Onamusi: Women can be exceptional if self-limiting beliefs are lifted

Rachel Onamusi is the founder and CEO of VN Sync, a full-service marketing agency with expertise media and a keen focus on digital media strategy development and implementation. She tells TOBI AWODIPE how she went beyond the usual rhetoric of empowering women to really impact women’s lives though up skilling and life changing skills, as well as her desire to do more.

Tell us exactly what you do and its impact?
I would describe myself as an accomplished digital media strategist and growth facilitator who has developed and implemented the media and engagement strategy for a major national presidential campaign, developed the rollout strategy for a major political party, developed and managed media strategy for several global not-for-profit and corporate organisations. The impact has been phenomenal if I say so myself. Most of these skills have translated into and fuelled my passion to empower today’s woman.

A lot of people talk about women empowerment these days but what exactly would you say it means to you?
For years, I have been involved in a myriad of conversations, conferences and projects focused on strategies for women’s growth and I would say I wasn’t very satisfied with what I was seeing. I have been described as one of the few shining stars and rallying points for women in technology and so, as this year’s International Women’s Month drew near, I started to reflect on how best to contribute effectively to empowering women across the world, with a focus on the Nigerian landscape.

I wanted to do more than the usual caressing of women’s egos that litter the social media space during these occasions; I wanted to do something that women would truly benefit from and build or enhance their careers from. In trying to determine how I wanted to celebrate this year’s IWD; I had to start with working out what this year’s theme meant to me. Challenge is a doing word. It is more than talking or hoping; it means action. My plan was simple, but could be great if you, the village, would also like to pitch in. I want to give some young women the opportunity to learn new, viable skills so that they can change their lives for good forever.

So how did you go about achieving this?
Through a carefully constructed project, I was able to, within a few short days, secure the services of 10 volunteer experts and select 47 worthy trainees from over a hundred applicants. Over the three weeks that followed, the selected candidates received training in different fields including photography, copywriting, content writing, creative storytelling, product design, social media marketing, NGO project management, graphic design for social media, and many more. The results have been as impressive as they have been impactful.

One trainee told me she jumped at the application and was so glad she was picked as she learnt a lot and has already started putting her new knowledge into practice where she works. She added that her manager noticed the difference in her writing and pulled her onto more projects than before. Another trainee told me she had been looking to gain an additional source of income and thought it wise to turn her love for gifting and helping people out into a business. But more than flowery words for me, the most satisfying aspect of this project for me has been the glowing results for the women who have put their training into action.

A trainee in the copywriting class recently reported earning her first paycheque from an international writing gig and feedback such as these and others like it are keeping me motivated that ever to continue up skilling women whenever and whenever I can because this is a good example of the kind of impact we all can make if we match words with action.

What key lessons did you learn from doing all these?
Human capacity development and the act of being self-sufficient lends a confidence to do even better, greater things, shattering glass ceilings and thriving based on your own wit, knowledge and self-sufficiency. The testimonies I talked about earlier validate long-held beliefs I have always held that women can be exceptional if self-limiting beliefs – brought on by societal, religious or other convictions – are lifted, and training and an enabling environment are put in their stead.

How would you say the volunteers benefitted from the programme?
While the project was instituted to serve the trainees, the volunteer experts have drawn many benefits from it too. A couple of them said it was an opportunity for them to inch closer towards meeting personal mentoring goals they had set for themselves and at least one of them has taken the classes further; creating a training package for entrepreneurs interested in starting in business, thereby expanding her own business to include training.

While this level of impact was unplanned, it is a very welcome discovery that resonates with my own beliefs that we grow by helping others.

What keeps you going in the face of difficulties?
There’s a saying I live by, from Fyodor Dostoevsky and it says: ‘Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad.’ While it doesn’t totally sum up my life, the statement is a sufficient indication of what makes me tick and keeps me determined, focused and my eye on the goal, no matter what.

What should we look forward to seeing from you in the next couple of years?
I want to continue to facilitate the process of helping more women. Given the success of this last project, I very much look forward to working with organisations who wish to genuinely incorporate capacity development as part of their CSR programmes, and I am, in fact, currently speaking with a couple already. Excellence doesn’t have to be unwieldy; it can simply be small projects done perfectly. Perhaps, that is all we need for progress; small projects, done perfectly.

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Rachel OnamusiVN Sync
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