Held at Kensington Town Hall on Saturday 19 May, the first ever Women4Africa Awards proved a major success bringing together the movers and shakers of the African and Caribbean communities in London in a 600-strong crowd in celebration of African women’s achievements. Some of the distinguished guests included Richard Taylor OBE, the founder of Damilola Taylor Trust, Nollywood actress and CEO of SDA Productions Stella Damasus, CNN 2009 Global hero Betty Makoni, Isha Johansen, founder of Johansen FC and one of the recipients of Recognition Award who flew in from Sierra Leone for the event, footballer Danny Shittu, another Recognition Award recipient, UK-based Afrobeats star May7ven.
The ceremony hosted by Adebayo Jones and co-founder of Women4Africa Awards Tola Onigbanjo kicked off with an-hour delay to the projected 7pm starting time as guests were keen to network and pose for red carpet images for longer.
With Mr. Oluwatoyin K. Lawal, Nigeria Deputy High Commissioner to the UK representing the wife of Nigeria High Commissioner to the UK His Excellency, Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Mrs. Salamatu Tafida, the tone for the night was set; this was going to be an evening dedicated to the inspirational women of Africa, from mothers to make up artist, from businesswomen to educators.
“Too whom much is given, much is expected,” reminded us Mrs. Tafida in her speech read by Mr. Lawal in which she encouraged African women to be a “source of motivation for other women.” Citing the success stories of women of African descent such as Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Kenyan Wangari Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and renowned Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who recently contested for the presidency of World Bank, Mrs. Tafida also reminded us, “We have come a long way; let us celebrate our successes.”
The awards that followed in quick succession with the stellar presentation of Esther Alade and designer extraordinaire Adebayo Jones were punctuated by musical performances by up and coming African talent, the most memorable of which was by the dazzling husband and wife team Roucheon and Femi Iloyi. Roucheon also took home the award for Mother of the Year, a title she shared with fellow mothers Atiti Sosimi and Nina Nia Kabesa.
Other highlights of the night included an inspirational speech by the Women4Africa ambassador Gita Patel who highlighted the importance of working together to achieve common goals, a poignant speech by Stella Damasus on domestic violence and incest which affect the lives of many African women and girls.
“I always get criticised by Nigerian media for not being glam enough,” Stella said, “but I had rather spend N80,000 on buying books to educate young girls than on a dress I will only wear once, ’cause if I wear it again, I will be crucified by the same media.”
The supporting VT which showed images of women injured and killed by their husbands and boyfriends were equally poignant in driving the message home. Damasus left the stage to a standing ovation having touched the hearts of everyone with her passionate and powerful speech.
It wasn’t all about the trials and tribulations though as the hosts and guests celebrated award winners and nominees alike, and one such jubilant moment came in the form of Stella Damasus and Adebayo Jones singing a duet.
The Nigerian actress was not the only one receiving standing ovation. Fellow humanitarian and founder of Girl Child Network Betty Makoni, the recipient of Social Humanitarian Award, also received standing ovation not only for her win but also for her passionate speech drawing attention to the need to empower the girl children and women of Africa.
While the evening kicked off with over 600 guests in the grand hall, late start and intervals meant that by the time the Recognition Award and Special Award recipients were honoured, award presenters and winners found themselves addressing a half empty hall, as pointed out by Isha Johansen, founder of Johansen FC and Sierra Leone’s Women of Excellence Awards who was one of the winners alongside Gambian actress Fatima Jabbe, Susan Mashibe, Tanzanian founder and executive director of Tanjet, Zimbabwean humanitarian Bekezela Nsingo and Nigerian Afrobeats star May7ven who received her award from FAB’s own Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo.
As the event came to an end past midnight, thrilled by an evening of celebration of African women and their success stories, guests, reluctant to leave were still busy networking in the foyer.
Judging by the success of the first edition of Women4Africa and the passion the super couple Sam and Tola Onigbanjo share to celebrate women of African descent and “all those who consider themselves African”, we are in for many more editions of Women4Africa in the future.
Betty Makoni (Zimbabwe)- Humanitarian of the Year award
Niina Nia Kabesa (Congo), Atiti Sosimi (Nigeria), Roucheon Iloyi (Zimbabwe) – Mother of the Year
Lola Ogunbadejo (Nigeria)- Media Professional of the Year
Mavis Amankwah (Ghana)- Entrepreneur of the Year & Business Woman of the Year awards.
Olamide Talabi (Nigeria)- International Humanitarian of the Year
May7ven (Nigeria)- Recognition Award
Fatima Jabbe (Gambia)- Recognition Award
Susan Mashibe (Tanzania)- Recognition Award
Mojisola Sonoiki (Nigeria)- Recognition Award
Bekezela Nsingo (Zimbabwe)- Recognition Award
Tosin Taiwo (Nigeria)- International African Woman of The Year Award
Barbara Soetan (Nigeria)- Young Achiever of the Year Award
Christelle Kedi (Cameroon) -Make up Artist of the Year
Rainatou Sow (Guinea)- Inspirational Woman of the Year
Isha Johansen (Sierra Leone) Special Woman Award
Bola Olabisi (Nigeria) Special Woman Award
Photos by: Daniel Sync/ www.SyncPHOTOSonline.com