By Debo Ikuesewo-Akinbami

Nigeria’s frontline gender parity campaigner and founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, was among the sixty distinguished African women leaders labeled with the prestigious African Women Industrialisation Award, (AWIA) during the 2021 International Women’s Day. They were called out for their marked contributions to the cause of women. Anyanwu-Akeredolu received the Woman of the Year award for empowerment. Event has been defined differently, expectedly, afterwards. This is supposed to be another of such pontifications.

Betty walked into the hilarious ovation of the noonday. She was variously interpreted. As she walked in, a peek conveyed a lavishly curried Nigerian governor’s wife; At a closer look, a seasoned battler and long distance racer revealed. She was not a bit distracted by the pomp. Her face rather showed delight that women are waking up, beginning to fight for and take their space in the scheme of things. As I saw it, she was gratified more by another opportunity -offered by it- to challenge her kind to be more.

She liked everything but the glamour that came with day. She would have if she could control the gayety that it attracted. The woman in her would rather go for noiseless impacts than the glamour of laurels. She is wont to so do. Her acts in the various fronts are a credence to this. She is discouraged by the fact that awards, in this part, are deployed often as flukes and that its corollaries are either distractive or deceptive. For this reason, it is usually a promise of rigour to convince her to accept one, even when it is evidently deserving.

The conveners must have won her over with sturdy points. Betty must have been well convinced that award is more about the status and thirst of African women than it is about her. She must have been attracted by the fact that award is designed to showcase astonishing and impactful women of Africa; that it is intended to tell African women’s success stories, their struggles and victories in distinct voices. Meantime, the fact that the platform was conceived to mentor, celebrate, encourage and support women while leveraging on technology to structure their businesses and live healthily is a ready attraction for a woman who gives all hers to make women better.

As a stickler for hardwork, Betty wants it earned than granted. This explains her initial disinclination when her clansmen found her appointable and called her to honour. The title is Ada Emeabiam, one reserved exclusively for outstanding women in her clan. This is not necessarily measured by age but feats. And since the first daughter of every family in Igbo land is refered to as “Ada”, Ada Emeabiam is the first lady of Emeabiam- her birthplace.
It’s a life time status conferred on Betty, the second person to take the exalted tag.

Igolo, another lustrous, title came for her.
In Igbo language, Igolo represents
the brightest of all stars; the northern star. That is what Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu means to her people. Meanwhile, Igolo resonates with many, beyond Nigerian linguistic boundaries. She must truly be an Igolo to have repeatedly attracted global players, to have made blatant difference in her consistent struggle to improve on the status women and girls around the globe.

That she was so noticed and nominated for award amidst army of African women speaks to her place as a true northern star; it underscores the profundity of her pursuits- her passionate push for improved health status for women through women-oriented policies, fighting gender inequality through girl-child education, striving to reduce the rate of maternal mortality, and seeking to emplace more women in leadership roles.

The event of March 8 betrayed Betty’s preference for silence. The gathering had its own voice, one so resounding. It came with clear consequences and leaves a triumphant taste. It fulfilled its charge to applaud African women who have distinguished themselves in the various life’s callings. It vindicated her stances on the matters of women and applauded the many interventions she has done to make the girl child prouder.

In accepting, however, Betty told the world, on tribune, how the award was received on behalf of every woman, the class expressed and those oppressed, those distinguished and those abused. How she received it for the emancipation of women. She pledged it would motivate more to give herself to improving the place and plight of women anywhere; to go all out to defend that girl abused or abandoned.

What she did not say is that she has been doing all these and even more for over two decades. She did not tell the world how her foundation, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) with support from partners, we have trained over a thousand girls in ICT and solar technology. She did not mention Solayo Birth Kits- material intervention in favour of indigent expectant mothers in their thousands, neither did she say the distribution of 12,500 Yellow cards as her own tool for fighting Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

Betty recommitted herself in these terms: “Award is rather a motivation than achievement for me. I am using it as an opportunity to encourage and challenge all well-meaning women in Nigeria, especially the First Ladies, to seek out young girls and empower them through leadership programs and mentorship”.

Akinbami is the Special Assistant (New Media & Archives) to the governor of Ondo State.