive interview with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, she sat down after the launch of the Flourish Africa conference to tell us how she plans to impact millennial African women:

What do you hope to accomplish with Flourish Africa?

I am sure we all remember the interview of Indra K. Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, at the Aspen Ideas festival in 2014, where she gave her very honest take on the growing debate on women and work-life balance. She described the need to have sacrifices and that having it all was just an illusion. Over the years, I have had a great deal of engagement with a lot of young women both in Africa and all over the world and the one thing they ask me is ‘Can a woman have it all’? I realized that a lot of young women are desperate to understand the keys they need to achieve their fullest potential and become what I believe God has ordained for them to become. So I thought to myself, how can we develop a platform that not only helps young women with practical steps and guidance to help them in their career, relationships and all aspects of their lives, but also provide mentorship from women who have achieved the levels of success they aspire to achieve also. Flourish Africa was created to serve that purpose. We have an online platform, an app and we hold biannual conferences that bring female thought leaders from all over the world together under one roof with young millennials in a day of idea-sharing and life-changing messages that will help them grow.

What do you think is the most important management skill necessary for women to become leaders?

I believe that leadership happens when you are able to empower and inspire others to achieve a set of goals. I think the responsibility lies with the individual to be able to employ all their skills and abilities to help bring others up in order to ensure they contribute to the overall growth of the organization. I believe women have the ability to show great leadership skills and those at the top need to tap into their sense of purpose and effectively communicate that purpose so everybody within the organization clearly understands what is needed from them in order to achieve their common goal.

How can women break free from the cultural stereotypes that have led to greater gender disparity in Nigeria?

A lot of work needs to be done on that front. For years, women have been told what type of roles they are supposed to play in society, the types of jobs they are supposed to do and so on. I was and still am one of the only prominent women in the Nigerian oil sector and I know the stigma and the challenges I had to overcome in order to succeed in that sector. I believe the problem requires a change in mindset for women in Africa. I believe that change will require support from all women in order to come together and set our own standards. Gender stereotypes have been one of the main barriers to women achieving leadership positions in Africa. These stereotypes are usually predicated on what many believe are the capabilities of women and that needs to be addressed before women can break free. At Flourish Africa, we showcase in our inspirational section, women who have been able to change that narrative and the impact they have been able to make through that change to hopefully inspire more women to break free and achieve their fullest potential.

How will you address the issue of financial literacy for African women?

I think women in Africa are amongst one of the most enterprising and entrepreneurial in the world. We are hard-working and our ability to multi-task makes us natural born entrepreneurs. For years, women could not receive bank loans and other facilities readily available to men and until we get the same level of financial freedom, women will continue to remain marginalized. I am a firm believer that women need to be financially empowered to possess the right knowledge and understanding of financial matters. That is an aspect we take very seriously and with the help of our partners, many of whom are leaders in some of the largest financial institutions in Africa, we help shape policies that will enable our young female entrepreneurs to gain access to sound financial principles in areas like investment advice, compound interest and the advantages of savings as well as real estate and tax. The Flourish Africa woman is a well-grounded woman who thrives in all aspects of her life and that includes having access to the right financial tools as well.

Do you think there is anything African women can teach other women in the world?

I think no matter where we are all from, we can all learn from each other. I think there is a great sense of community in Africa. We are natural homemakers as well as entrepreneurial but that’s not to say women from other parts of the world aren’t. I think our sense of culture and our rich African heritage is something we need to be proud of and share with the rest of the world. It is time for people to see how wonderful our continent is and I believe it’s up to all of us to be the ambassadors of that message to the rest of the world.

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South Africa’s Tamaryn Green is first runner-up at Miss Universe pageant

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 Catriona Gray from the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe on Monday, the fourth time the Southeast Asian country has won the international beauty pageant.

Gray, a 24-year-old Filipino-Australian model, won the title in the Thai capital Bangkok where the pageant included for the first time a transgender contestant.

“My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure,” said Gray, who wore a red and orange dress that was inspired by Mount Mayon, a volcano that erupted this year.

Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green, 24 was the first runner-up, followed by Miss Venezuela, Sthefany Gutiérrez, 19.

Gray was asked during the contest about her views on legalizing marijuana and replied that she supported it for medical uses.

After she was crowned, Gray told reporters the question was “definitely relevant” and “an active topic”, in an apparent reference to the war on drugs in the Philippines that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.

Gray said during the pageant that working in a Manila slum had taught her to find beauty in difficult situations.

“If I could teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face,” she said.

Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, 27, made history as the first transgender contestant in the 66-year-old pageant.

Gray is the fourth Filipina to win Miss Universe and the second in three years. The pageant was shown live on the country’s biggest television network and dominated social media.

Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said her win would put the country on the world map for its “beauty and elegance.”

“In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work,” he said.

The Philippines previously won Miss Universe titles in 2015, 1973 and 1969. – Reuters

  • Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Neil Jerome Morales 

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IN PICTURES | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives Nelson Mandela public lecture

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“When it comes to history and memory … it’s easy to remember Nelson Mandela, because he is Nelson Mandela. Who determines whose story we value above others?”


This was a question asked by Cathy Mohlahlana, the facilitator of a panel discussion at the Nelson Mandela Tribute to mark the fifth anniversary of his passing.  

Celebrated author and notable feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation at the UNISA Ormonde campus in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 12, 2018.

