Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has restated his administration’s commitment in ensuring that the programmes and projects for the empowerment of women and the girl-child were sustained towards enhancing the economic status of families and peace in the state.
Okowa gave the assurance on at the opening of a three-day Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (GEST) programme for 450 girls at the Indoor Sports Hall of Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba.
The governor, who noted that girl-child empowerment entailed the process of uplifting the economic and social status of under-privileged girls in a male-dominated society, said that if the inaugural 450 set was successful, his administration would endure that the figure was increased for the training next year.
However, he charged the beneficiaries to demonstrate willingness to learn and imbibe the virtues of diligence and honesty, which he said would help them to realise their dreams and thereby contribute meaningfully to the Greater Delta development agenda.
Dr. Okowa said, “It is with great joy and pleasure that I welcome you all to the commencement of the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training Programme also known as Project Gest. As many of you here may be aware, entrepreneurship development is at the core of our Stronger Delta agenda.
“From the onset of our S.M.A.R.T, now Stronger Delta agenda, we set out to unlock and unleash youth entrepreneurship through skills acquisition programmes that will resource our youths with the vocational skills, attitudes and tools to become self-employed and employers of labour.
“The design and implementation of the job creation programme is trainee-centred, service-oriented and results-based, hence the strategy is to turn unemployed youths into entrepreneurs, leaders and managers.
“The training and mentoring process aim beyond raising entrepreneurs, to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and personal effectiveness.
“Although, a significant number of women have been trained and established through these programmes, it was necessary for us to design a special programme for the girlchild from ages 18 to 30 because the empowerment of girls is a major public policy issue in the 21st century.”
He noted that 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, the girlchild was still grappling with threatening issues of gender discrimination, financial dependence, crushing poverty, early/forced marriage, identity crisis, social and parental pressure, poor life skills (communication, decision making, goal setting) and low self-esteem.
Governor Okowa said, “The commencement of Project Gest is, therefore, a step in the right direction and it is my earnest hope that those of you that scaled the hurdle into this programme will take it very seriously because it is an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I expect you to take full advantage of it by diligently applying yourself to the training. You must demonstrate willingness to learn, capacity to grow and justify the trust and confidence of the government as it invests in your future.
“As forerunners of Project Gest, I charge you to be good ambassadors. You must lead by example and imbibe the virtues of discipline, focus, punctuality, hard work and accountability that constitute the ingredients for success in life.”
Earlier in her remarks, Wife of the Governor and Founder of 05 Initiative, Dame Edith Okowa, urged participants at the training to see their selection as a privilege and not a right as thousands of others who also applied were not as lucky to be selected for the programme.
She said they should, therefore, pursue the training with passion, and have integrity and commitment to ensure that they succeeded in their ventures.
In a goodwill message, Speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, congratulated the 450 girls for being selected and urged them to give the three days training the deserved seriousness.
He commended the governor for creating a Girl-Child Empowerment Office which, he pointed out, was geared towards providing skills and empowerment for young girls.
Earlier, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Girl-Child Empowerment, Mrs. Marilyn Okowa-Daramola, explained that the programme was aimed at providing the benefiting girls with training on various skills, including fashion, hairdressing, make-up and ICT.
According to her, “Project Gest is geared towards creating a new empowered group of skilled young female entrepreneurs.
“It took three months of rigorous interviews to arrive at the 450 pioneer beneficiaries. A total of 5,970 applications were received from both online and hard copy applications, comprising 4,474 from trainees and 1,496 from trainers,” she disclosed.
She added that 873 persons were shortlisted and interviewed out of which 450 successful ones were eventually selected for the training programme.
Also speaking, Executive Assistant to the Delta Governor on Girl-Child Empowerment, Barrister Bridget Anyafulu, thanked the governor for establishing the office, and assured that she and her personnel would continue to apply themselves to the onerous task of creating more opportunities for the girl-child in the state.