Written by: Hanna Grzeskiewicz
When you listen to Buchi Nduka talk about her business, her story, and her community, you can’t help but be energised. You can tell that the moment she gets up in front of a crowd all eyes are on her – she speaks confidently, full of energy, empathy and knowledge that she’s gained from her own life experiences, easily convincing the listener that, as the saying goes, she’ll be the one to make the changes she wants to see.
The Amazing Woman is Nduka’s social enterprise, which is part of this year’s Yunus & Youth Fellowship cohort. At its core is the empowerment and emancipation of women in Nigeria, while respecting the culture and tradition the women navigate and are part of. Following Nduka’s own story, where she chose to end her reliance on the men in her life, and instead become self-sufficient and financially independent, she now wants to do the same for the women of her community. The business focuses on helping mothers to gain skills that allow them to fulfil their earning potential, focusing on technology, as well as teaching softer skills that help them navigate the resistance they tend to be met with from, more often than not, the men in their lives. The goal is an incubation centre, with an attached creche where the children can be looked after while the mother is being trained; first in Lagos, then replicated across the whole country. Nduka does not reject family values, and certainly does not see herself as a bra-burning feminist – for her it’s about collaboration, gender parity, and expanding horizons. She sums it up neatly herself: “what’s good for me, is also good for you” – the “you” being the husband, the children, the broader family, and the community. So while she is going against the cultural grain of gender politics in Nigeria, she sees this as something that simply needs to happen, and is realistic in knowing that it will take time for things to change.
Although evidently a woman driven to be successful and to make some waves, and who has overcome her own hardships to get where she is now, Nduka is also very reflective, and takes the time to learn from her experiences. She is very clear that she did not get to where she is now without a lot of support, and the vision she now has for her business has grown out of the lessons she has taken from events in her own life. She mentions that while she hasn’t spoken a lot about her past, it is her past – including difficult romantic relationships, the fraught dynamics she often observed between her parents, and how they brought her up to be equal to the boys in the family – that makes her who she is now. She also applies this learning to how she runs her business: having had already once applied to the Y&Y Fellowship, she took her first rejection not as a sign to give up, but as a sign to need to make her application stronger and be clearer as to what it is she wants to achieve, what she wants to focus her business on, and how she wants it to grow. Second time around she was successful, and even in the early stages of the Fellowship she’s making the most of it: she’s already connected with other Fellows, and is refining how she thinks and talks about the business, and about herself as a social entrepreneur, through the tasks on the Y&Y online platform.
Nduka ends the conversation with a message for other budding female entrepreneurs, especially those who also want to have children: start small, build a team, and don’t follow money, but focus on adding value – the money will follow. Always the inspirer, she concludes with: “your story is your power, and your voice is your driver towards change”. The Amazing Woman is Nduka herself.