Bauchi: Stimulating the Lives of Women, Children

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To complement her husband’s effort, the first lady of Bauchi state, Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar has unveiled a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) named Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative (B-SWEEP), which seeks to stimulate the lives of women and children of the state through economic empowerment, skills acquisition, education, agriculture, health and peace. Segun Awofadeji writes

First Lady of Bauchi state, Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar believes she can tackle certain problems confronting women and children in Bauchi state which prompted her decision to create a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) named Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative (B-SWEEP).

B-SWEEP is tasked with improving the lives of women and children, providing sound education (Girl-child drop-outs), effective healthcare delivery (maternal and child healthcare services) and improving their economy through skills acquisition, agriculture, and living in peace and harmony.

Over the years in spite of the strategies and contributions in building virile and viable homes, women have been relegated to the background in the political, economic and social sphere of government.
But since she assumed office Hajiya Hadiza has been consistent in helping women in the state put gender on the agenda as well as placing high premium on enhancing the wellbeing and welfare of the vulnerable in the society.

Vital Support
Recently, in an interview with some select journalists in her office, the First Lady said her “activities are extensions of the state government, complementing the efforts of government in the areas of health, education, agriculture and being passionate about girl-child education, about the spate of early marriages and lack of interest in girl-child education, infant and maternal mortality/morbidity and particularly the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the state. I and my NGO have taken up a gauntlet to ensure that we reverse the ugly trend.”

The first Lady said she initiated her NGO to support the government in its drive to uplift the living standard of the people of the state, stressing that her NGO has five objectives which include women empowerment, maternal/infant health, education, agriculture and peace.
She has expressed determination to re-integrate women who could not complete formal education due to poverty back to school, saying “There is a lot to be done in the area of girl-child education in the North and Bauchi inclusive but my NGO has its special focus in this regard and the focus is education of girls and women who have dropped out of school.

According to her, “This group of young women will be re-integrated back to school, we shall take them back to the formal system of education, this is by way of offering them a second chance because they had no opportunity of being in school because of a lot of poverty, failed marriages among others. There is a growing number of women who have gone to school but could not finish so we want to ensure the future of these women in this regard by re-integrating them back into formal school system.

Positive Impact
Commenting on how she has been able impact positively on the lives of the less privileged in the state in the last one year, Hajiya Hadiza explained that “It has not been easy but it has been rewarding and satisfying. We have succeeded in touching the lives of so many people in so many areas and so many segments. We have had interactions with people living with disability, we have had interactions with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), we have had interactive forum for women, we organised a seminar inviting all the women stakeholders from all the 20 Local Governments and the major point of the seminar was for us to discuss issues of empowerment and issues of NGO coalition.

“We want to see a situation where instead of dealing with hundreds of NGOs, we will encourage them to come into smaller and stronger groups so that it will be easier to deal with them. We have also had seminars for women in particular during the hajj exercise so that we can enlighten and educate particularly the women on how to perform the hajj rites.

“We have gone visiting hospitals to extend our sympathy in the female wards, children and motherless babies home. We have also had interactive sessions and parties with children both at Sallah and Christmas period. We have also distributed food items in support of Christmas, New Year and Sallah celebration.

“We interacted with IDPs three times; why we are so particular about the IDPs is because of the special position they find themselves in, they are displaced, they are traumatised, they need support, majority of them left their homes with only the cloth on their bodies. This will be a continuous exercise; we will continue to show empathy.

“Currently, we are planning to go on advocacy tour of the 20 local governments; we are going to seek the cooperation and collaboration of the traditional rulers, the women groups, all their various stakeholders in the local governments so that we can tell them our objectives as well as listen to them and know where it hurts them most”, she added.

Change and Sacrifice
The First Lady called on women to ensure that the change emanates from within to ensure meaningful development in the state. Appointed the Grand Patron of NAWOJ in the state, she also called on women to make sacrifices for the development of state because according to her, no society can experience change without sacrifice by the people. She expressed passion to alleviate the sufferings of women by training them in different empowerment programmes.
According to her, Bauchi state Government has been in the forefront in the provision of enabling environment for the planning and implementation of various development projects targeting HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Tuberculosis, Malaria, to mention but a few.

