After the Beijing Conference of 1995, where awareness about women emancipation was created, the champion for empowering them became more pronounced.
In Nigeria, during the military era under former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, the wife, Mariam Babangida of blessed memory, championed the cause for women emancipation.
Through position as the First Lady at that time, women began to see the light. Ministry of Women Affairs got the best and from the office of the First Lady, an agency known as Better Life for Rural Women was created.
Government at all levels realised the need to involve women in governance, knowing the roles they can play.
Then, it was 30 percent Affirmative Action. Finally, when the civilian administration came in, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, many women had appointive and elective positions.
Under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the wife, Dame Patience Jonathan championed the cause of women through the request for 35 percent Affirmative Action.
Contribution made by Mrs Patience Jonathan, as the First Lady of Nigeria went a long way to empower women who had done well. She advocated for 35 percent Affirmative Action for women during her husband’s tenure, former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Since then, women have got more appointive and elective positions especially in Rivers State.
As a Rivers daughter, her contribution towards the emancipation of women in Rivers State was enormous.
Indeed, as governance continued, government of Rivers State heeded to the call of involving more women in the development of the State.
In fact, the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike is a women-friendly government to the extent that it had a woman as a Deputy Governor.
There are other women who are either elected or appointed to run the affairs of government and they have done well.
The return of democracy in Nigeria in general and Rivers State in particular brought good news to the women. A lot of women formed and made up the cabinets in many States. Women were elected and appointed into various levels of governance.
For us in Rivers State, it was a new dawn when the first female Deputy Governor was elected in 2015. That was the first time since the creation of the state.
A technocrat, medical doctor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, was once the Secretary to the Rivers State Government and Head of Service. Her contribution to the development of Rivers State in the last eight years of governance was much.
Dr. Banigo has successfully served as deputy governor of Rivers State from May 29, 2015 till May 29, 2023 under the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike.
The former Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, is elected into the Senate to represent Rivers West Senatorial District. This is laudable as a female from Rivers State is going into the Red Chambers to speak in the interest of her people.
History has been made again as another female deputy governor has been elected into office in Rivers State.
Prof. Ngozi Nma Odu, has just been elected the Deputy Governor of the State, to serve from May 29, 2023. Expectations are high as she will bring her wealth of experience into governance.
Prof. Odu is not new in the political development of Rivers State. She has served as Commissioner for Education in which her contributions to the development of education were second to none. With an agency that protects the rights and interests of women nationwide, she was the President of the National Council of Women Society (NCWS).
She has also served in various capacities in the State
As Nigeria and indeed Rivers State mark another eight years of democratic dispensation, the contributions of women in the development of the state can never be over-emphasised.
Rivers women have made tremendous efforts in contributing in various fields of endeavour and their contributions have led to the rapid growth through politics, sports, education, judiciary, social, economic, medicare, and engineering just to mention but a few.
Indeed, since the creation of the State, it has not been a male dominated issue, women too have been given the opportunity to play key roles in their own little way.
Today, one cannot talk about women who made impact in the history of the state without mentioning Hon Justice Mary Odili, who served in Rivera State as a Judge. She also served in the Appeal Court. She rose to the peak of her profession in the Judiciary as the Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC).
Daisy Okocha served as Chief Judge of the State. Since the creation of Rivers State, she was the seventh judge and a woman to serve in that capacity.
Elsie Nwanwuri Thompson was a Judge of the High Court of Rivers State and Deputy Vice President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). She was the first Nigerian to be elected to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
The landmarks in the educational sector of Rivers State cannot be complete without looking at the contributions of the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Prof. Rosemund Dieye Green-Osaghogulu (blessed memory).
It was under her supervision that the official approval of the institution, Rivers State College of Education (COE), was renamed Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (IAUOE).
As Rivers State continued to grow after its creation, more women were given the opportunity to serve in various capacities.
Mrs Julie Wika was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development.
