|Posted on:||Tuesday, 4th July, 2023|
Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) is a youth-led mental health organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. We are partnering with them on a project funded by Comic Relief to provide better mental health for young people in Nigeria, called “Bridging the Gap: Improving youth mental health in Nigeria”. They recently held an event looking at Digital Life and Women’s Mental Health, assembling a fantastic panel of contributors.
MANI host various mental health awareness events, both in person and hybrid, throughout the year. Gender affects mental health in different ways, and so they recently organised a brilliant online event entitled “Digital Life and Women’s Mental Health”.
MANI organised a dynamic and interesting panel of contributors who were able to give different perspectives on this important topic.
The panelists included:
Abiye Tam-George (Human Rights Defender and Vice Chair of Nigerian Bar Association)
With years of experience working with groups of women, teenagers, and vulnerable children, Abiye brought valuable insights to the table. She provided a useful legal perspective, covering issues like how to address online bullying, and explaining the legal rights of the affected individuals.
Sarah Koyejo Oluwatosin (Senior Product Designer for Nedbank, and Founder of Alpha Instincts Technologies)
Sarah is working in the tech space. She was able to provide a perspective of what it is like for a woman entering a very male dominated space, and how that can affect women’s mental health.
Toluse Francis (CEO, Toluse Francis Mental Health Consulting, writer and speaker)
Toluse’s consulting firm helps organisations and individuals move strategically from basic mental health awareness toward meaningful, measurable action. As a panellist he was able to give advice on how and when to seek help when experiencing mental health problems.
Gbemi Adekanmbi (Marketing and Communications Specialist, and Founder of For Creative Girls)
With experience across various sectors, including Creative Businesses, Africa-focused Startups and Social Impact organisations, Gbemi is known for building global communities, creative products and executing marketing communication ideas. As a panellist she was able to contribute her communications insights.
A deeper dive
Erla Magnusdottir, Mental Health Coordinator at CBM UK, interviewed two of the panelists after the event to dive a bit deeper into the topics discussed during the event.
Abiye Tam-George discussed the specific challenges faced by women, including the higher rates of depression and abuse (both online and offline), and often being denied equity and promotion. She stressed the need for further training for women in different areas, including within marriage and parenting:
“Training can transform minds, give women better self-assurance and self-esteem. As a society we face a lot of trust issues, and aggression, and young people face many challenges. I want to come up with a conversation platform where young people can come and express themselves. There are not enough opportunities for young people – and women in particular – to express themselves.”
Abiye also mentioned the “green light” of the internet: having access to the internet can be a positive tool, enabling women to upskill themselves. We asked Abiye for a final reflection from the event, and this is the message she wanted to share: “Create the change you desire and stick to it.”
Sarah Koyejo Oluwatosin shared her experience of entering the tech space, including negotiating her salary and encountering sexist attitudes in the workplace. She discussed the impact of misogyny, and the pressure to prove oneself, on women’s mental health.
Sarah also spoke about how the tech world has been enriching and positive for her, allowing her to continuously learn and grow, which has benefitted her both in her career and other aspects of her life. With women still underrepresented in the digital space, and with a clear need for more women in leadership positions, Sarah encouraged other women to get involved, and start to change the sector’s culture. She says,
“Women should always show up – women only apply when they have one hundred percent of the requirements, where men are more likely to just apply. You don’t need to be perfect, but just be ready to learn and show up.”
For Abiodun Oguntola, CEO of MANI, the key takeaway from the event was the importance of good support. Mental health support is crucial, but the event highlighted the need for other specific types of support too, including professional support and legal support (for example when dealing with online bullying). The event provided an important opportunity to discuss when and how to seek support.
Erla Magnusdottir says,
“The event was a huge success in having so many positive female role models amongst the panelists. They were able to advise young people who are grappling with a rapidly changing tech-driven world which can be both a force both for good and harm when thinking about mental health.”Back