WHY WE EXIST
a note from our founder
We exist to promote the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Achieve Gender Equality + Empower all Women and Girls) across Africa.
Our goal is changed policies and laws. Our first step is changed minds.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
none but ourselves can free our minds”—Bob Marley
In 2017, the British Council hosted a competition to identify 50 emerging policy leaders across the globe called #FutureLeadersConnect. During the selection process for this competition, applicants were asked one question: What change would you like to see in your country by 2030, and how would you use policy to create that change?
As I thought about this question, the wounds of Nigeria’s failed Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEO) Bill were still fresh. In March 2016, a week after International Women’s Day, the Nigerian Senate voted down a Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill. Amongst other provisions, the bill: prohibits gender based discrimination, promotes women’s property rights, establishes temporary special measures to eliminate discrimination, criminalizes harmful traditional practices against women and encourages women’s political participation. Senators rejected this bill, citing religion (both Muslim and Christian Senators cited incompatibility with Sharia law and with the Bible as the basis for their opposition to the legislation).
The GEO bill’s failure highlighted that before laws and policies affecting women can change and/or be effective across the African continent, the way people think about gender must change. This was the inspiration for The She Tank.
As a lawyer who has worked in policy spaces my entire career, I believe in the importance of laws and policies as important goal posts on the journey to social change, but I know conversations and changed minds are a GPS that get us there. I also know the traditional way of doing things in the development and policy world often excludes— the boring conferences where the same things are said over and again, the long policy reports no one reads, the focus on Twitter when so many youth have migrated digitally to Instagram.
I pitched The She Tank idea during the competition, and I was one of 6 Nigerians chosen from 5,000+ applicants selected for the #FutureLeadersConnect program. Through this program, I got to study policy design thinking at Cambridge University, and to test my idea with colleagues from around the world. About a year later, with support from The British High Commission in Nigeria and the British Council and some incredible men and women, The She Tank was born.
My belief is this:
Conversations can transform minds, which can transform cultures, which can transform nations.
-Blessing Omakwu-Soremekun, Founder of The She Tank.