Aishatu Debola Aminu is the Country Director of New Faces, New Voices (NFNV), a women-focused NGO and a Pan-African organisation of professional women in business and finance, founded by Mrs Graca Machel, the widow of the late South African anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela.
In this chat with ADAM ALQALI, she speaks about her passion for empowering women by providing them with access to finance.
What is your background and what inspired your passion for empowering women? My name is Aishatu Debola Aminu, I was born in the year 1960 at Kaura Namoda Local Government Area of Zamfara state, and started my business career in my family business, while still pursuing my higher education.
I later registered my own business BIBI Nigeria Enterprises with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on March 11, 1992, and became member of Kano Chamber of Commerce on June 16, 1993.
I have been running the company as a sole proprietor, concentrating on importation of greeting cards and gift items.
I attended an entrepreneurship training sponsored by United Nation Trans National Corporations and Management division of United Nation Development Program and the Federal Ministry of Industry in June/July 1993, and after the training I redirected my focus and diversified into producing something for export.
In 1995, I became an exporter and my first export experience was the exportation of bed-sheets, quilts, kitchen gloves, throw pillows and chair headrests to Sudan through the Kano Chamber of Commerce trade-mission.
Still not satisfied, I decided to add something more viable, so I started processing popcorn kernels, which I process and package with label /instructions, and you can find these products on supermarket shelves in most part Nigeria and some part of Niger Republic.
And we are still targeting more export market.
Since 1993, I have been the financial secretary of the Kano chapter of Empretec Nigeria, a UNDP Alumni Business Forum.
Our Ready to Pop popcorn kernels has ABUSEC graded certification and was exhibited at the 27th Kano International Trade-fair with our popcorn machine, imported, to demonstrate and market our kernels, we also exhibited these products at the Kaduna International Trade-fair and at the Lagos International Trade-fair.
I was appointed a council member of Kano Chamber of Commerce as deputy treasurer in 2004 until 2008 when I became vicepresident, corporate affairs, of the chamber.
I was also chairman of the membership committee between 2004 and 2008; deputy chairman, trade-fair committee between 2006 and 2011.
I completed my term as council member in 2011, and was appointed vice-chairman, monitoring and evaluation of trade-fair Committee up to 2012.
I led two trade-missions to China, in 2007 and 2009.
I am also an alumnus of Leap Africa.
I am currently the country director, New Faces, New Voices-Nigeria, a PanAfrican organization of professional women in business and finance, founded by Mrs Graca Machel, with its headquarters in South Africa.
I am a three-time mentor for the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, YOUWIN, program, in 2012 /2013; 2013/2014, and 2014 /2015.
I am on the board of AFAN Foundation, Nigeria and advisory board of Network of Kano Women Innovators (NOKWI), which was supported by Enhancing Nigerian Advocacy for a Better Business Environment (ENABLE), a DFIDfunded project which sought to improve the quality and quantity of business advocacy and Public-Private Dialogue, PPD, in Nigeria.
What is New Faces, New Voices vision for African women? Yes, I am the Nigeria Country Director of New Faces, New Voices.
Before talking about NFNV’s Vision, it is important to mention the Founder Mrs Graca Machel, who established New Faces New Voices as the first pillar of Multiplying Faces Amplifying Voices and it builds on Mrs.
Machel’s already substantial legacy.
Now, our vision is for African Women is to enhance sustainable development.
We advocate for innovative investment in African women ensuring they take centre stage adding their value and influence in the financial sector and wider economy.
New Faces, New Voices as a non-profit Pan-African organization which advocates for the empowerment of African women through the provision of better access to capital, skills development and promoting women in leadership positions in the financial sector engages with all relevant stakeholders.
How far has the Nigeria chapter of NFNV gone in financially empowering Nigerian women? The Nigerian Chapter has achieved greatly in financially empowering women in Nigeria.
However, we need to understand that “financially empowering” as asked is a relative term.
What we do is we identify women with different kind of trades, interact with them; know their strengths and weaknesses, either in terms of skills, finance, markets, enabling environments, etc.
Then we engage our strategic partners and drivers of change, which are financial institutions, development agencies, regulatory bodies and Decision Makers; Those institutions that recognizes the changes that are happening globally make sure they participate in our activities to be part of the success stories of the next emerging market.
We also collaborate with other sister NGOs with similar objectives to achieve our set goals.
You see the uniqueness of New Faces, New Voices, particularly the Nigeria Chapter.
For example, we have worked with Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative and Comfort Modupe Daudu International Foundation to impact on particularly women in the rural and semi-urban areas of the country.
We have also sponsored women to attend the 10th Cairo Congress through the sponsorship of our strategic partners, The Nigerian Export Promotion Council in April 2015.
In our effort to create an enabling environment for our women cross border traders not only Nigerian Women but across the West African sub-region, New Faces New Voices-Nigeria embarked on the Women Cross Border Trade project with the support of UKAID/SWARIP Regional Policy Fund, Support for West Africa Integration Programmes.
You are very passionate about women’s empowerment, what inspired your passion? Absolutely, I am passionate about women empowerment because empowerment of women addresses a lot of social and health issues.
Particularly, economic empowerment which is NFNV’s main focus.
It gives me great joy even if it is only one woman I can impact.
You see African women work so hard, but they rarely benefit their gains directly.
You know why? A woman’s concentration and concern is her family