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Panelists call for gender parity at International Women's Day luncheon

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    From left: Tolani Kashimawo Afolabi, Nida Ammar, and Rashmi Agnihotri, listen to fellow panelist Sena Mourad Friedman, right, during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon Thursday at the Oliver House in Toledo. The lunch featured remarks from State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) as well as a panel discussion from the four local women on gender parity in business and life.

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  • WOMEN09-1

    State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) delivers her opening remarks during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon Thursday, March 8, 2018, at the Oliver House in Toledo.

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  • WOMEN09-2

    State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) left, delivers her opening remarks during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon.

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    Panelist Rashmi Agnihotri, Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development with The Andersons, fields a question during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon.

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  • WOMEN09-4

    Panelist Tolani Kashimawo Afolabi, Vice President of Donor Relations at Notre Dame Academy, fields a question during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon.

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  • WOMEN09-5

    Panelist Sena Mourad Friedman, Director of Development of the Toledo Fair Housing Center/NODA, fields a question during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon.

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  • WOMEN09-6

    Panelist Nida Ammar, co-owner of CCTRONIC LLC, fields a question during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon.

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Four local women leaders from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds tackled the issue of advancing gender parity at a panel discussion Thursday.

Sponsored by the Women of Toledo and American Association of University Women, the event was held in observance of International Women's Day, an annual celebration of social, economic, cultural, and political achievements for women.

About 75 women attended the luncheon and "Women Economic Empowerment" panel discussion in the Oliver House.

WOMEN09

From left: Tolani Kashimawo Afolabi, Nida Ammar, and Rashmi Agnihotri, listen to fellow panelist Sena Mourad Friedman, right, during the Women Economic Empowerment Power Hour luncheon Thursday at the Oliver House in Toledo. The lunch featured remarks from State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) as well as a panel discussion from the four local women on gender parity in business and life.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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The global focus this year was gender parity for which organizers assembled a panel of women from all walks of life to offer their perspectives on the issue.

The panel included Rashmi Agnihotri, vice president for strategy and corporate development at The Andersons Inc.; Sena Mourad Friedman, director of development for the Toledo Fair Housing Center; Tolani Kashimawo Afolabi, vice president of donor relations at Notre Dame Academy, and Nida Ammar, co-owner of CCTRONIC LLC.

Ms. Ammar, who immigrated to the United States from Jordan, said she is raising her young daughter to be her own "super power" and encouraging her that she can achieve the goals she sets for herself.

"I never want my child to wait until she is 18 or 20 to recognize that she has power. I don't want her to grow up in some community where women take the backseat. I want her to take the front seat," said Ms. Ammar, who holds a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics.

Ms. Friedman told the audience that she became aware of inequality among the genders at a young age, and offered women the advice of being their own best friend instead of being critical or judgmental of themselves.

"If you do that, and you work from strength, raise our community, and we empower, it will all come together in a very organic, natural feminine way," she said.

Ms. Agnihotri, who was born in India and has lived and worked in Kenya and Japan, said her native country is democratic and has female leaders, but many women there are not allowed the same educational opportunities provided to men, especially in the rural areas of the country.

"There is still a lot to be done. In a country with 1.2 billion people, which is about one-fifth of the world population, that is a lot of women not getting access," she said.

Ms. Afolabi, a native of Nigeria in West Africa, said her position at Notre Dame allows her the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the girls who attend the private school.

"I never let an opportunity go by without speaking my truth, without being who I am and being truth to myself," she said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199

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