Under Dr. Peter Odili’s administration as Governor of Rivers State, Mrs Tolu Ofili was appointed Commissioner for Women Affairs in 2003 after she had served as Senior Special Assistant, Special Duties, in charge of Social Services in 2000.
Another woman who was in that cabinet was Ms Gloria Fiofori. She served as Commissioner for Women and Youth Affairs. Her resume became richer as she served as the Director, National Orientation Agency, NOA.
One of Rivers’ daughters who served for a long time in the development of Rivers State was Prof Roseline Konya. She served as Chairman, Civil Service Commission during Dr. Odili’s administration. One of the impacts she made was reinstating of 200 civil servants whose appointments were erroneously terminated at that time.
A university don, she also served as Commissioner for Environment in which her contributions helped in addressing the state of environmental hazards under Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration.
Still under Dr Odili’s administration, a woman was appointed Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. She is Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam. She also served as Secretary to the State Government. She was appointed the Sole Administrator, Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority.
Dame Alice Lawrence Nemi became Commissioner for Education.
Mrs Joeba West was Commissioner for Women Affairs and Patricia Simeon Hart for Water Resources and Mrs Emmanuela Izunwa were all female commissioners in Rivers State and their impacts were greatly felt by women.
One time Commissioner for Information and Communications was Mrs Ibim Semenitari and later was appointed Acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
In the political history of Rivers State, such name as Betty Apiafi cannot be left out as she was the first female member from Rivers State elected into the Federal House of Representatives and the Senate, even till date. She is representing Rivers West Senatorial District in the Senate today.
And also an elected woman who represented Port Harcourt Federal Constituency in the Green Chambers was Hon. Blessing Nsiegbe and was re-elected.
Talking about Rivers State House of Assembly, the likes of Mrs Anthonia Membere of blessed memory, Mrs Linda Stewart, Hon. Felicia Tane, Irene Inimgba as well as Victoria Nyeche, have made valuable contributions to their constituencies and remarkable growth of Rivers State in their various endeavours.
Before now, women were appointed caretaker committee chairmen of local government councils of Rivers State.
Under Governor Nyesom Wike administration, the Vice Chairmen of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State are women. That shows how important the roles of women in socio-political development are. Of course, no society, state or nation can develop without women.
There is no doubt that women who have contributed and are still contributing to the growth of the state are all educated. When a woman does not acquire formal education, she will not be at the helm of affairs.
Women need to be trained in the areas of Medicine, Engineering, Law, etc so as to represent themselves.
For the women to move higher in the future, they need to be assisted financially, in terms of scholarships because some want to acquire formal education but may not have anybody for sponsorship. Some end up as housewives once they get married. When they are encouraged to go to school, definitely they will use the knowledge acquired from school to contribute more to their families and the society at large.
It is high time women had started supporting their fellow women during political periods, if they want more women at the top.
Decades ago, governance and policy making were dominated by the opposite sex but nowadays, the gap between the men and women is becoming narrower as more women have got awareness on how to participate in politics.
Women are important in decision-making especially in things that concern them as well as the children. Nothing should be a barrier to their full participation in politics in Rivers State.
There should be policies and programmes in place to encourage the advancement of women in the political arena.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Should Couples Share Family Responsibilities?
Splitting of expenses in homes has existed since the origin of marriage between man and woman- a situation where a man will contribute and a woman will also contribute her own little way in the home.
In years past, when did not they engage in skilled or professional jobs, mothers used to get crops from the farms and prepare food for their households with the fathers supporting with money to pick others things that cannot be got from farm.
Since the men were more engaged in semi-skilled jobs, they were responsible for children school fees, house rents for those who lived in the urban areas where they do not own houses of their own.
These days, some ladies feel that expenses in the homes should not be shared. They feel they should relax and be taken care of since their husbands are the breadwinners. They feel that men should be the sole providers.
Sometimes, they make comments like, I didn’t come to suffer. House responsibilities ranging from school fees, house upkeeps, even a pack of matches and seasoning cubes which are little things a lady should be able to provide in a home are left for the man.
