By Deji Elumoye
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo have stressed that the federal government will continue to empower Nigerian women to excel in their various callings.
The duo, at separate functions in Abuja, pledged their readiness to ensure that women are encouraged to showcase their ability to perform like their male counterparts.
The president pledged that Nigerian women will continue to have pride of place in the current administration.
He made the commitment Tuesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja while receiving in audience the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Mrs Winnie Byanyima.
The president added that: “Women hold strategic positions in this administration. The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning is headed by a woman. The Civil Service of the Federation is headed by a woman. And many others like that. We will continue to do our best to empower our women.”
On infrastructure renewal, he noted that the country lost good opportunities, ‘but we can’t continue to cry over spilt milk. We are now doing our best in concert with some developed countries”.
Speaking earlier, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Byanyima described President Buhari as “a Nigerian and African hero,” stating that exploits by Nigeria in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic and HIV/AIDS are quite commendable.
“I salute your leadership in Nigeria and Africa. It is very robust. I praise you for it,” Mrs Byanyima added.
She implored Nigeria to be represented at the very highest level during the special meeting on HIV/AIDS by the United Nations in June, stressing that the meeting, which holds every five years, is meant to renew the resolve by the world to eliminate AIDS by 2030.
The Executive Director called for more women to be helped to take part in active politics, submitting: “Nigeria has great women. I admire this country. Please open more space for them in activities.”
On his part, Vice-President Osinbajo said he believes that “ensuring the education of women and empowering them is an existential issue for Nigeria and the rest of Africa”, otherwise holding women down means holding their societies down.
The VP stated this in a keynote address at a webinar organized by Women In Africa (WIA) in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day.
Speaking on the theme of the 2021 celebrations “Choose to challenge”, Osinbajo noted that “a child of a mother who can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5. Each additional school year increases a woman earning by 20%, 2/3 less maternal deaths if mothers finish primary school”.
“If we hold down half of the productive segment of our nation on account of culture or other frankly outdated considerations, we are much poorer and much more deprived as a whole. We do ourselves a favour by ensuring social and legal equality of women,” he added.
Stressing the need to correcting stereotypes against women in Africa and other developing societies, the vice-president said: “For many generations, women have fought these manifestations of gender inequality. Overtime, the struggle has been refined to the level of a right to gender equality.”
He further explained that: “The notion that women and men should have the same legal, social and political rights is the public law basis for feminism but something has changed in the past few years.”
Highlighting the gains of improving women participation in governance and other aspects of society, the vice-president said: “Women are now saying that the fight for gender equality is not for women and girls alone, it is also a fight for all fair minded and just men who believe that men and women must have equal rights.”
Describing the reinvigorated campaign for gender equality as the greatest leap of development in contemporary history, Osinbajo said: “The campaign is much more important in shaping the future. Men are now being challenged to stand shoulder to shoulder with women in the struggle for gender equality.”
The vice-president added that the idea of empowering and ensuring the education of women is receiving support at the highest level of governance in Nigeria, citing a strong call from Mr. President to governors in 2019 as a worthy example.
Osinbajo said: “The president underscored this point while speaking to governors at the (second term) inauguration of the NEC on the June 20, 2019, when he reminded them that they have the responsibility for primary and secondary education and for ensuring that primary education is free and compulsory.
“Citing the relevant laws, he said Section 2 of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.”
He added that the Buhari administration has in most of its programmes given priority to women and other vulnerable groups in the society.
Reeling out specific programmes that had women at the fore, he said the Social Investment Programme focused deliberately on giving women a more equal opportunities.
Fifty-six per cent of beneficiaries of the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme or 1.5 million women have been empowered by the TraderMoni and MarketMoni micro credit schemes.
He added: “Of the 500,000 beneficiaries of the Npower graduate employment scheme, over 45% of beneficiaries are female. For the Conditional Cash Transfers 96% of beneficiaries are women.
“This programme in particular has demonstrated the resilience and focus of the women who have been receiving the N5,000 monthly stipend. How they have continued to invest in their communities and grow their money. As at December 2020, they had formed almost 35,000 savings groups in 27 states.”