Gov. Kayode Fayemi

The 11Th National Women Conference  organised by the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) came to a close on Thursday with Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, declaring that it has become imperative to look towards women in seeking solutions to the huge challenges confronting the nation today.

Dr Fayemi, who spoke as the guest of honour at the closing ceremony of the Conference held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, called for a reframing of the democratic space and centres and bridging of the gap between the powerful visions needed to drive the nation forward and grim realities of the dashed dreams.

The Ekiti Governor stressed that part of the new demand for new visions and new directions is a call for solutions to the nation’s leadership problems, adding that the new clamour will require new faces, voices, experiences and insights which only Nigerian women in their capacities as wives and mothers can drive forward.

“It has therefore become imperative that we look to women such as yourselves, our wives and mothers, to help us figure a way out of these huge challenges our nation faces.

“I have always maintained that we cannot achieve any of our development goals as a nation if we act as if women are not relevant. We cannot solve the myriad problems we have as a nation without addressing the empowerment needs of up to 50 percent of the population,” Fayemi said.

He opined that, it is incumbent on political leaders to prioritise issues such as political will and commitment to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and livelihoods, commitment to women’s participation in public life and women’s health, security and safety.

The Governor stated that while Nigeria is a signatory to many international and regional agreements meant to guarantee women’s rights, there has been minimal political will to ensure that the guarantees mean something in the lives of ordinary women.

“We therefore need to put effective mechanisms in place for the formulation and implementation of policy frameworks, particularly those that relate to poverty, anti-discrimination, health, human security and the promotion and protection of women’s rights.

“It is only when we have these things in place that we can truly say that women are equal shareholders in the democratic enterprise.”

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Governor Fayemi added that in Ekiti State, the administration accords pride of place to gender equality and women’s empowerment, stressing that it informed the domestication of the national gender policy in the state.

“I believe that you can remain relevant by always remembering that even when we do not acknowledge it or actually voice it, we your husbands are proud of you and what you accomplish every day. If you want to be truly relevant, you and your husband need to raise your children differently so that everyone has the same opportunities,” the Governor noted.

He said without the active participation of women and the inclusion of their perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of good governance and inclusive transparent democratic processes cannot be achieved.

While challenging the COWLSO members to become visible and articulate advocates for the less privileged, he also encouraged them to establish partnerships and collaborations with like minded organisations in other states so that they can share best practices and learn from each other.

Governor Fayemi who congratulated Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola and her colleagues for keeping the COWLSO dream alive, added that the accomplishments at COWLSO have inspired women in other places with Ekiti State now having a Forum of Spouses of Ekiti State Officials (FOSESO) in place.

In his goodwill message, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) expressed delight at the regenerative work that is going on in Ekiti State.

He stated that it is undeniable that if women lose relevance the planet will be in peril.

The Governor called for population control measures, explaining that Nigerians must embrace the fact that in addressing the challenges of poverty, Nigerian women have a prominent role to play.

“We must accept that Nigeria’s resources and that of the individuals are not growing as its population is  growing thus making life very challenging enough for those who are wealthy, just as it is proving for those who are producing additional children to be catered for from their meagre resources.

“We cannot continue to raise children that would be sustained based on the generosity of friends and relatives. This is why our family planning must be tailored to our resources.

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“Today, the number of people we have to provide security for is increasing just as the number of people we have to provide with healthcare and education is rapidly increasing. The population of Lagos is growing at eight percent per annum while the resources are not growing at that rate”, the Governor stated.

Governor Fashola noted that he is not advocating anything as drastic as the Chinese policy of one child per family but is proposing a rule of common sense, adding: “If we are agreed that there is poverty, let us feed those who are alive first. We cannot tackle poverty without some measure of restraint or population control, if we are serious about bringing people out of poverty.

“This will enable us address the need of the present generation and plan future needs of the next generation of Nigerians. If we do not successfully manage the backlog, no miracle will resolve the future.”

The Governor who also spoke on the health policy of the administration as it affects women said the facility provided for displaced women in Alimosho is the only one of its kind in Nigeria.

He also informed that to underscore the importance which the government attaches to the welfare of mothers and children, Maternal Care Centres specialist hospitals have already been completed and commissioned in Ikorodu, Isolo and Ifako Ijaiye just as work have been completed on the ones in Ajegunle, Surulere, Amuwo-Odofin and Alimosho.

The Governor revealed that the next stage of the state government’s intervention programme for mother and child healthcare will be unveiled after the completion of the infrastructure of the MCCs.

He reiterated that the administration is determined to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as it affect women and children because the government considers the goals to be minimum development goals.

Governor Fashola also identified the 2007 Domestic Violence Law of the state as another proof of the acknowledgement of the relevance of women and seeks to protect women from abuse and violence.

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Earlier in her welcome address, the Chairperson of the Council of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola said the challenge of being a successful Nigerian woman in the 21st century is living a balanced, meaningful and accomplished life.

She said this can be achieved by constantly working on the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional resources and asking oneself, if one is doing the right things by taking the right steps.

“The health challenge we face as women are diverse and in most cases life threatening. We need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make moderation our watchword. Ensure that as an Apple, you do not turn to water melons and as a Pear to a Pine Apple,” Dame Fashola emphasised.

Also speaking, the Asoju Oba of Lagos, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas commended the improvement that has been brought to bear on COWLSO since it was resuscitated.

He also commended Dame Fashola for the wonderful manner she has been steering the ship of COWLSO, urging her not to relent in bringing up her children in the way of the Lord as they will not depart from it.

Special awards were presented to three distinguished Nigerians, namely the Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land, Alhaji Abdul Azeez Arisekola-Alao, General Manager of Radio Lagos/Eko FM, Mrs Tinu Aina- Badejo and Mrs Aminat Hamzat Ahmadu for consistently identifying with the COWLSO cause.

The ceremony was attended by many dignitaries including the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senator representing the Lagos Central Senatorial district, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, members of the State Executive Council, the State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Henry Ajomale and  delegates from many states of the federation.