There is this woman who would always wait for her husband to come home and provide every little item in the house, including bills in the neighbourhood.
Some women are in marriage with the mindset that when divorce occurs, they will have to share the property available before she leaves.
Some are lenient in telling their husbands the kind of responsibility they want to take while they claim that they are not ready to take much tasks.
Interestingly, there are men who don’t want their wives to work or do business and are ready to provide whatever demands their wives may make. They don’t like collecting any kobo from their wives instead they prefer to borrow from outside. Even when bills come, they are ready to pay. There is the ego syndrome in some people. Perhaps they do not want a situation where their wives will boast that when there was no money they took care of the home.
One bad thing about couples not sharing responsibilities is that par adventure, the man is not there, the woman will find it difficult to cope with some of the tasks. It is better for women to get used to some of the tasks while the man is there.
A man who expressed his views about this issue, Mr Amos, said that marriage is spiritual. He said since some people go into marriage for going sake. He said they go into marriage because of money so they are not qualified.
According to him, women who are taking care of their homes should be commended. Some women feel that their husbands money is general while the woman’s money is personal.
A banker, Mr Ekong Effiong, said there is no need splitting expenses in home. He is of the opinion that the wife should do what she handle while he takes case of what he can take.
He boasted that he can handle the affairs of his home and will not depend on his wife’s income.
A pharmacist, Mrs. Theresa Jacobs, said that the man should be able to cater for the house and to split expenses. If you split the expenses in the house, what about the pains the woman undergoes in the labour room.
A business woman, Mrs Rose Oni, said togetherness in marriage should not be only in the other room. It should be in all affairs in the home. She said since marriage is for togetherness, expenses at home should be handled between husband and wife.
She said this is not the era where one party handles all expenses.
A commercial bus driver, Nkume Ojim said, every woman is supposed to support her husband. Where is her money supposed to be if not in her husband’s house, he queried.
He said if the man does not have, the woman should support and vice versa.
A nurse, Agatha Mark said that she does not like to share her money with anybody or do a joint account because according to her, her husband will use it to flex outside home.
She maintained that days are gone when mothers were suffering to fend for the home and said that the men are supposed to take care of all expenses.
No matter how live is in any home, if there is no money, things will definitely flow well. Because of the current realities, many men may not be able to meet up.
Couples should practice what will work for them. If from the beginning, couples have agreed to share bills, so be it.
Some women will vow that no man can eat their money, but you may discover that they do it behind to deceived others in the public.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Nigerian Women And 35% Affirmative Action
The 2023 General Elections have come and gone. Inauguration of elected political officers has also taken place, both at the federal and state levels. Legislative matters have taken off. Appointment of Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been concluded and portfolios assigned to them by the Presidency. The Ministers without wasting time have resumed work.
Since the return of democracy two decades ago, women generally have done well wherever they found themselves. At the National Assembly, at the executive, even in the judiciary, they have been showcasing their talents.
When we talk about women’s participation in politics, a lot of them have excelled. The wife of the President, Senator Oluremi Tinubu was at the Red chambers recently. Justice Mary Odili became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) before her retirement. The former Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo was elected into the Senate this year. Prof Ngozi Odu became the Deputy Governor of Rivers State after the 2023 gubernatorial elections.
Our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the General Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She was a former Minister of Finance and later, Foreign Affairs. Mrs. Blessing Nsiegbe was a member of the House of Representatives, who represented the Port Harcourt Constituency II.
Mrs. Victoria Nyeche is a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly. A veteran journalist, Dr. Abike Dabiri Erewa, was a member of the House of Representatives. Later on, she was appointed a presidential aide on diaspora. Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers State was elected into the House of Representatives, representing Rivers and later became an elected Senator. Only a few can be mentioned due to shortage of time and space.
They are competent, creaative, hard working and innovative. They are amazons. With such number and others that cannot be mentioned here, women are asking for more elective and appointive positions. More steps should be taken by all to achieve 35 percent of women participation in politics. Nigerian women have little space in leadership positions.
