African Series: How Uloma Ogba Is Giving Girls A Chance
Uloma Ogba, Give Girls A Chance co-founder, believes in the beauty and strength of all women and is working towards a more equitable Nigeria by improving access to education for disadvantaged girls. She enjoys writing, healthy political debates, African history, music festivals and road trips. In her spare time, she shares her writing on She Leads Africa and on her personal blog.
Why do you believe in championing women?
I believe in championing women know best what women want and what women need. Because I am a woman, I can understand the joys, sorrows, aspirations, fears of women in different contexts and in different places. At least that’s what I believe. For me, as a woman it has always been important for me to have my freedom, to make my own choices and to believe that I could access any opportunity that was out there. And because I know what it’s like to have people not believe that I could have or should want those things because I am a woman, and because I know how hard I have fought to have those things, I think I can understand, to some extent, the struggles of women everywhere who just want to enjoy or exercise the same level of freedom that I am able to now.
I believe in championing women know best what women want and what women need. Because I am a woman, I can understand the joys, sorrows, aspirations, fears of women in different contexts and in different places
And I believe that wherever and however I can, it is my duty as a woman to fight for and with those women who want to gain full control of their freedom. I owe it to myself because other women also fought so that I could enjoy the freedom I now have. So again my point is that as women, we are in the best position to support, to fight for and to champion other women
How has the journey been so far?
I would not say that I have come very far in this journey, but it is one that I am committing to more wholeheartedly with each passing year. The older I get the more I see the importance of participating in the building of strong communities of women. I want to be strong for myself and for other women and so I do what I can to make that happen. It started by volunteering for organizations specifically working towards empowering women, in this case women in technology. Then I worked with some friends to co-found a group for black women where we could feel comfortable having to exist in a society that often does not recognize or appreciate the strength and beauty of black women.
And now, founding an organization that is dedicated to creating opportunities for girls to go to school, because I believe that a good education is the key to unlocking the potential of women and imbuing them with the self-confidence they need to succeed and to aim higher in life.
founding an organization that is dedicated to creating opportunities for girls to go to school, because I believe that a good education is the key to unlocking the potential of women
What would you pick as your key milestones?
I think that you cannot give to others what you don’t already have yourself. My key milestone was when I realized that if I wanted to be a leader among women and to be someone that women in the next generation could look up to, then I had to stop denying the fact that I too had something to offer. The more I have understood my true power and potential as a young, gifted and educated woman, the more I recognize those with the same gifts and the more I am in a position to know how to use that gift to help and uplift other women.
So I would say, recognizing my true potential was a key milestone for me. The minute I realized that, things that once seemed far off and impossible suddenly seemed closer and within my grasp and now I am willing to work harder to gain more knowledge and experience and learn how to access resources that I can use to benefit other women.
Parts of Africa are known to be very progressive for women, and others, very regressive – how do you put these together for building the continent’s perception?
While it is true that parts of Africa are still experiencing growing pains, looking at what we have achieved in the last half a century, I am confident that it is only a matter of time before we get to where we need to be, and I believe that education is the key. As young, progressive Africans learn more about their cultures and have the opportunity to become exposed to new cultures, new experiences and different ways of doing things, they will realize what aspects of our African cultures we should preserve and what aspects of our culture need to evolve.
looking at what we have achieved in the last half a century, I am confident that it is only a matter of time before we get to where we need to be
When you look at the progress that has been made across various countries regarding issues such as women’s sexual and reproductive health, enacting laws to protect young girls from child marriages and female genital mutilation, the closer gender gap in areas like access to mobile phones, technology and finances, I think it is an indicator that things are indeed changing, and its only a matter of time before we do away with the more regressive aspects of our culture and embrace new ways of being that are favourable to women.
What kind of support have you seen in your journey towards empowering women?
Most of my experience comes from working in the development sector in Africa, first in healthcare and now in digital finance. And from what I have witnessed, there are more and more programs that specifically target women and seek to address their wants, needs and aspirations. For instance, we are now seeing NGOs partner with governments and private organizations to study the lives of women and design financial products and services that are flexible and take into account factors such as the fact that in most African societies women earn less than men, tend to save through informal mechanisms, rely heavily on their social networks and are responsible for day-to-day activities involved in running households.
Most of my experience comes from working in the development sector in Africa, first in healthcare and now in digital finance
Organizations are starting to realize and take seriously the fact that women are indeed half of the world’s population and thus represent a huge socioeconomic power. I think the organizations that will be successful in the future are the ones that realize how to tap into the enormous potential that women have and begin to align themselves with and work with women in different areas to realize this potential.
Feminism to you is…
Believing that men and women are equal, deserve to be treated equally at all times and with the same level of respect and that men and women should have access to the same opportunities and resources everywhere around the world.
What do you believe is common to women of emerging countries?
Women in emerging countries are the most resourceful group of people on the planet. They have learnt how to survive by taking a little, stretching it as far as possible and in most cases turning it into a lot more.
What would be your advice be to your younger self?
Start early to realize the power in building communities of strong-minded and determined women. Invest in those communities because they are the ones that are destined to lead the way to a brighter future for women. I would tell my younger self to not be so impatient, time will pass without you noticing and the future will arrive before you even expected it. Take time to enjoy what you have, to learn and to make the most of every situation, even though you may not be able to string all the pieces together at once, in the end it will all make sense and no experience is a waste. No matter where you go in life, always keep your family and friends close to your heart.
Can you tell us more about your work at the UN?
I work as a Knowledge Management Specialist for the United Nations Capital Development Fund.
Our work is to promote increased financial inclusion through digital channels. For every project that we are engaged in, there is a strong learning component for us and for our partners. My job is to ensure that the highest quality of learning materials are produced, everything ranging from reports, presentations, conferences, blogs, training manuals etc. The program I work with, Mobile Money for the Poor operates in 9 countries across Africa and Asia and so part of my job is to make sure that we are sharing knowledge internally and learning best practices from each other and also supporting the dissemination of the work we do to a wider audience beyond the program.
Tell us about your NGO Give Girls A Chance.
My friend Hauwa Balami and I formed Give Girls A Chance in October 2016. It is an NGO focused on educational development. Our aim is to adopt a holistic approach towards increasing access to education for girls from low-income communities in Nigeria. In addition to giving need-based scholarships to address financial barriers to education, we also engage families and communities to advocate for girl-child eduation, we provide mentoring to girls in our program to address their psycho-social needs and we work with the schools in our programs to improve their capacity to delivery quality education to all their students, with a particular focus on improving their ICT capabilities as we value the importance of digital literacy and want to ensure that girls do not get left behind in this area as well.
How has your travel and exposure to various cultures shaped the person you are today?
Travel and exposure has done a lot for me, but I would say the most important thing is that it has taught me to be open-minded and realize that sometimes, indeed many times, there is no one right answer and rather there are many ways or paths to follow to achieve the same result. It has helped me become a more tolerant person and also made it easier for me to get along with people from all walks of life because at some point you realize that we all just want the same things out of life even though we might go about it in different ways.