By Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Let me say, since I started my campaign for the office of Governor of Lagos State, I have enjoyed tremendous support from across the social, economic and political spectrum.
This also includes my engagements with women in various organisations and groups that have declared support for me including Amazons, which is a group of women in various professions. I therefore take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you – women – for your unflinching support.
My mothers, friends and sisters, a society that ignores more than half of its population, which are women cannot be a progressive one. It is gratifying that since the Beijing Conference of 1994, when former US First Lady, Hillary Clinton rightly declared that Human Rights are Women’s Rights and Women’s Rights are Human Rights’ the world has made much progress in addressing social, economic and cultural barriers that inhibit upward mobility of women in politics and the private sector.
Although the level of progress still varies from nation to nation owing to a number of factors, the fact however is, in Nigeria, we have had more women in political and corporate leadership from 1999 till now than any time in history.
Africa has had two women Presidents in former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and former President Joyce Banda of Malawi. In United States, Hillary Clinton broke the glass ceiling by emerging as the first woman in the US history to win a major party nomination as a Presidential Candidate in an election she won the popular votes with over 3 million voters.
These developments are not only pointing to the fact that there is increased awareness about the centrality of women to social progress, but also to global acknowledgement of women to champion the needed new world order.
Coming home, we have had female Deputy Governors, a practice pioneered by Lagos State before other states embraced it. We have also had more female ministers holding very important portfolios in government. In three quick successions, we have had three female Ministers of Finance in Nigeria namely Dr. Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the current Minister of Finance Hajia Zainab Ahmed. In the Nigerian corporate firmament, women are playing very significant and important roles, such as being Managing Director and Chief Executive of Banks. At a time, Mrs. Sola David Borha was CEO of StanbicIBTC, Mrs. Funke Osibodu was CEO of Ecobank and Union Bank until recently, and Mrs. Bola Adesola is still the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank.
In the boardrooms and executive management positions, we have strong women whose accomplishments and lives have become sources of inspiration to a new generation of women. Notable amongst the women in this category is Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, who is the Chairman of First Bank Nigeria and the first woman to be so appointed. We also have Ms. Bello Mosun-Olusoga who is the current Chairman of Access Bank likewise Mrs. Osaretin Demuren, Chairman of Guaranty Trust Bank.
Available information has shown that there is enormous capacity and resourcefulness in our women. This is also corroborated by the emergent trend which attests to the fact that our young women are becoming more confident, assertive, stronger and more accomplished than any time in history because many of you are pathfinders and worthy examples.
Clearly, women are talents that must be supported and partnered with for social development and growth. Governments are inaugurated to facilitate and manage social wellbeing. It is also one of the responsibilities of government to identify key actors in the socio-economic system, support to attain their goals and enable them to contribute to the greater good of the society.
Women are key players in our society and our government will not just support and enable you, we will give you seats at the most critical decision-making tables in our government.
How can government enable more woman to succeed?
Government is the biggest enabler of success in any society through programmes, policies that are targeted at certain outcomes. If elected as Governor, one of the major objectives of our administration will be to invest in maternal healthcare and invest significantly in the girl-child education.
In four years, we will double the enrolment of school girls in primary and secondary schools in Lagos. By strengthening our social protection laws and strict enforcement, we will remove all obstacles that inhibit the advancement of women in Lagos.
Violence against women, rape, and all forms of domestic abuse and workplace discriminations against women, especially our young girls in schools, who are often victims of sexual harassments by teachers and lecturers who should be role models will be met with appropriate penalties.
Our government will work with women groups to provide access and enable women contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of Lagos State in particular, and Nigeria as a whole.
Women are critical economic agents. There cannot be shared prosperity and inclusive governance when women are poor.
Our administration will empower women to become wealth creators in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. For those in the organised private sector, Lagos State under my leadership will be gender-friendly and support your businesses through contracting and procurement.
Let me add here, women will play vital roles in our administration because we are about value creation and value addition. The good news is many women are running better businesses and organisations than most men. Consequently, our investment and support for Tech Start-ups will also capture young women and we will build the right eco-system for mentoring.
Older and successful women should all be ready to mentor younger women who are aspiring. We will also enable female entrepreneurship through Lagos Employment Trust Fund by ensuring at least a sizeable percentage of the fund is for women who want to set-up private business.
The World Bank reports and other multilateral institutions have established that women often invest a higher proportion of their income back into their families and communities than men.
Even, it is well-documented that when women control a greater proportion of household resources, the family allocates more money toward food and children’s education, and children that are healthier and well educated are better-prepared to contribute to a developing economy.
Expanding women’s access to quality employment opportunities and productive assets benefits them, their families, and their communities.
As a deliberate effort, we will work with the private sector to create more opportunities for women through equal opportunity employment for both women and men. Our government will, also through micro-level interventions such as savings and business training for women, ensure more women entrepreneurs are incubated in Lagos while we will also work to identify system-level policies that governments and the private sector could implement to unlock the huge economic potential of women and girls.
Similarly, by appointing women to key government positions, our administration will also have promoted more women into the leadership position in both the public and civil service. This will encourage other women, most especially younger women to be aspirational in life.
Our administration will also support and promote programmes that will make our women contribute to the development of our state and country. We will work for you and partner with you for a greater Lagos.
Our women will always have champions and cheerleaders in my running mate, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and I.
–––Sanwo-Olu, is All Progressives Congress Governorship candidate in Lagos State delivered this address at the APC Women in Business Summit recently