It is worrisome to note that out of 48 Ministers that were appointed recently, only nine were women. This shows a very low percentage at the Federal Executive Council. The Supreme Court verdict stated that women should be allotted 35percent, but it has not been realised.
The Governor of Kwara State, Abdulrazaak, has tried in the area of empowering women. If Kwara State can implement that, why would others not follow suit? There has to be the political will for others to do the needful.
It would interest you to know that the youngest House of Representatives member is from Kwara State. First, she was endorsed by her political ward, constituency and State. If her people did not endorse her, she would not have been there.
Others are disregarding women and relegating them to the background. States nominate women for the Federal to show action. Any state that does not do it should be reminded.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also has tried to showcase gender equality. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State as well recognised the importance of women in decision making. Those are politicians who understand that men and women can work together.
Former Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is also an exemplary person in that respect. His was second to none. In some western states, we have some female deputy governors who have served and are still serving.
Political will is working in Rwanda. People are going there. In Namibia, the practice is 50 men and 50 women in parliament. All over the world, women are included in politics and those countries which engage women in decision making, their economies are always moving forward. They experience improved economies. In South Africa, it is practised.
Nigeria has never had a female Vice President not to talk about President. Liberia had Johnson Sirleaf as President. There has not been a female Governor, except in Anambra State where Mrs Victoria Etiaba was in acting capacity when the then governor, Peter Obi was absent.
Although there have been female deputy governors. In Rivers State, for example, in the last administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, the slot was for women. Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, was the deputy governor while Prof Ngozi Nma Odu is the deputy governor currently. This is highly commendable as it shows a women-friendly leadership.
Not just that, the former Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike during his tenure ensured that vice chairpersons of the 23 local government areas were women.
Nigerian women will continue to ask for more. Let government promote women employment and increase women participation in politics. Appointment of women as heads of Ministeries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is necessary at this time in the history of Nigeria.
Women should be appointed heads of boards and not just members. Chairpersons and secretaries of political parties can be left for women.
Nigerian women won the case in court over 35 percent Affirmative Action. The United Nations (UN) Declaration on 35percent as well as the laws binding it should be implemented by the Nigerian government. Gender policies should be supported.
If women have to be elected into the parliament, there should be orientation and awareness from the grassroots. International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), and others as a matter of fact should begin to sensitise women in the markets, offices, farms and homes on the need to support their own when elections come. Women in disability need not be left out. NAWOJ particularly should use the media to increase awareness on women.
Curriculum planners should emphasise the inclusion of gender policies in relation to women. If it is there, more emphasis should be made on the teaching. The women are soliciting from the academia for the teaching and learning of gender equality in schools and the gains associated with it.
Government is for everyone. Going by the definition of democracy, ‘It is government of the people, by the people and for the people’, so women should be involved in governance.
There are key areas that should be left for women in terms of ministerial appointments. Health is one of them. It is supposed to be manned by a woman. At the Senate, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, representing Rivers West Senatorial District, is the chairperson, Senate Committee on Health. That is a good one.
One of the female Ministers, Dr Betty Edu from Cross River State, was assigned Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. The Health Ministry should have been better handled by her as a female medical practitioner. When you talk about healthcare, women will understand more because of the rigorous processes they undergo during pregnancies and child bearing. They are mostly concerned and affected. The girl child grows into womanhood. The woman carries pregnancy for nine months and gets the baby delivered either through caesarean operation or normal delivery with pains. The pains associated with childbirth and other consequences, she alone undergoes. She nurses and nurtures the baby to adolescence and into adulthood. All maternal and infant mortality issues rest squarely on the woman. So, health issues generally from childhood to adulthood are that of women. Women should man the Health Ministry.
Another area is finance. This is because women manage little resources they have in homes. Women will be able to manage the nation’s resources to boost the economy better.
With the low enrollment of the girl-child in schools due to unwanted pregnancies, child labour, househelps, underage marriage, etc., a female Minister of Education can tackle the problem.