Before Adichie’s address, the audience was regaled by the sounds of the Soweto Gospel Choir who sang songs such as Thina Sizwe, Lizalise Idinga Lakho, and Brenda Fassie’s Vul’indlela. 

In paying homage to other anti-apartheid activists, the choir concluded their performance with the Peter Gabriel song Biko. The song is named after Bantu Stephen Biko who died in police detention in 1977, and was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid campaign the Black Consciousness Movement.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang also acknowledged Pan Africanist liberation hero Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, who he says was a “towering figure in our history and a man who the apartheid regime tried to erase from memory”.

In recognizing the role played by women in the struggle for South Africa’s liberation Hatang said, “we should also remember that this year is about mme (mother) Albertina Sisulu, and those women whose stories and contributions were distorted an minimized by the structures of patriarchy … We should also remember that this is the year we lost mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela.”

Activist and wife of late former President Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, was also in attendance and listened attentively as Adichie spoke about the power of memory and public imagination. “When I first came to South African ten years after the fall of apartheid, it felt to me as though the past was not yet passed, but that there was a concerted collective resolve to turn away from this truth. South Africans of all races spoke to me of the rainbow nation, and I did not entirely trust this optimism. Well-choreographed as it was.”   

“It felt to me a little too easy … It cannot be so unbearably, terribly tidy this process of peace-making,” Adichie said.

 Sebabatso Moneli and Neo Muyanga were part of the panel discussion facilitated by Mohlahlana.

“We are entitled to rage. We are entitled to anger – to the grief of a painful history. But, we are also invited by history to a breath of stories that expand beyond the stereotypes of slavery and colonialism.

“African history is vast and I believe that part of the freedom that we are looking for, that our true liberation will not be found in the absence of tension, but in embracing the tension of history,” Moneli said.

While interrogating the idea of telling the facts and the truth, Muyanga added, “the responsibility is all of ours … The process of colonization which is premised on the idea of erasing the original memory and replacing it with the colonists’ memory. So history begins with the arrival of the colony as opposed to the stories we tell of ourselves before.”

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From Beyonce To Shonda Rhimes, The Most Powerful Women In Entertainment 2018

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Shonda Rhimes may have defined Thursday night television, but she’s now dictating the medium’s future. When the Grey’s Anatomy creator signed a nine figure, four-year deal with Netflix last year, she cemented her place at the forefront of entertainment’s digital future-and pioneered Netflix’s handsome producer paydays.

Rhimes, who created and executive produced ABC hits including Scandaland How To Get Away with Murder, is now developing eight shows for the streaming service through her production outfit ShondaLand.

“We are powerful women and when we say we have power, what we are really saying is that we deserve to have power. We deserve whatever good thing it is that we are getting,” said Rhimes at Elle magazine’s 25th annual Women in Hollywood celebration.

Demanding what you deserve can feel like a radical act.

Worth an estimated $135 million, Rhimes is the wealthiest female showrunner–the person who oversees writing and production of each TV episode-in Hollywood. She has said that her deal, which reportedly includes a base salary of $150 million with incentives that could bump it much higher, is bigger than the $300 million secured by Ryan Murphy.

Rhimes is just one of the world’s most powerful women in media and entertainment effecting change and impacting her industry with groundbreaking deals and inclusive storytelling. Take Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who has helped pioneer Star Wars‘ most inclusive casting yet. Under Kennedy’s stewardship, Kelly Marie Tran became the first woman of color to have a lead role in the multi-billion dollar franchise, playing Rose Tico in 2017’s The Last Jedi.

Across the lot, Dana Walden has seen her power grow in the studio landscape. Following Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox, the former chair and CEO of Fox Television Group will also head up 20th Century Fox TV, ABC Studios, the Freeform network, ABC-owned TV stations, ABC Entertainment and several other divisions.

Walden believes more women need to be in decision-making roles at every level. “There must be women in the highest ranks of every organization, and meaningful female representation on every corporate board,” Walden told Forbes last year.

Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.

Entertainment’s most powerful span Hollywood, music and publishing. As each segment continues to deal with the fallout of the #MeToo movement, women have taken action. Anna Wintour, who continues to control Vogue, suspended photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino amid sexual misconduct charges and set a code of conduct for models and photographers.

Wintour teamed up with music power woman Beyoncé for the September issue of Vogue; she was given creative control over her cover photo and leveraged that power to hire the first African American photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s  126-year history. Another first for Beyoncé: In 2018, she became the first black woman to headline Coachella.

Here’s the full list of Media and Entertainment power women:

1. Oprah Winfrey, Media mogul

2. Shari Redstone, Vice Chair, CBS & Viacom

3. Bonnie Hammer, Chair, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment

4. Donna Langley,  Chair, Universal Pictures

5. Anna Wintour, Artistic Director, Conde Nast

6. Beyoncé, Singer

7. Dana Walden, Chairman, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment

8. Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian

9. Taylor Swift, Singer

10. Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist

11. Kathleen Kennedy, President, Lucasfilm

12. Shonda Rhimes, Showrunner

13. Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

14. Serena Williams, Tennis player

15. Shobhana Bhartia, Chair, HT Media

16. Priyanka Chopra, Actress

– Natalie Robehmed: I’m an associate editor at Forbes covering media and entertainment, with a focus on the movie business. For the magazine, I’ve written cover stories on 

 

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