Globally, the issue of women empowerment has continued to take the centre stage in development discuss.
It is overtly recognised that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.
According to UN Women, “the private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current research demonstrating that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies—from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain—requires intentional actions and deliberate policies.”
While Mr. Godwin Obaseki went round the nooks and carnie of Edo State campaigning to govern the state, he was received in most parts by women groups who are known all over the state as the most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, particularly the rural women.
But Mr. Obaseki knew the problems of women in our society and deliberately laid out a plan for them. He knows that women are the core of any development initiative. It is a truism that women take care of their husbands and children. They are even involved in several economic activities. in a good number of households, women are even the bread winners! Yes. They provide from their economic activities for every member of the family where such is the case. They are even responsible for the payment of school fees for children in some families. They are the fetchers of water and hewers of wood. Women are, thus, very important in our society and Governor Obaseki clearly recognised these facts and elected to set out a agenda for them in his manifesto.
In his manifesto tagged “Achieving economic prosperity for Edo state is our mission” Mr. Godwin Obaseki clearly stated thus: “an enabling environment will be provided for women to achieve their highest potential. The women empowerment initiative will be taken beyond the phase of empowering women to empowering society as a whole.”
It is not just a manifesto issue, but something which he is passionate about. During the campaigns, then governorship hopeful stopped over to buy roasted corn at Sabongida Ora in Owna West Local Government Area of Edo State on August 13, 2016. There, he assured women who thronged in their great numbers to receive him that his administration, if elected, “will give out soft loans to traders and market women in order to increase economic activities in the state as well as encourage the managerial skills of the Nigerian Woman.”
The Governor has since been fulfilling this promise. In March this year, his wife, Betsy, stated that plans had been concluded to empower 500 widows during the International Women’s Day celebration slated for a week from the date she was speaking. Mrs. Obaseki, gave the assurance during a thanksgiving service by the State Women Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Aisosa Amadasun at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Benin City
Betsy Obaseki confirmed that the empowerment initiative was part of her husband’s campaign promises during electioneering. In her words: “I am not surprised my husband is seeking to collaborate with the church because when we were campaigning, my husband promised to select 100 widows for the next four years, and give them monthly stipends. But I think it is better to empower the widows than to give them money. Therefore, we have developed an empowerment project for the widows by collaborating with Bank of Industry and Edo state will be lucky to be the pilot scheme”
Eventually she kicked off the project, which today is her pet project. Last week presented an opportunity for her to review the empowerment programme thus far with a view to commencing the process of expanding the scope.
She stated that the state government in collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BOI), would soon commence the disbursement of interest-free loans to two thousand (2000) women to grow their businesses in the state. This is unprecedented in the annals of the state and is quite commendable.
Mrs. Obaseki was speaking on the activities of her pet project, Edo Women for Agriculture and Enterprise (EWAE), and assured women leaders from the eighteen local government councils of the state, that the scope of the project has been expanded to accommodate more women.
She further stated that the Edo Women for Agriculture and Enterprise initiative has been successful. “We have recorded over 85 per cent success rate, and most of our women have done well. Due to this success, I have decided to expand the scope of the programme to include general enterprise that can grow the state’s economy and empower our people.”
She equally explained that there were several programmes in the bouquet of the Bank of Industry, designed to support the initiative, and grow the micro, small and medium enterprise sub-sectors. was for all Edo Women captured in their data base.
Obviously, the criteria for qualifying for the loan facility includes membership of a registered cooperative that has serious and credible executives, whose members must be diligent traders who are ready to pay back the loans at the stipulated time.
A lot is also packaged for women and children in the health sector. Not-too-long ago, the Governor flagged off the distribution of 2. 6 million long lasting insecticidal nets with a call on households to ensure they sleep under the nets to eradicate malaria from the state.
As at the close of the distribution the state had achieved almost 100 per cent coverage. Again, women and children were the highest number of beneficiaries and according to the permutations, if 2.6 million treated mosquito nets are currently being used by Edo people, it means that the roll back malaria programme is already getting a big boost and the malaria being a major cause of under five mortality would almost be eliminated in the state.
It is important that all Edo people who collected the nets should use them and ensure they always sleep under nets as it will surely keep them free from malaria for the most parts of their lives.
This is obviously not the end, a lot more are being done to empower Edo women and girls by the Obaseki-led administration and what is needed is support and cooperation from all women in the state.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.