Government has the powers in their hands so they can do it. Gender equality is possible. Men and women can work side by side, that is what Nigeria needs.
So far, Nigerian women are asking for more.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Factors Couples Should Consider Before Having Children
Lately and sadly, some women have formed the habit of killing and maiming both their biological and adopted children. Sometimes, they use rat poisoning and other harmful substances on the children.
Hardly any day passes without hearing that a mother has allegedly carried out such ugly act on a child. Sometimes they use hot water, grounded hot pepper, mutter pestle and all manner of clubs on children.
Some of the reasons range from psychological, emotional, financial and many other factors. No matter how difficult family matters can be, they can be sorted out without hurting the children. It should be condemned that a woman will be so wicked to kill a child she carried for nine months.
This issue concerns women the more so they should have the number of children they can cater for. They should also ensure that they have children with men who will cater for the same children. Women should not have children for the fun of it.
In some local villages, you see a young woman of 20 to 25 years being proud of having even two children outside wedlock. She will go about boasting when some young women are still preparing to go into marriage even at 30.
It will be surprising to note that she does not have or cannot hold any man responsible for those children.
During solemnization of marriages between couples, one of the issues that is always prayed for is having of children as soon as they are joined in Holy matrimony. ‘Your children shall surround your table. You shall see your children’s children and so on’. The church, family and friends expect that after nine months of marriage, the couple is expected to invite the same people for churching of women and dedication of a baby.
Of course, that’s the joy of every family. Any family that does not get a child after a few years of marriage is not always happy. As a woman after marriage, you get some jokes reminding you that in the next one year, pepper soup and the likes should be expected. So, its normal.
When children come, should they be punished for any little provocation? When some women have emotional and psychological problems, they vent their angers on children.
Couples should know the number of children to have. There should be mental readiness. In the case of single motherhood, the woman should be ready to shoulder such responsibility. The case of going into the world to multiply should be ruled out.
It is worrisome to hear that a woman killed her two children because her husband refused to keep money for feeding. Definitely she is the one to lose after going through the pains of child birth.
A lot of factors should be considered by couples such as mental health. The two should be mentally fit before giving birth to children.
Financial capability is very important. You cannot have children you cannot feed. Money must available to run the affairs of the home especially with the high standard of living. Financial adjustments have to be made for couples to tackle family challenges.
There has to be mutual understanding between the man and wife in things that concern the children.
Couples should be ready to carry the responsibility because children come with a lot of responsibilities and accommodation is very necessary.
Some women give birth and subject their children to child labour and send some out as housemaids. Before deciding to have children, there should be thorough thinking. You could have had children when things were going well, but when things begin to go bad, a lot of counselling should come in.
There must be a budget plan for the family. The environment has to be conducive. The issue of genotype is very important so as to avoid having children with sickle cell anaemia (SS). This can be so frustrating to parents. Psychological evaluation must be carried out by couples before marriage.
Economic factors such as Joblessness on one parent to complement each other in contributing to the family. Educational factors must be considered because the children must go to school.
Women should work on their temperament knowing that children can annoy their parents. Providing for the child and being there for the child when he or she needs you is very important. Sometimes when children do not get what want, they tend to be stubborn. But mothers should know how to handle such situations when they arise.
Let’s assume that some factors were considered by couples before marriage on how many children they should have, paradventure things began to go bad, couples can make amendments.
The consideration for support system is a factor that should not be left out in marriage. If anything happens, who do you leave your child for?
People should not have babies when they are not ready. Do not have a child with someone who is not psychologically ready. Women should not endanger the lives of children any longer. One thing is having children and another is catering for them.
One should not have children because others are having and at the end of the day, in the course of little provocation, the child’s life is cut short.
Children did not bring themselves to the planet earth. They were given birth to by man and woman, whether married or unmarried. No amount of provocation should make a woman kill either her biological or foster child.
Women should have the number of children they can cater for in case difficult situations arise.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
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