Onyi Nwaneri is a Nigerian human rights lawyer by trade and CEO of Afrika Tikkun Services, South Africa. She has been at the forefront of the gender rights struggle for a long while, helping to ensure a situation in which women will have equal rights and opportunities, have their place recognised, be the best they can, and treated as assets by men and society at large.
Having learnt the ropes from her mother, a serial entrepreneur with a PhD in educational psychology, at a young age, who made sure the stereotype mentality about women did not situate with her daughter and determine her future, Onyi Nwaneri is now helping South African youth excel and break the cycle of poverty. Her quest is to use her achievement to inspire girls and young women, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, that they can achieve greatness, despite their situation.
The first of six children, the bar to be outstanding was raised high for Nwaneri at that young age, and she was not going to disappoint. “From a young age, I understood my responsibility for setting the pace for my siblings,” Nwaneri recalls. “My mother was like a true role model to me, I had to be a role model for my siblings in terms of the friends I kept, my academic performance, and my overall behaviour. Having my mother, a successful entrepreneur, as my mentor and coach helped me shape my life.” She admits.
Women and girls remain disproportionately affected by crime, sexual violence, poverty, hunger, and unemployment, she says, but that is not because they are less capable. Data by the Department of Basic Education shows that female matriculants perform better than their male counterparts: in 2017, girls attained 62.6% of A-passes. A similar situation applies to colleges and universities, in which girls systematically outperform boys, she notes.
Despite this, women still earn 28% less than men and few make it at executive level. A 2019 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report shows that men account for 96.6% of CEOs, 87.2% of CFOs, and 91% of executive directors on the JSE. Redressing these gender equality challenges is urgent, says Nwaneri.
Creating value for society against all odds.
“I am all about justice, empowerment, and human rights. What is dear to my heart, is helping marginalised people attain the equality they deserve. Throughout history, women and girl children have been disadvantaged but despite that, they continue to create value for society, often against all odds,” she says. “
Whilst men need to come to the party, women have a vital role to play, too, she says, particularly established women who have smashed the glass ceiling. “For marginalised young women to realise they have opportunities and can change their world, and the world at large, they need successful and established women to show and tell them they can,” says Onyi Nwaneri.
Born 1981 in a small town in the eastern part of Nigeria as the eldest of six children, Nwaneri served as a commercial and litigation lawyer and later a human rights lawyer, focusing on the human rights of people wrongfully detained or denied legal and social justice in Nigeria.
In 2009 Nwaneri joined Afrika Tikkun, a youth empowerment NPO, initially in a business development capacity, and in 10 years, has climbed the ladder to become CEO of Afrika Tikkun Services, one of the three driving entities of the Afrika Tikkun Group. Afrika Tikkun Services is a level two black-owned recruitment, training and placement company designed to help corporate clients evaluate their transformation mandate and build solutions that align with their social and business requirements. The company aims to transform the lives of South African young people and prepare them for participating constructively in the country’s economy.
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