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Mainstreaming gender parity, the Kwara example

Women from various walks of life across Nigeria recently gathered in the ancient city of Ilorin for a conference on mainstreaming gender parity in appointments where women from the state who had carved a niche for themselves in various fields were also recognised and given awards of excellence by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for their huge contributions to the development of Kwara State. STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI reports

It was pomp and circumstance as women from various walks of life, within and outside of Kwara State, penultimate Tuesday, converged on the ancient city of Ilorin for a conference, one of a kind. Hosted by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s administration, the conference, arguably the first of its kind in the country, was meant to appreciate and acknowledge the huge and invaluable contributions of women, over the years, to the development of the state. Besides, the programme was also intended to inspire as well as encourage the girl child to take a cue from the noble deeds of the elderly women who have carved a niche for themselves in their various fields of endeavour.

The conference, with the theme, ‘Cracking the glass ceiling: the story of Kwara women’, expectedly, featured prominent women who gave rare insights to the giant strides of the female folks in the society. Aside from highlighting their concerns, the women also discussed the way to mainstream gender inclusion within and outside of the state’s socioeconomic and political milieu.

At the epoch making event, which attracted the crème de la crème of women in the society, were Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administration and Women Affairs, Dr. Rukayat Gurin; Kwara State First Lady, Ambassador Olufolake Abdulrazaq and her colleagues from Nigeria’s First Ladies’ Forum; Ministers of Women Affairs and Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Dame Pauline Tallen and Sadiya Umar Farouq respectively; Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Dr.Sarah Alade; former presidential candidate Sarah Jubril and business mogul Hajia Bola Shagaya.

The event was also attended by prominent serving and retired public officers/ civil servants, including former Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Raliat Elelu- Habeeb; former Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, Prof. Sidikat Ijaiya; former acting Governor of CBN Sarah Alade; National Missioner Ansar-ud-Deen Muslim Society of Nigeria, Dr. AbdulRahman Ahmad; Founder/CEO Sokoa Chair Centre and Keynote Speaker Mrs. Ibukun Awosika and dozens of other female eggheads and entrepreneurs.

The Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi-Salihu led members of the House to the event, which was also attended by cabinet members, while the Kwara State Traditional Council Chairman and the Emir of Ilorin Dr. Ibrahim Zulu-Gambari led a legion of first class Emirs and Obas to the event that also attracted a global audience such as the United Nations Women’s Representative to Nigeria/ECOWAS Comfort Lamptey; ambassadors; and others. To the ecstasy of the women folks, Governor AbdulRazaq, same day of the conference, blazed another trail in gender inclusion as he assented to an Executive Bill mandating the state government to appoint at least 35 percent women in the State Executive Council and other political appointments. The law, cited as Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021, is arguably the first legislation of its kind in the country, placing a ceiling below which the government cannot go in appointment of either gender for public offices.

To AbdulRazaq, it was only fair that women be given a fair space and share in the decision making process which outcomes are bound to have far reaching consequences on them and their households, adding that his administration decided to give a legal cover for gender parity in the state so that the gains already made in mainstreaming gender parity in appointments in the state could not be easily reversed by any administration. The event also witnessed the conferment of Outstanding Awards of Excellence on women from the state who had distinguished themselves in their respective fields.

They included former Kwara State Chief Judge Raliat Elelu-Habeeb; Mrs Sarah Jubril; financial guru and former Lagos Finance Commissioner Mrs Foluke Abdulrazaq; Mrs Sarah Alade; business mogul Bola Shagaya; Senator Khairat Gwadabe; first female Head of Service in Kwara, Zarah Omar; former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin Prof Sidikat Ijaya; media veteran, Hajia Eyitayo Mairo Mustapha, and the Onila/Agindigbi women who built schools. The governor said the recognition and the step to mainstream women in public service were the least his administration could do for the hard working women as a way of inspiring and encouraging the girl child. He said: “Women are so critical to human civilisation. They are just as brilliant, innovative, and smart as men.

They are the largest voting demographic in Nigeria. Yet, they are often absent or unfairly represented when policies and programmes that shape everything concerning them and their families are designed. “This needs a rethink. In Kwara, we have recently taken unprecedented steps to involve more women in the decision making process. We appointed 56.25 female cabinet members and about 50% female permanent secretaries. Many key government positions are headed by women. We do not have regrets making such decisions. “Nevertheless, the gains we have made in Kwara in mainstreaming gender parity in appointments could easily be reversed by anyone. We have therefore decided to give a legal cover for gender parity in Kwara State, no matter what party is in power. I have therefore assented to the Kwara State Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021.

“A unique feature of this legislation is that no gender class shall henceforth have below 35% representation in the State Executive Council. This opens a new chapter for an inclusive political system in Kwara State and Nigeria as a whole. It is our bold contribution to the Nigerian political culture.” Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari lauded Governor AbdulRazaq for blazing the trail in the promotion of gender inclusiveness by appointing more women into his cabinet, noting that the state is being celebrated, not only in the country but also outside its shores, based on its women friendly policy.

She, therefore, urged other states to emulate AbdulRazaq by promoting gender inclusiveness in their respective states for overall development of the country. She said: “I commend Governor Abdul- Rahman AbdulRazaq for giving opportunities to women to thrive. You are a true partner to women and you are doing well for advancing the course of women. We are all testimonies to the historic story of Kwara women under you.

It is our belief that if women are given the opportunity they would do more to support humanity.” Also speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, expressed satisfaction with the support by the Kwara State Government for women and girl child in business, education and health care, saying the state would always stand tall when successes of women in various spheres of the economy in the country are mentioned.

Earlier in her address of welcome, wife of the state Governor, Mrs Olufolake AbdulRazaq, had urged women to leverage on the gender inclusiveness of the state government to do better, assuring the womenfolk of the determination of her office to support women and girl-child in their various areas of endeavours. She explained that the event was to inspire the average Kwara woman to leverage on the women-friendly initiatives of the state government to chart progressive courses for themselves and be active participants in the processes of governance for the development of their immediate communities and the nation.

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