From taking care of the home to executing and climbing the ladder of success in the workplace, fighting the patriarchal system, and re-engineering the way women are perceived, some women have been playing positive roles and are leaving their footprints in sands where only men have trod.
Long before women empowerment and gender parity became buzzwords, these women have been making history.
One of these women is Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, a Lawyer, Politician, Community Leader, and devout Christian and influencer.
As someone who cherishes her private life with immediate family and select friends, and associates, she sits in this rare interview with IBIENE and shares with its readers how she’s able to conquer challenges and thrive as a private and public sector practitioner.
Here’s how the chat went;
IBIENE: You were described in an online tabloid as one “whose nature is wired around dedication to duty, excellence and smart work.” What keeps you going?
Dame Aleruchi: It is important to be focused, purpose-driven, and to excel in whatever tasks or goals are to be attained. Dedication to duty is a key and essential element that promotes and enhances the development of society. Whatever your duty is, you have a responsibility to do it well because your poor action or inaction affects the larger community. We must give our best in all we do, the right attitude to work enhances productivity, builds morale, a sense of duty, self-worth and positivity.
IBIENE: As the first female Rivers State Attorney-General and later the pioneer Administrator of Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA). What are some of the barriers between women and the yet-to-be-shattered ceiling that still exists today?
Dame Aleruchi: Some of the barriers women face today in their quest for successful careers in the work place include stereotyping particularly by male colleagues and establishments, gender bias, abuse, unjust treatment and sexual harassment. Women must however rise above these challenges by and failure by improving on their knowledge, and skills. Women must also make conscious effort to better support and encourage one another. We must also maintain a good work / life balance, to lead a meaningful and productive life.
IBIENE: You are known as one who breaks new grounds in business, cultural heritage and private life. Let’s focus on politics for a bit in commemoration of #IWD2021. What’s your assessment of women in politics in Africa?
Dame Aleruchi: Politics in Africa is still largely the preserve of men. Participation of women in elective politics in Africa has been very limited. Most women in politics have financial constraints, and are greatly marginalised by the men. Political meetings and decisions are taken at unholy hours when the women are at home with their families. Women are emotionally stable, empathetic and less bugged down by egoistic tendencies when compared with their male counterparts, and have proven themselves to be excellent managers of human and material resources. The contributions of women to Africa’s development today is unquestionable both in the corporate world, as academicians, in commerce and entrepreneurship, in the arts, media, sports, and as home builders. Women must despite all these obstacles, continue to assert themselves and seek political relevance and inclusion.
IBIENE: Are there any mindset or actions women (potential and existing) carryout in politics that can be corrected?
Dame Aleruchi: Women should be more courageous and assertive; our roles should not be limited to the stereotypes. For example, woman leader, entertainment committee, and social welfare related activities etc.
Women must work hard and acquire leadership skills in order to make meaningful contributions, and be involved when policies and programs are being conceptualized and implemented.
Networking is very important for human interactions. Women must like most men do, see the excellent value of networking and team building particularly in politics, and business.
IBIENE: Speak to Ibiene’s young readers. If you were to preach a message to your younger self, what would it be?
Dame Aleruchi: Invest in continuous Personal Development, as this is the only way to engender growth and development. Are you managing your time well by efficiently setting goals, priorities and timelines? Do you have effective communication skills? How are you growing your mind? What are you reading for your mental and intellectual development? What skills do you have, and how can you improve on your skills? How do you communicate and relate with people? Be self-confident, and believe in your abilities. Give serious consideration to your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being, as this is key to your being a balanced person. It’s important to learn about yourself, know exactly what’s important to you. What are your values? Are you a person of integrity? What drives you? What are you passionate about? What do you want to devote your life to? How do you plan to balance your life and work? Learn about all these things early on, and let them guide you – constantly evaluate yourself.
IBIENE: As one of the few titled women in the Igbani kingdom, kindly share what the role entails.
Dame Aleruchi: In 2011, I was conferred with the title of IBIFIRIWANGIBO (Exemplary Champion) of Opobo Kingdom by HRM King Dandeson Douglas Jaja, JEKI V of Opobo Kingdom in recognition of my contributions to the development of the Kingdom and the State. It is indeed a privilege to be so honoured and it is a call to service at all times to the Kingdom and our nation. As titleholders, we have a responsibility and a duty to uphold the traditions and culture of our people, to be role models and to nurture and mentor the youth in society.
Do you have any questions or comments for Dame Aleruchi? Do share with us in the comment section.