Health for All
The Abubakar administration’s resolve to provide good and affordable health care services to the common man and ensure 100 per cent hospital attendance particularly among women and children in his four year term is already bearing fruits because of the new innovations and strategic adjustments introduced, the adequate resources the administration had deployed, as well as the political will and commitment demonstrated in that critical but neglected sector.

The State Government and NGOs engaged in the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge found in Hajiya Hadiza, Chairperson of the state social mobilisation committee on HIV/AIDS and founder of B-SWEEP, a reliable, dependable and committed ally in the war against the disease.

Under her leadership, the office of the First Lady and her NGO has been collaborating with the state Agency for the control of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Malaria (BACATMA), focusing on behavioural changes as the approach to check the spread of the scourge in the 20 local government areas of the state.

According to her, “As HIV/AIDS remains a development issue that affects key factors of development such as manpower, economy, e.t.c and targets women, youths and children, you will agree with me that a country where women are sick and widowed, children are orphaned, youths are sick, is a country heading towards doom.

“The participation of various stakeholders in the state to fight the disease is commendable which improved access to prevention, treatment, care and support service by the populace. But, alas, this is not enough, we are calling on all and sundry to demand for HIV counseling and testing services so as to check the spread of the disease.”

As the chairperson, Social Mobilisation Committee on the commemoration of the 2015 World AIDS Day, while speaking at the occasion held in Bayara area of Bauchi local government area, she commended the increased commitment of the implementing partners, Civil society Organisations, Line MDAs and LACAs.

The First Lady however noted that “the multi-sectoral nature of the fight against HIV/AIDS is becoming stronger and this should be sustained and strengthened because these have led to the drop of HIV prevalence in the state from 6.8 per cent in 2001 to 0.6 per cent in 2012.”

“My office is committed to supporting the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) through creation of enabling environment and social reintegration. Government shall continue to support the process but the resource of the government should be complemented by all stakeholders. No one should remain ‘anonymous’ anymore in terms of his/her HIV status. No one should die of ignorance and superstitions. No one should die of neglect and no one should die of lack of care and support.”
The first lady, who stressed the need for preventive measures against the infectious disease, pointed out that “in the case of HIV/AIDS, which as yet has no known cure, prevention has become both imperative and paramount”.

According to her, “HIV/AIDS remains a major cause of maternal/infant mortality in poor countries, and about 1,700 children are infected every day, the world over, with most of them occurring in Africa, while 90 per cent of these children are infected by their mothers during pregnancy, labour or breast feeding”.

Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar lamented that “the records raise great concern, mothers must be spared the agony of passing this deadly virus to their infants, and newborn babies reserves the right to a HIV/AIDS- free existence, so we must all resolve to achieve this”, and said Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) ante-natal services must be made available to every pregnant woman in the state.”

Also, in order to create awareness and educate the public on the danger of the deadly disease, she has sponsored the production and airing of radio and television jingles currently running in the media organisations in the state.

In addition, the NGO has put in place a mechanism that would be supporting the activities of various NGOs in the state, the NYSC, People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in a number of ways to achieve the goal of preventing and controlling the spread of the pandemic virus while handbills, billboards carrying the messages on HIV/AIDS have been designed and would be circulated across the state.

“We are complementing the present government effort, because despite all efforts by this administration in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, many people still don’t believe it exists, particularly the youths”, she lamented, urging religious, traditional and community leaders to advise their people that AIDS is real and that they should ensure that they abstain from extra-marital affairs.

Hajiya Hadiza further advised people in the state to go to Health Care Centres close to them for free test to know their HIV status and to collect drugs if the need arises, saying that the various health centres across the state provide voluntary counselling.

It is believed that the First Lady’s activities aimed at developing the health sector gingered the Abubakar administration to introduce a special programme with the purpose of reducing maternal morbidity and infant mortality, through introduction of free medical care for pregnant women and children under-5, which has reached all the 20 local government councils of the state.

The First Lady stated that like her husband, Governor Abubakar, to remain close to the people, “the present administration adopted the principles of social advocacy and integrative democracy. That is the principle we have adopted in this challenge and that is why I keep calling on traditional and religious leaders, state ministries, agencies and parastatals, local government councils, farmers, teachers, students, market women and indeed everyone, to take the message to the grassroots, as we cannot afford to lose this fight against HIV/AIDS. We must fight it with vigour to a standstill.”