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By Godwin BENSON

“We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will get real societal change that incorporates women in decision-making as equals and benefits us all.” These are the words of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the United Nations Women Executive Director, to mark this year’s International World’s Women Day, being celebrated the world over today, March 8, 2021.

With the theme of this year’s celebration, Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum, Mlambo-Ngcuka may have thought aloud because of the perceived imbalances, ill-treatments, subjugations, second-fiddle positions, debasements and perhaps outright abuses often associated with womanhood, common place in some quarters and even the society at large.

But one establishment in Nigeria, the Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company, located at Awa in Onna Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom, has done things different. A visit to the factory shows a perfect blend of leadership, equality, direction, focused and a marked difference in human relations, public relations and quality services. And, women are at the forefronts, delivering in very large doses, unquantifiable, rewarding and plausible services. From the health, maintenance, quality control, production, sales, human resources, safety and environment, corporate services, supply chain, industrial attachment, finance and accounting, the story is the same.

Indeed, out of a staff disposition of about 200, women are approximately 47 per cent of the population. And, in terms of schedule and or job description, women top the chat in Jubilee Syringe.  For instance, the human resources manager, the superintendent pharmacist, quality assurance supervisor, regional sales and marketing manager, south west and Ghana, marketing and branding coordinator and the executive assistant to managing director are all women.  Others are: customer service representative, human resources officer, Chemical Engineer/ISO coordinator and quality assurance coordinator.

Did this come as a design or was it deliberate? The managing director of the company, Mr Akin Oyediran gave an emphatic no. He said: “It’s not by design but by default but they are doing their work. They are helping the company grow. So, it just comes natural to celebrate those kinds of women in terms of their contributions, not only to the company but to the environment and society.”

Oyediran said women and development of women have always been a big part of his career. And, I’ve worked with a lot of very intelligent women across the world, as part of my career and a lot of women go unnoticed, especially, in corporate environments.

He said the International World’s Women Day heralds an ample opportunity to celebrate the women for who they are, what they have done and what they can do the better the society.

“Any opportunity I have to celebrate women is always a big thing for me.  It’s just something that comes natural to me. Apart from that, if you look round this company, you’ll see a lot of young professionals that are women. The head of human resource is a woman, head of quality is a woman; our superintendent pharmacist is a woman. I mean, we have women in very key positions here,” he said.

And the women, from a reception, an intern to the top echelon of the company have appreciated the recognition, accommodation and opportunity to prove their mettle in the once exclusive male dominated career and discipline.

They said, working for JSM has impacted positively on their career and made useful, responsible and responsive part of the bigger society.

Edediong Udousoro is a holder of a bachelor of arts degree (Linguistics) and an associate member,  Institute of Brand Management of  Nigeria and presently, the branding and marketing coordinator in the company.  Barely nine months in the company, Udousoro said,  JSM has impacted her career in several ways including:  learning opportunity, career growth and job satisfaction. She said her greatest turning point in the company is gender equality.

Ikie Enobong Peter, the regional manager for Southwest Nigeria and Ghana has worked for nine months in the company.  She has this to say:  “JSM has given me an enabling platform to be able to successfully employ my ideas, while thriving and excelling.  At the moment we have a suitable climate for all genders, and I believe we will continue to improve our endeavors as a company.  In this current innovative climate, JSM has been open to ingenious ideas from all, and utilized it appropriately. This can only lead to continuous growth and development for the firm.”

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She commended the management of the company for giving opportunities to women to express their potentials in knowledge, industry and contribute to the wellbeing of the society.

To Noela Aniefiok Udokim,  a graduate of political science and a supply chain professional with over three  years of experience in local purchase (procurement), warehousing, and logistics, “JSM limited has helped  in the past years to sharpen my negotiation skill, planning, communication, presentation and human relations skill.”

Udokim lauded the company for giving women a pride of place in the manufacturing industry, which, she noted, in other parts of the country and the world, had been an exclusive reserves for the men. To encourage more women into work, she suggested that JSM should conduct enlightenment programmes and seminars in schools where her female workforce can be showcased as an encouragement to the young ones. 

