What We Can All Learn From Africa's First Women-Only Co-Working Space

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Photo by Courtesy of TribeXX / Contributor

For 12 hours a day, from 8 in the morning till 8 at night, Tribe XX opens its doors to women in Lagos, Nigeria who just want to get sh*t done.

Africa's first all-female co-working space, it features individual offices, conference rooms, and a store that stocks women-owned brands. On any given day, you can find the first eight Tribe XX members working on everything from fashion writing to coding, collaborating on projects, or taking advantage of perks like rooftop yoga sessions and spa treatments. The calming space, with soothing turquoise walls dotted with the work of female artists, is a respite from the bustling streets of Lagos, Africa's largest city with a population nearing 21 million.

Photo by Courtesy of TribeXX / Contributor

The wellness scene in Lagos.

Like in America, stressed-out city dwellers in Lagos are increasingly calling on wellness practices to find some peace.

"Everything in the wellness sphere in the West is already in Nigeria," says Emalohi Iruobe, Tribe XX's founder. "We have the chia seeds, the vegetarians and the vegans, organic everything." Evidence is everywhere: Wellness mixers are popping up to bring local personal trainers, nutritionists, and beauty experts together to improve well-being across the city as a number of vegetarian and vegan brands like Oh So Nutrition, OmNutri, and VeggieVictory are opening to appeal to an increasingly plant-based population.

With TribeXX, Iruobe seeks to take this wellness discourse one step further by holding space for women to address their mental health too. "We are trying to focus on wellness as self-care: Getting quiet and reflecting on your boundaries, and asking yourself, 'Am I living in accordance with my values?'"

Part of that is sharing the value of taking breaks from work, walking around and changing up your environment, and taking a nap if you're feeling it. (Iruobe encourages all of Tribe XX's employees to start their workday with a few minutes in the meditation room.) The other part is removing the barriers that typically get in the way of women at work; Stocking tampons in the bathroom and allowing mothers with young kids to bring their children into the office. ("We have one male member of the tribe—he's 3 years old and he's the office custodian's son," she jokes.) And while women do need to pay to have access to certain desk space, Iruobe is working to start scholarships and host more free events to make the space more accessible.

Photo by Courtesy of TribeXX / Contributor

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How female co-working spaces can be a source of empowerment around the world.

In a patriarchal society where women are still denied some basic dignities such as the ability to buy an apartment without a male relative's permission, Iruobe is fostering a place that is unapologetic in its femininity.

"The idea isn't to segregate men but just to help women feel a little bit more comfortable," she says, adding that some members of Tribe XX quit other co-working spaces because they were tired of being hit on as they were trying to work. "We're always trying to promote body positivity too, so we have a runway across TribeXX, and we encourage women to walk down it and see how fantastic they feel."

"The #MeToo movement is going on here too—we have very, very vocal women who identify as feminists," she adds. "But it needs more visibility and more access, and that's part of what we're doing."

Though it's only six months old, the space has attracted female entrepreneurs across categories from ceramics and hair care to computer programming, and it's becoming a community staple. Women in Lagos' thriving art scene are stopping by to give guest lectures, concerts, and film screenings or just share knowledge on how they got their projects off the ground. Local men have even asked Iruobe to join the space, to which she says, only if you pay for a woman in your life to join too.

For now, Iruobe hopes to expand upon Tribe XX's guest programs and eventually start a studio where local creatives can go to use tech and software they might not otherwise have access to. From there, she wants to carve out more niches of empowerment and community across Africa so as many women as possible can help and learn from each other.

"My big vision is to create a tribe of women across the continent. I see it as a tree with all the roots spreading across Africa."

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