19th National Women Conference: Governors, First Ladies, Lawmakers champion women’s course


…NASS will amend constitution for gender balance —Gbajabiamila

…Women are pillars of economic growth —Sanwo’s wife

By Moses Adeniyi

The Opening Ceremony of the 19th National Women Conference hosted by the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) was on Tuesday shadowed with decision makers in the Country championing women course in line with the 21st century human society.

Governors, First Ladies of various States in the Country as well as Lawmakers among other stakeholders present at the Opening Ceremony of the Conference, stood at the vanguard of promoting the course of women and the salience of their roles and contributions to nation building

Speaking at the event, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, disclosed that the National Assembly is putting efforts in place to amend constitutional provisions to further incorporate women in decision process in Nigeria.

Presenting a debate on Women capabilities, he stressed that women are borne of influence to spur growth and development changes in line with the demands of the 21st Century.

He said, “Women are born to influence because building connotes something you have to work on, manufacture and put together very delicately. But when you are born into something, it means it’s natural and I believe all women were born to influence the society. Again I’m making it abundantly clear that women are born to make influence.”

Stating that the Conference is about women empowerment, he stressed that education is the first towards empowering women.

Gbajabiamila said he has identified certain constitutional impediments that many women may not know of, on which he will champion amendments of those constitutional provisions.

He said; “one was the fact that the constitution under section 42 talks about discrimination on the basis of sex and some have argued that when you create a 30 percent or whatever percentage for a group, you discriminate against the other people.

“It is now important for us to begin to look on how to amend that constitution to accommodate the 30, 40, 50 percent (of women) or whatever we want.”

He added that amendments considerations will also be given to the Federal Character Principle to incorporate gender balance.

Stressing that women are integral part in nation building, Gbajabiamila stated that gender equity and promoting women course are key to the legislative agenda of the 9th House of Representatives.

Delivering her opening speech, the wife of the Lagos State Governor who is the   Chairperson of COWLSO, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, described women as pillars of economic growth, calling on them to jettison old fashioned habits that are unproductive to public good.

She stressed that in the 21st Century, women must embrace new ideas and new innovations to be relevant in the race towards charting a better society.

She added that for women to fit into the modern society and gain relevance economically, politically, and socially, they “must learn to think outside the box and even go a step further to think without the box.”

She stressed that the theme of this year’s Conference, tagged “Unlearn, Learn And Relearn: 21st Century Women’s T.H.E.M.E.S Perspective and Approach,” was carefully selected in line with the vision and aspiration of the present administration in Lagos State “to bring about greater Lagos of our dreams.”

Speaking on connecting links of women roles to the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda, she said, “T.H.E.M.E.S as we all know, is the developmental agenda of the present administration which stands for Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment and Tourism; as well as Security and Governance.

“As women, we must strategically position ourselves to take full benefit of the programmes of government to unlearn means to do away with habits that are outdated and as well jettison practices that are against public good and public safety.

Mentioning some of the empowerment programmes the current Sanwo-Olu led administration is putting in place, she urged women in Lagos State to strategically take optimal advantage of the various women empowerment programmes as a platform to make themselves relevant.

She said; “Recently, the State Government launched a couple of programmes in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda in strategic sectors including Health, Environment, Agriculture, Education, and investment opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“For instance, in the area of ensuring sustainable environment, the State Government launched the Blue Box Programme aimed at deepening waste sorting from source. Our women stand to benefit a lot from this policy in the area of huge opportunities for job creation.

“Also, the State Government launched N4billion through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSSTF), to empower Lagosians with ingenious business ideas, and in line with the philosophy of giving opportunities to women, 50 per cent of the beneficiaries have been listed to be women, while another 10,000 farmers in the State are to benefit from $200million World Bank facility to be disbursed in partnership with the State Government under the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS).”

She mentioned that of the entire 10,000 beneficiaries of the APPEALS project, 35 per cent have been earmarked to be women, while 10 per cent would go to people with disabilities and youths.

“These and many more are the initiatives our women can plug into to be empowered economically.” She said.

Moreover, she urged participants to take full benefits of the various insighting sections of the conference for their personal development.

She said, “as it is the tradition of COWLSO that every National Conference will be an improvement on the previous edition, we have again carefully selected worthwhile topics and resource persons to dissect and discuss how we can position and or reposition ourselves as women to continue to play important part as pillars of growth and development in our state and country economically, politically, socially and in all other areas that matter.

“I charge all of us to make the knowledge gained from this conference count with our actions.”

She appreciated the Governor of Lagos State, and all dignitaries present for their “unflinching and unwavering support, passion and commitment to welfare of women and children, and indeed all Lagosians.

COWLSO is a community-based gender organisation established principally to complement the efforts of the Lagos State Government in bringing about exponential development and growth and generally improving the welfare of Lagosians.

Remarking on the Committee, she said “COWLSO was founded in 1974 by the wife of Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson, the first Military Governor of Lagos State, the late Mrs. Obafunmilayo Johnson.

“Today, we pay glowing tribute for her vision, passion, foresight, doggedness and firm commitment to the cause of adding value to the lives of Lagosians, and indeed Nigerians.

“It is a platform through which wives of the officials of the State Government promote child healthcare, empower women to discover their hidden treasures and protect our environment, among others.”

Personalities who graced the opening ceremony include the Governors of Lagos, Ogun, Kwara State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and Mr. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the Nigerian First Lady Mrs. Aisha Buhari represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wives of governors and deputy governors, among other dignitaries.

Stressing that the goal of the Conference is to impart knowledge to all the participants, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Chief Host, said that such knowledge is essential to enable women contribute more effectively to the collective goal of building and delivering the Lagos all deserves.

He said “Imparting knowledge is not only about adding new knowledge, which is the learning (part), but also about reminding ourselves of old and unchanging truths, which is the re-learning.

He described the three phases (Unlearn, Learn and Relearn) the theme of the Conference centres around as very crucial for women to develop an enlightened view to effectively contribute as managers of domestic resources.

“It is also very important about discarding ways of thinking that are no longer compatible with current realities; and that if left unchallenged, can stand in the way of our ability to imbibe and practice new knowledge. This is the un-learning.

“It gladdens my heart that our spouses have in the true spirit of the ideals of COWLSO, taken the initiative to focus the discussion of this conference around the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda.

“A lot of the success of the implementation of this agenda will depend on you, and on the level of support that you extend to the vision.

“As primary managers of the domestic front and its resources, the choices and decisions that you make can go a long way towards advancing the ideas and ideals that we seek to associate with the Lagos of the future.” Sanwo-Olu said.

In his remarks, the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, appreciated the efforts of COWLSO so far in charting development course particularly in Lagos.

He described women as critical partners in nation building, stressing that their role in the development and sustenance of the various States in the Federation cannot be overemphasized.

Stating that women are pacemakers ready to bridge the gaps between families and groups among other roles they play in the society, he stressed that women must be encouraged and empowered to participate at all level of works and governance.

He said ensuring gender equality and women participation will promote peace and harmony in the country.