Nkem Onwudiwe is a Public Relations and Marketing Consultant and the founder of Her Network, a global inspirational and lifestyle platform that connects, inspires, and amplifies women’s voices and stories. Her focus is on impacting lives and communities through Her Network’s various impact events, experiences and digital content, including an annual Her Network Woman of the Year awards ceremony that honours outstanding Women of Impact across diverse sectors in Nigeria.
What inspired Her Network?
Her Network was inspired by my desire to see more women coming together to support one another (Bridging the gap between women). At the time, “You can’t sit with us” was the order of the day. You see, at the time, I attended so many conferences and events, and one thing that was consistent across board was that the people who attracted my attention to participate in the event seemed so far away and unreachable. As I attended more and more of such gatherings, my desire to change the narrative grew stronger, and one day, I decided to start building a platform that wasn’t restrictive, classist or conditional. One that genuinely positively impacts lives with words and deeds, and here we are today.
So, what’s your ultimate goal?
To positively impact and transform lives through every impact experience and digital content Her Network produces.
I imagine it wasn’t easy to build an online-based community of women. How did you go about it? What were your biggest issues and challenges?
Her Network isn’t just an online-based community. We have in-person meet-ups, and other impact experiences run throughout the year. From our mixers to chats and cocktails to other curated events for female-focused organisations. Technology has also helped us reach more women beyond the immigration borders, but we are beyond an online community. It hasn’t been easy, and our biggest challenge has to be financial support! We have so many people interested in how we do what we are doing through Her Network, but consistent support in financial form is the greatest challenge encountered.
How has your experience with Her Network impacted you as a person?
Every day, Her Network makes me a better person for sure! Her Network has stretched me to push myself further than I could have imagined over the years. By running the platform, I have had the honour to meet and sit in rooms with amazing women, listening to their stories and learning from incredible leaders, and I can’t thank Her Network enough for some of the connections I’ve made through the platform.
Tell me about Her Summit; will this be an annual event?
That’s the plan! Lol. Her Summit will year on year bring together young women to connect with and learn from young female leaders, entrepreneurs and true catalysts for change in their various sectors, from entrepreneurship to tech and more. When they say that young people will be the leaders of tomorrow, they are not kidding! The world is filled with so much superficiality these days, and we are raising Queens in a world where you have no control over what values society will try to instil in her, no matter how strong her fundamental upbringing is. So, amid the chaos, we created the Summit as a safe space for women to share, learn how to meet the speakers, Network with them, connect with them, and, most importantly, leave the Summit feeling elevated, impacted, and rejuvenated. Her Summit isn’t a conventional summit, and we didn’t start it to tick boxes; we want to see lives transformed, not through the laying of hands or the distribution of money or other material items (though giveaways do occur… lol) but through the planting of powerful seeds that propel young women in the right direction as professionals, entrepreneurs, aspiring change makers, and trailblazers. We hope to receive funding from organisations that share our vision and believe in the power of elevating women across industries.
You are very passionate about building a community of strong Women. Asides from the obvious, any particular reason?
I wouldn’t say that building a community of strong Women is my passion because there’s only so much one can do on the outside to build a strong woman from within. On the other hand, my passion is connecting, inspiring, and encouraging women from various industries, which Her Network has enabled me to do. We are all stars, and as women, we are all valuable; our stories can inspire the next woman to live her truth and stand in her greatness, but how will these stories inspire if they are not told or shared? Creating safe spaces for women to connect through Her Network’s various impact experiences, providing a platform that allows women of influence to be heard and seen, and consistently celebrating and positively projecting the works and achievements of women on a global scale is where I would say my passion lies.
There is a lot of female empowerment initiative going on currently; what are you doing to ensure women in your community get involved or take advantage of these opportunities?
Every initiative for women’s empowerment has its vision, goals, and objectives. Her Network was officially founded in 2016 (though the concept was conceived in 2015). Our vision has remained consistent, even as our approach has evolved in response to times, seasons, diversification, and expansion. We ensure that women within our purview take advantage of the opportunities provided by initiatives designed to propel women. We encourage them to “Carpe Diem” and “Level up” by supporting them in areas where they need it, particularly in finding the courage to take that bold step and seize that opportunity if they believe it aligns with what they envision for themselves.
I have found that in some cases, all some people needed to be propelled to the next level was to be in the same room with someone they’d wished to connect with for a long time and to be given the opportunity to connect with such persons on a one-on-one level. One example is our Dinner with Her series, which brings together a group of women to dine and connect with a respected female leader.
Are there any policies you believe the government can implement to support female inclusion?
There are many, but I’ll focus on implementing a gender balance policy, particularly in terms of increased female representation in parliament. The percentage of female representation in parliament is depressingly low, and this is not due to a lack of qualified women to fill these positions but rather to the sentiments surrounding the implementation of this policy. What are our male legislators and leaders afraid of? Her Network strongly advocates for SDG 5, which focuses on gender equality and the empowerment/elevation of all women and girls.
This policy must be implemented, not just enacted; they are not doing us any favours by ensuring a high percentage of female representation in decision-making positions; it is a fundamental human right! I was in Rwanda earlier this year as a speaker for the COWAP Summit. I left inspired by women’s role in post-genocide peace-building and how they’ve grown to have the highest representation in parliament worldwide! Not to say that such policies should be implemented to check boxes, but I am convinced that there are competent women who can take up parliamentary positions and are unafraid to use their voices to drive long-term change.
Anything else you would like me to know?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to use your platform to amplify what we do at Her Network. I’d also like to mention that Her Network recently collaborated with Lagos Cocktail Week to host a MixHer Challenge at the annual festival. Her Network, with the support of Omalicha by Middlechase, provided resources to some female bartenders to support their ambition and passion for bartending. Bartending is typically regarded as a “Man’s Job” in this region; however, some truly amazing female bartenders are exceptionally skilled at their craft and would like to pursue a career in it. We are going beyond words to support and encourage them, and I am very excited about the positive impact this collaboration has had on these female bartenders. Thank you very much!