“I like the management system, unique work environment, the work culture and the young vibrant and energetic workforce as well as the wide range of experienced professional from diverse culture.

“By giving women the platform to occupy key positions in the company and giving them the necessary motivation and tools to excel on the various jobs,” she said the company would continue to experience excellent and rewarding outputs.

For Uduak Sunday Etok, a sales representative, who has worked in the company for six months now, it has been a great opportunity. “I’ve had the privilege of working with some very wonderful companies one of which is (WWCVL) Novartis division and now, Sales Representative with JSM covering south south/south east. Working with JSM has been a different ball game all together.  I’ve had the opportunity for more training, more exposure and acceptance. I’ve been given bigger tasks that people, generally will should not be given to a woman. But, you see, I do them and come out successful; learn more and become better positioned. JSM has shaped my vision of life and offered me the knowhow to compete favourably with other professionals, including men, in other companies and climes. I’m grateful to our managing director, for leveling the potentials of women.”

Etok stressed that: “The opportunity to grow with a company outstanding as JSM, is very exciting, the opportunity to travel around the country also meeting and forming strategic business relationships with some very prominent business owners. Being part of a team, where everyone’s opinion counts and is taken seriously. It’s truly an inspiration.”

The human resources officer in-charge of recruitments, manpower development and talent management, Deborah Ekong did not hide her feelings: “I love that JSM has given all genders equal opportunities to get promotions, raises and develop their leadership skills.  It has brought about job satisfaction and the Opportunity to make a difference,” she told The Pioneer.

Enobong Abraham Akpan, a receptionist, who has worked with the company for the past three years said: JSM has played a very big role in her life, giving her the opportunity, as a woman, to render services to the general public. “Given this opportunity by the company, as a woman, has helped me to believe in myself; that I can do more. This opportunity has also given me higher advantage in life.

“The experiences here are great: work with nice people, best MD, everything friendly including the environment. I’m very happy that women have been given the opportunity to excel in this company. As the world rolls the drums to celebrate women today, I feel very proud to, not just being a woman; being a mother and women in a company that is gender-friendly,” she echoed.

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Akpan urged other women outside the company to believe in themselves; “don’t go down on where the environment has placed you. Believe in your potentials; try to improve yourself everyday and make life better for yourself and people around you. I advise every woman to get something doing. As a woman, you need to support the nation; you need to support the world. You need to be financially stable. Get yourself something to do. I know there will be no jobs for every woman in government or private organisations but with your smart phones and other things, there are space; you can get yourself busy with things that can bring money and also assist the government as the world at large.”

She advised the government and managers of private organisations “to continue to give women greater opportunity and more space “because women are trustworthy and they have good hearts.”

Francisca Idiong, a nurse, working in the Infirmary department said: the experience in the company has been awesome. “The relationship between the management and the staff has been the best, perfect, exemplary and commendable. Here, we work as a family. No discrimination whatsoever. To be frank, women have been exposed here to maximize their potentials. I’m very happy to work here.

To Elizabeth Cookey, the human resources manager, who said she has been in the company for the past 11 months, the experiences in JSM Limited has been very rewarding, inspiring and capacity enhancing.

Cookey, an MBA graduate of political science, said the company has been really gender-friendly, giving both the men and women equal opportunities to excel. “I’ve seen leadership here. There’s no disparity in gender; if a man is competent and capable of executing any task, he’s given the task and if a woman is, she will be assigned. We’re here as a family and that has really boosted our productivity.

“This is one of the few companies I’ve worked with that has given me, as a woman, the opportunity to work irrespective of your age, gender and tribe. It has given me the opportunity to grow. We have people here who are mentors, coaches and others who take care of us.

“Here, we don’t look at the number of men or women; what we look at is that: if  five males and five females come for interview and the males perform more than the females or the females more than the males, we take those who performed.” She craved for gender-equality in the world.

A lawyer and the executive assistant to the managing director, Juliana Williams, said for the past one year she has worked in the company, she has learnt a lot, stayed focused and broaden her career path.

She said celebrating women is something that should be done always because according to her: “women are wonderful creatures; they are impacting the society.”

