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April 2020
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Empowering Women, Empowering Our Communities

The saying goes that ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Well, in the words of Christine Karumba, country director of Women for Women International, DRC, “One woman can change anything but many women can change everything.”

There is something about the economic empowerment of a woman which changes the dynamics of her destiny and those around her. When a woman can afford to do what she wants with her life and contribute to her society, you can be assured that more people stand to gain and have a better life because of her. Now, don’t get me wrong, not all women have this mindset. I have heard of mothers, who spent money on looking good and going from club to club, while the kids were home alone and starving. Nevertheless, the majority of women I know care more about their children’s future than they do about looking styled and profiled. My mum is the best example I can use to illustrate this point, she will give her last penny if it means my siblings and I, will be more comfortable though it means her personal discomfort.

Ayo’s story in the clip below demonstrates, why African societies must empower their women. We cannot live it to external NGOs and charities to do it for us. After all, charity begins at home. So, let’s start in our ‘OWN’ backyard.

I am inspired by Ayo’s experience and the way she has been able to transform her life and that of her family. In addition, she has a strong team of women, who work for her. She is also transforming their lives by providing jobs for them. This is the the kind of healthy cycle and mindset we should promote not the one that says a woman’s place is in the kitchen. She was tired of where she was, took into account that in order to give her children the best, she needed to create another stream of income. Are you tired of where you are and wondering what else can I do? Ask yourself, what are my passions? You will find the answer you need for the next stage of life.

Ayo went one step further to gain the skills she needed to run a successful business and I am sure that includes customer service, an area we Africans and black people need to improve on greatly, both on the continent and in the diaspora. I do not mean to ‘racialise’ the issue of customer service but let us be honest with ourselves and tell it like it is. I was having this discussion with a few people the other day and this was one area, we all agreed that we really need to improve on because we do have great products, believe it or not. We must learn that our products need to fit the description we give on our website and flyers,  and the motto on our business cards. We must learn to treat our customers with respect and dignity, which in turns impresses our integrity on them. We cannot treat them like they owe us and must buy from us or terrorise them in the process of negotiations. They owe you nothing, they pay for your living and when you treat them like crap, they will go to the next man. You are not irreplaceable.  I do not deny some customers can be annoying but you have to remember, you are the one selling, they are buying.  We cannot become so complacent and think ours is the best and stop building a customer base. When your customer gets in touch, get back to them. When they ask you a question respond and be sure to explain your company’s process and procedures, returns and exchange policies to them, if you have one because some of us don’t have any and so, we open ourselves to unnecessary hassles, among other things they need to know before hand.

This was not not meant to be a ‘Business 101 Dos and Donts’ but this has been on my mind after a few experiences in recent times and it should be addressed one way or another, so why not use the experience of a lady doing the rights things to reiterate why we need to respect and cherish our customers. I know of businesses that were built based on word of mouth and the fact that the owner treated their clients so well. When people speak highly of you, believe me, that is good credit which cannot be erased or dented.

I will write more  about this subject in the future but for now, it is my hope that Africa will raise more Ayos, teach them the skills they need to run a first class business and together we can build our continent and give our children a better future than we had.  Empowering the African woman, economically, intellectually, psychologically and in every aspect of life is key to rebuilding a continent that is still so fragile where the equality between men and women is concerned.


2 Responses to “Empowering Women, Empowering Our Communities”

  1. Lara Daniels says:

    Belinda, this is an awesome piece and very inspiring. I believe there are lots of Ayos that are coming from Africa…they are out there and they are growing in numbers. We just need a little bit of more spotlighting on them. As par customer service, I couldn’t agree more. I think that is where we lack mostly in African businesses. I want to believe that it will improve. Africans living outside the continent daily experience what great customer service is, so I am keeping my fingers crossed (maybe I’m a little naive here) that we’ll bring that culture of good customer service into the continent since we’ve experienced it first hand.

  2. Belinda Otas says:

    I would like to share in your optimism Lara but even those living in the west are not doing so great at it. I have had some not so food experiences with a few lately, who have really great products but their attitude and approach makes you want to stay away. As a journalist, i always keep my eye out, just to see if there is a story behind what some people do business wise, let’s just say, based on this few experiences, I am not one bit interested to know how these particular business owners started out 🙂 But there is room for hope and improvement, so, let’s wait and see

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