Power to the She: African Women Power Network Founder Talks Business

Founder of the African Women Power Network talks Nollywood, female empowerment and why technology in Africa should be about quality, not quantity.

Posted: 03/27/2013 01:53 PM EDT
Mary Olushoga

(Photo: Courtesy of Mary Olushoga)

For Nigerian New Yorker and founder of the African Women Power Network (AWP) Mary Olushoga, life imitates art, and although she is no filmmaker, she hopes her work will make it to the big screen.

“Although some people might view Nollywood movies as extreme, I think they portray an important part of what’s going on with Nigerian women,” Olushoga told BET.com.

Nollywood, the nickname for Nigeria’s multi-million dollar film industry, is known for its fashion, wigs and melodramatic plots that Olushoga says accurately depict a prevailing reality for many young, Nigerian women: financial dependency upon men. Rather than dismiss the films as pure fiction, Olushoga says “more women need to take an empowerment stance to see themselves as part of that sort of ecosystem of change and development.”  

And the key to this empowerment, she says, is greater access.   

“[In Nigeria], men’s voices are given more priority,” she said. “I remember I went to a conference and someone said, “Anyone can speak but not everybody listens to who is speaking,” and I feel like a lot of women are speaking. They’re saying that they want help. They’re saying that they want support, but not too many people are paying attention.”

Olushoga’s organization exists as that place where women are heard. Part PR machine, trumpeting positive stories from Africa and part business-development resource, AWP is working to connect women with critical resources and mentorship that will help them take the next leap as business owners.

The scope of AWP’s content ranges from practical resources that help women build their business from the ground up to personal development for the entrepreneurs. However, Olushoga is clear that her organization isn’t a microfinance machine, like many other organizations targeting African women. Instead, she’s thinking bigger.

“In my opinion, [microfinance] limits the vision for the woman. It’s like, okay someone’s going to fundraise for you ... You get fifty dollars, a hundred dollars and you can go home and feed your family. We don’t want African women in that survival mode,” she said. “I want to see African women as job creators, as people that have a voice at the table as policy makers and just helping each other.”

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