Founder’s Note

Nkiru Balonwu

While African Women on Board (AWB) stands as a positive, inclusive, and forward-looking organisation, I don’t mind telling you that the initial concept was born from a place of frustration…

As a well-educated woman that had worked hard throughout my career, I began to notice recurring patterns of gender bias, in the workplace. It became clear that I and the women around me were not being accurately represented in the boardroom and other decision-making tables. Worse still in more extreme cases, we were not only being excluded from those tables, but quite literally chased around them. 

Personally, I started asking myself if it was something that I was doing. Something I was saying? Or maybe my appearance made me a target?… In other words, was I in some way responsible for the treatment I was receiving? 

Later, when I set up my own company, instead of improving, the situation got worse. I witnessed, out in the wider world – and around the world – just how prevalent gender inequality continues to be in our society today.

From financial disparity to gender-based bullying, and beyond to workplace harassment and domestic violence – no two individuals’ stories were the same, though all too many of us seemed to have experienced the same forms of discrimination and often, violence. It became clear that gender inequality does not discriminate against junior versus senior, workplace versus domestic, or Nigeria versus the rest of the world. It only discriminates against gender.

And so, African Women on Board was born – a network dedicated to reshaping the lives of African women and girls globally through narrative media, capacity building and training, research, convenings, and more. We know now that we were not responsible for the horrific treatment we received in the past, but can be responsible for reshaping the future for others like us…

We do this by challenging the status quo, asking better questions, and seeking tangible solutions.  

How can women access and provide leadership in our business places whether formal or informal? As members of our communities? And in government? How do we exercise our agency? How do we engage in our homes? How do we bring up our children – our girls AND our boys – to help create better men and women, who can in turn better shape the future of our world? 

More pragmatically put, how can we take responsibility, how can we leverage agency, engagement, and education to build a culture that elevates women? 

Finally, it is important to note that our focus is not solely on elevating the situation of our specific demographic group, but on broadening wider discourse. By adding our voices to the global conversation in areas such as the future of work, diversity and inclusion, social mobility, ESG, climate change, community impact, etc., AWB seeks to ‘grow the pie’ when it comes to systems change and improved quality of life for all rather than simply increasing our own share. 

Whilst focused on empowering women, we also seek to bring men on-board as allies, and reinforce the obvious and at times trite – but true – point, that we really are stronger together. 

I’d like to thank everybody who has taken the time to visit our website. I encourage you to explore the diverse range of our work, and invite you to join us to work towards achieving a universal goal of eliminating gender inequality.  

Ps: In case you missed it, I am what a feminist looks like. Neither passive or accidental…. 

Here’s to channelling your inner Rosa Parks! Or maybe Yaa Asantewaa or the Aba women! What inspires you? ☺