Anniversary: Footprints of women inclusion, empowerment in FCT

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By Philip Yatai, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

The global community considered equality as not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

Based on this, the global community through Sustainable Development Goal, SDGs-5, seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

According to the United Nations, women and girls represent half of the world’s population and half of its potential, adding that gender inequality persists everywhere and continues to stagnate social progress.

Similarly, gender advocates have argued that despite the contribution of women in development, they have been marginalised in many developing countries and their economic, social, political, and environmental potential under utilised.

In Nigeria, women participation and representation in governance and decision-making processes had remained very dismal, despite the long and consistent advocacy for women inclusion.

For instance, women’s representation in the 10th National Assembly is merely 7.4 per cent out of the 469 seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The situation is even more disturbing in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), which placed women issues on the least of its priorities prior to President Bola Tinubu-led administration.

The FCTA had eight secretariats, namely Legal Services, Health and Environment. Education, Transport, Area Councils, Social Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, Economic Planning, Revenue Generation,

However, none of the secretariat was specifically designated to address the concerns of women and ensure their inclusion in governance and other spheres of life.

The issues of women and vulnerable groups were buried in the Gender Development Department under the Social Development Secretariat.

This is in contrast with developments at the Federal and state levels, where ministry of women affairs exist, and the government made budgetary provisions and designed programmes for women inclusion and empowerment.

Stakeholders pointed out that the absence of a women affair’s secretariat in the FCTA, did not only deny the women a voice, but also schemed them out of decision-making processes on matters that affect them.

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To turn the tide, Mr Nyesom Wike, barely two months in office as the Minister of the FCT, noticed the gap and took steps to address it.

On Oct. 13, 2023, the minister announced President Bola Tinubu’s approval for the establishment of the Women Affairs Secretariat, 47 years after the establishment of the FCT.

According to him, women are critical to the development process of the country, stressing the need for a conscious step towards addressing their plight.

The minister said: “In the world that we are in today, how can you talk about good governance and development without including women?

Three days later, Wike announced President Tinubu’s approved for the appointment of Mrs Adedayo Benjamins-Laniyi as the pioneer Mandate Secretary for the new secretariat.

“With your resumption, we can see that you are full of talent and experience, and that’s what we want you to bring to bear to help FCT, to have a place where women will also be part of the governance structure.

“We want to believe that women will appreciate this opportunity to also contribute to the renewed hope agenda,” Wike said.

For the pioneer mandate secretary, the task was huge, she, however said that the task was surmountable, with Tinubu, Wike, FCT Minister of State, Dr Mariya Mahmoud, and the First Lady, Sen. Remi Tinubu on her side.

Barely 100 days of steering the affairs of the secretariat, the mandate secretary reeled out impactful exploits that signalled a new dawn in the efforts to empower women and vulnerable groups in the FCT.

For example, to address Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the mandate secretary initiated a data reporting programme that resulted in a threefold increase in reported cases of GBV in just 100 days of existence.

The mandate secretary also secured approval for a dedicated day for adolescent girls, under the Adolescent Girl Child Empowerment programme.

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Pioneer Ma thendate Secretary, Women Affairs Secretariat, FCT Administration, Mrs Adedayo Benjamin-Laniyi and FCT Minister of State, Dr Mariya Mahmoud.

The pilot project, according to the mandate secretary, benefitted more than 310 girls between the ages of 12 and 20.

Benjamins-Laniyi equally said that the Elderly Support Initiative also provided support to more than 250 individuals from ages 65 and above, with medical check-ups and cash interventions, including palliative support during festive seasons.

She also said that 20 women farmers were empowered with N500,000 each, under the first lady’s Renewed Hope Initiative’s Women Agricultural Empowerment programme.

She also announced the FCT Administration’s plans to revamp orphanages in the territory to international standards, to provide specialised care and support for children in vulnerable situations, particularly those with disabilities.

She said that the orphanages would be overhauled under a comprehensive initiative designed to redefine and upscale the services provided by orphanages across the FCT.

“Key components of the initiative include a thorough review of existing orphanages by a committee, focusing on recertification and adoption processes within the city.

“The secretariat is creating a future where every woman would realise her full potential, because no one was left behind.

“We have equally initiated an initiative tagged, Abuja Accelerator programme, to serve as a platform for proffering solutions to global challenges, borne out of a unique perspective and gender experiences.

“The Abuja Accelerator is our offering for collaboration. Invest your pilot project in Abuja, whatever it is, we are ready,” the mandate secretary said.

The FCT Minister of State, Mahmoud, explained that the Abuja Accelerator programme would serve as a beacon of ‘renewed hope’, offering a platform for women to come together, share their experiences and amplify their voices for meaningful change.

She added that the programme embodied the spirit of empowerment and progress for FCT women from all walks of life.

“It will provide a space where women from various backgrounds can converge, exchange ideas, and strategize on how to address pressing issues facing women globally.

“The strength of the Abuja accelerator lies in its ability to foster collaboration among women, by bringing together individuals with different perspectives and expertise,” she said.

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The creation of the secretariat attracted applause from stakeholders, who described the initiative as critical to the inclusive development of the territory and leaving no one behind.

The Canada High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr James Chrisoff, commended Wike for taking the bold step to address challenges affecting women.

Chrisoff particularly described the establishment of the Women Affairs Secretariat in the FCT Administration as a “critical step” towards women empowerment and development.

Similarly, the UN Women has expressed optimism that the FCT Administration, under Nyesom Wike, would be a model for gender equality and women empowerment.

Its Representative to Nigeria, Beatrice Eyong, described the FCTA’s efforts toward unifying women from all walks of life as a laudable initiative.

Eyong, during the celebration of the UN Commission on the Status of Women @68, commended the minister of state and the mandate secretary for building partnerships and bringing women together to uplift their lives.

Also, its National Programme Officer, Patience Ekioba, during the pre-inauguration of Abuja Accelerator programme with the theme, “Unifying Women for Global Impact”, commended Tinubu for giving women a voice in his government.

In spite of the laudable achievements so far, stakeholders insisted that any development effort that does not give due consideration to the role of women would not achieve its full potential and run the risk of failure.

Mr Sameula Isopi, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said it more aptly: “The active participation of women in decision-making and politics remains important if Nigeria is to achieve equality, sustainable development, peace, and democracy”.

Gender advocates insisted on the need for legal equality, economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and participation in decision making for women to play a significant role in the development of their communities. (NANFeatures)

**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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