Tracking the Ogun affirmative action


 

LAST week, as part of his administration’s development mantra, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, during the re-launching of the popular of Oko’wo Dapo scheme in collaboration with the Nigeria For Women Project (NFWP) at the M.K.O Abiola International Stadium, Abeokuta, unveiled an Executive Order aimed at providing 35 per cent representation for women in both government and politics in the state. Officially flagging off the empowerment scheme with the disbursement of livelihood grants to 2,094 women across the state, Abiodun declared that with the Executive Order in place, Ogun women were assured of equal opportunities in achieving their aspirations and exploring their full potentiality through the establishment of the Ogun State Women Inclusion and Equal Opportunities Role. It was not about rhetoric: the governor gave details of his government’s support for over 100,000 women under the NFWP, a scheme test-run in three local councils of the state, namely Odeda, Yewa North and Ijebu-North East, and scheduled to be extended to the remaining 17 local councils of the state. Present on the occasion were the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; the wives of the Kwara and Osun State governors, and the World Bank’s Country Director, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri, among others.

Speaking on the landmark occasion, Abiodun noted that the womenfolk formed a vital economic bloc in the economic architecture of his government, hence the medley of schemes geared at their economic empowerment. This was not fortuitous: out of estimated 7,535,007 2021 population projection by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for Ogun State, females accounted for 3,788,932 (about 50.28 per cent), so the significant number of women could not be overlooked if the state truly desired sustainable development. Abiodun, who added that his administration had observed women’s large involvement in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) was circumscribed by difficulty in accessing financial resources for the growth of their businesses from conventional financial institutions, said his government had since stepped in to bridge the gap. Such schemes, he noted, included “capacity building of 500 female entrepreneurs across the state to enable them access financing and scale up their businesses; empowerment of 2,500 rural women across the state through provision of products worth ₦100m; empowerment of over 600 youths through vocational training while 400 women and youths are still undergoing training at the vocation training centre under the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; empowerment of 95 Women across the three senatorial districts and more than 100 widows were also empowered during the commemoration of year 2021 International Widows Day.”

There is no way to fault this strategic method. According to the global organ World Vision, empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and countries. The fact can surely not be doubted that when women are living safe, fulfilled and productive lives, they can reach their full potential, contributing their skills to the workforce and raising happier and healthier children. Indeed, according to experts in the field, bridging the gender income gap is no longer a conversation centred around complaints and inactivity. Rather, gender equality is a full-force movement with a loud voice. Says Laxmi Rana, a women’s advocacy expert: “empowering women is the fundamental right of women. They can have equal rights to participate in education, society, economics and politics. They are allowed to have higher education and treated in the way like men. In this article, you will know about the importance of women’s empowerment. So make a halt on this page and read the following content.” Rana adds that unemployment of women and unequal opportunities in the place of work can be eradicated with the help of women empowerment. To make use of the strength and potential of women, she says, they must be provided with equal opportunities. You can motivate them by providing any special gifts.”

This view is endorsed by UNFPA, which says that the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is a highly important end in itself. In addition, “it is essential for the achievement of sustainable development,” since “women are facing threats to their lives, health and well- being as a result of being overburdened with work and of their lack of power and influence.” Thus, as Governor Abiodun is right in placing the womenfolk at the centre of his administration’s financial inclusiveness agenda. Hear him: “We are committed to providing avenues for our women to gain power and control over their own lives and acquire requisite skills and technical know-how to make strategic choices. It is a critical aspect of achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 5 – Gender Equality. On its own, gender equality provides more socioeconomic and political wherewithal for our women. At the macro level, it will go a long way in reducing poverty in the family; reduce gender-based violence and abuse in the society; and, further strengthen the economy. Therefore, empowering our women is not a favour to their gender, it is, in fact, one of the most viable approaches towards achieving sustainable economic development.”

It can be no surprise then that stakeholders are already commending the Ogun helmsman’s bold move. The Federal Government has described it as a visionary step. In her own reaction, the newly elected All Progressives Congress (APC) National Women Leader, Dr Betta Edu, commended Governor Abiodun’s friendly disposition towards women with the signing of the 35 percent affirmative action and the launching of the Oko’wo Dapo scheme. As the Minister for Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, noted, the only way to ensure gender equality is to empower women. In this regard, it is encouraging that the Federal Government is poised to lift 100 million women out of poverty. And if, according to the Ogun First Lady, financial independence is an important element of ensuring women’s state of health, then it is important to roll out schemes that ensure that women can stand on their own and create economic opportunities for society. That, actually, is the way to go if women are to fulfill their core roles in national development. Like the popular thespian, Mr. Macaroni would put it, Governor Abiodun “is doing well.”

Alli contributes this piece through [email protected]

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