Mrs Ijeoma Ugwunebo is the chairperson, Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria (SWAN), Abuja Chapter. In this interview with HENRY TYOHEMBA AND BATURE BLESSING, she spoke about the numerous opportunities available to accounting students among other issues.
You have been elected chairperson SWAN, Abuja chapter since may 2017, how has the journey been so far?
It has been a very fantastic journey. We have had so many activities in Abuja and environs. In fact, the city has felt our impact and it has been wonderful so far.
Since assuming leadership, what have been your achievements?
Since I took over office as SWAN Chairperson, we have engaged in a lot of activities especially in the educational sector. We have organised numerous sensitisation workshops for students in the tertiary institutions.
Our first port of call was Baze University where we organised workshop for students in the faculty of Management and Social Sciences. That took place sometimes in November, 2017. In February 2018, we were at the University of Abuja to also organise similar sensitisation workshop for the students of the Faculty of Management Sciences and Social Sciences made up of students studying Economics, Political Science, Business Administration and Accountancy. We have also made presentations at Birmingham University and during the Economic Students Association First summit for 2018. Recently, just last week, we were at the College of Education, Zuba for the same sensitisation workshop.
All the sensitisation activities were aimed at equipping the students with the knowledge of how to become Chartered Accountants through the Accounting Technicians Scheme of West Africa(ATSWA).This applies mostly to those reading courses other than Accountancy. A lot of parents and young people do not have this information and we took it upon ourselves during this tenure to organise these workshops in order to enlighten them that with five credits including English and Mathematics, OND, NCE, etc, one can enroll for the AT SEA scheme and go through the process until qualification as a Chartered Accountant even while taking a degree course along the way.
At the same time, in February 2018, we also held a quiz competition for secondary school students in Abuja to mark the 40th anniversary of SWAN and in that particular quiz competition, about 19 schools were present and the competition ended well in favour of a public school in FCT. So, this administration has taken it as a very important part of her activities to ensure that we reach out to the young people and educate them about being professionals and taking up the Accountancy profession.
We have also gone into collaborations with people who have positive contributions to youth development in our sensitisation.We have collaborated with Mr Linus Okorie (a renowned leadership trainer), from the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), who also came in to speak to students about the menace of drug in Nigeria and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to educate them about evils of human trafficking. So, it has been an all encompassing project. The project is still on going, we hope to reach more schools, especially the secondary schools in FCT before the end of this administration.
How would you assess the impact of SWAN on the lives of young people?
A lot of young people we have met and spoken to didn’t know the opportunities available to them as students in tertiary institutions. Some of them have always dreamt of being Chartered Accountants but they didn’t know how to go about it. So during our workshops, we have been able to open up and answer some of their questions, tell them how to go about, how to register, how to write the exams, qualifications they need and the rest of them. It is something that has been a very big eye opener to most of the students and as we speak, a lot of them have enrolled through us to offer the Accounting Technicians Scheme of West Africa (ATSWA).
In addition to this, we have also taken our sensitisations to the NYSC orientation camp, we have visited them for different batches and it has really made a lot of impact on them because when they see women who are able to achieve a lot of things, they are encouraged to go out and pursue their dreams.
You are running a ‘Catch them Young’ campaign in Nigerian schools.What is it all about?
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) has a particular programme called “Catch Them Young”. This is a way of trying to harvest these people in their youth, let them not wait until they leave school before they take the decision of writing the Institute’s professional examinations. All the workshops we have organised so far have been under this programme. We have used this medium to talk to them about our profession and how to be better citizens of the country in their youth because the lives of these people are still undergoing the process of formation and that is what we aim to achieve. So, during this administration, we adopted the ‘Catch Them Young’ and we are doing so much with it to make sure we catch these young people and help them take very important career decisions in their lives.
It may please you to know that we also observed the absence of counselling in our schools and this is very serious because the importance of guidance and counselling cannot be over emphasised.
Concerning job creation, do you have any plans for these young people when they graduate?
The issue of providing jobs is beyond our capacity, we do our best to accommodate those whom some of our professional colleagues that are in practice can employ, but in the long run, our goal is to ensure that we prepare them for a greater tomorrow because we believe that when they have these skills, they will be able to access any job opportunity. We also believe that if you prepare them well, they can also stand on their own considering the way our economy is going. We keep preaching self-employment and empowerment so it is also a way of empowering some of them who have the entrepreneurial spirit to also go into entrepreneurship.
Where do you see SWAN in the next five years?
The society is obviously positioned for greater heights.This society was inaugurated in April, 1978, so it actually marked 40 years this year and it started with only 36 members but today, we have over 10,000 female Chartered Accountants in Nigeria. So, we are really growing and I see a society that, apart from encouraging the young women to become chartered accountants, will also go ahead to touch the less privileged in the society in different ways. Recently, we were at the Keffi prison, these are things that touch lives, also through our orphanage institutions, we are able to touch the downtrodden in the society. We adopt some of these children and sponsor their education. We have also visited hospitals to help patients who could not afford the hospital bills.The IDP camp in Durumi, FCT, also got a feel of SWAN, Abuja when we visited the inmates in July to donate school seats and food items. I see a very bright future for this society.
What advice do you have for these young aspiring accountants?
My advice to young female accountants and young women in general, is not to let their natural roles inhibit their dreams. You know the female child has a lot of expectations from the society.Women are expected to get married at a certain age, raise children and then this poses a lot of challenge for some of them who are not able to combine all these and come out successfully in their chosen professions or careers.
I want to encourage them to look ahead and remain focused. They should attend seminars nd workshops organised for women in order to learn from the experiences of other successful women in the society.
We organise seminars for professionals every year to update participants on the current topics in the profession and home management skills to achieve a work\family life balance. We held one in November 2017 and another one is coming up in September, 2018.
I also want to plead with our men to support the women in their lives as wives, sisters and colleagues. Support and encouragement are what most women need to realise their potentials and dreams. Remember a womAn’s success is the success of the entire family.
What challenges is your administration experiencing?
The major challenge we have is basically funding. The successes we have recorded so far can be attributed to the support of well meaning organisations and individuals who believe in us and have identified with us. We are grateful to them and pray for God’s blessings upon them.
We have also taken our sensitisations to the NYSC orientation camp, we have visited them for different batches and it has really made a lot of impact on them because when they see women who are able to achieve a lot of things, they are encouraged to go out and pursue their dreams.