Citing the recent feat by Dr Ngozi Okonji-Iweala at the World Trade Organisation, (WTO), the lawyer, said “if women are given the opportunity, as what is happening in JSM, the world will be a better place for all.”

Williams appreciated the management of JSM for not looking down on women because of the societal stereotype or myth, but giving them the platform to excel and maximize their potentials.

“The experience here has been great and challenging but it’s worth the exposure. JSM is still a budding company, trying to build its brand. We’ve talented staff, who  know their onions and can deliver on their tasks anytime,” she said.

Another staff, Eunice Morris, an  IT assistant, said the company has made her realize her potentials as a graduate of information and communication technology.

“Being here has given me the opportunity to meet their tasks; break them down and make them simple.  I enjoy working in this kind of environment. There’s no discrimination in anything. We’re as a family. The MD talks to you as a human being and that makes the work flows. Working here is very interesting.

“What is done here is very inspiring.  It needs skills – soft skills, hard skills, leadership skills and work ethics. It’s not just about your field of study; you need to bring other attributes, attitudes, lifestyle, etc., to bear. The environment is conducive for everybody and makes you feel at home to do the work,” she stressed.

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“We’ve a good number of women working here. This is very encouraging to me because there are some organisations you might go, and you’ll see one or two women. Here, every department has a woman – a front row, supporting member or team member and this is a big boost for the womenfolk.

“I commend the management of this company for giving women their pride of place in the society;  other organisations, companies or government should borrow a leaf from JSM,” Morris advised.

Imo Silas, a graduate intern corroborated the positions of the staff.  Having been with Jubilee Syringe for three months, Silas stated: “Jubilee Syringe is a place to work.  They’re fine people from top to bottom. I like the family relationship I’ve seen here. There is teamwork. There is unity; there’s leadership.

“JSM is a good ground for anyone that is starting a career, whether in Accounting, Engineering, any profession. I’ve learnt a lot here. Apart from the mode of dressing, you cannot distinguish between who is a man and who is a woman here. It’s really a good working place.”

To MfonAbasi Akpan, a graduate of Chemical Engineering, who has worked for seven months in the company “JSM has given me the opportunity to maximize my potentials as a Chemical Engineer.”

She described the management of the company as unique and gender-friendly, saying there was no discrimination of any kind once one has the potentials to deliver the job.

Ndifreke Nkanga, a quality control microbiologist, did not mince words when she spoke with The Pioneer. “I must say here that this company has impacted positively on my career. I’ve been working here for the past four years and I can tell you it is a very good environment; motivating, challenging and resulted-oriented.”

To Ruth Ikott, a quality assurance supervisor, JSM is a place to be. “The management style, the work environment, the training, everything is just perfect.  There is no gender discrimination here. We are a family and everybody, man or woman works here as a team.”

Mrs Patience Udo, a Superintendent Pharmacist at the factory said: “JSM has impacted her career remarkably. You see, when you talk about industrial Pharmacist, there are no companies here in Akwa Ibom except in Lagos and Ogun. Having this company here is an advantage to me because it places me on the front burner to practice my career.

“I’m again at home here because women are given the opportunity to maximize their potentials. Besides, I like being challenged intellectually. And, I get that here. I thank Jubilee Syringe for motivating us to work.  We’re given tasks daily; tasks that you are not frequently exposed to in the outside market. Because, we’re trying to raise the standard every day and trying to raise the bar, I’m motivated to do the work.

“Coming here, for me, has been a real big boost. If you go to an Engineering Factory, for instance, you’ll see a lot of men but coming here to see almost an exclusive environment for women, I was really proud. For instance, I’m married; many people feel that because you’re married, you’re not supposed to pursue a career but I’ve seen many married women here. My other colleague is pregnant and seeing that was a big plus to me because most people think that you should not employ a pregnant woman in a company,” Udo noted.

For Adaku Ekpo, JSM is a symbol of gender-equality. “Here, everybody is equal and we commend the management for helping the women to prove their mettle in their different professions,” she said.

The 2021 International World Women Day celebration might come and go but the practice in JSM, if adopted as a model, will make gender-disparity a third-rate agenda in the world. Through such, the potentials of most women will be maximize and the world will be better for it.

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