By Deji Elumoye
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday reiterated the federal government’s commitment to continue to empower women to enable them to excel in their various callings.
The duo at separate functions in Abuja yesterday pledged their readiness to ensure that women are encouraged to showcase their ability to perform like their male counterparts.
Buhari, while receiving in audience the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Mrs. Winnie Byanyima, said in Abuja that women held strategic positions in his 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,” he stated.
On infrastructure renewal, he said the country lost good opportunities but can’t continue to cry over spilt milk.
“We are now doing our best in concert with some developed countries,” he said.
Earlier, Byanyima had described 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,” Byanyima said.
She implored Nigeria to be represented at the 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.
She also made a case for the participation of more women in politics, saying: “Nigeria has great women. I admire this country. Please open more space for them in activities.”
Osinbajo said he believed that ensuring the education of women and empowering them is an existential issue for Nigeria and the rest of Africa, while holding them down means holding their societies down.
Osinbajo, in a keynote address at a webinar organised by Women In Africa (WIA) in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation to mark 2021 International Women’s Day, spoke yesterday on the theme of the 2021 celebrations: “Choose to challenge.”
He said: “A child of a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to live past the age of five. Each additional school year increases a woman earning by 20 per cent, 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 also stressed the need for correcting stereotypes against women in Africa and other developing societies.
“For many generations, women have fought these manifestations of gender inequality. Over time, the struggle has been refined to the level of a right to gender equality.
“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,” he added.
Highlighting the gains of improving women’s 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.”
He stated that the Buhari administration has in most of its programmes given priority to women and other vulnerable groups in society.
Reeling out specific programmes targeted at women, he said the Social Investment Programme focused on giving women a more equal opportunities, while 56 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 N-Power graduate employment scheme, over 45 per cent of beneficiaries are female. For the Conditional Cash Transfers 96 per cent 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 of December 2020, they had formed almost 35,000 savings groups in 27 states.”