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Empowering women in Ogun

By Kunle Somorin
12 April 2022   |   2:09 am
Three years ago, precisely on May 29, 2019, Ogun State witnessed a watershed that has continued to define its identity. That day, the eventful swearing-in of Prince Dapo Abiodun took place with pomp, aplomb, and pageantry ...

Dapo Abiodun

Three years ago, precisely on May 29, 2019, Ogun State witnessed a watershed that has continued to define its identity. That day, the eventful swearing-in of Prince Dapo Abiodun took place with pomp, aplomb, and pageantry as the people of the state, who had sorely missed good governance, rejoiced for witnessing the beginning of a new dawn. Indeed, what could have been a great feat in the life of a man marked a glorious dawn in the life of a people, who had for long yearned for a charismatic and phenomenal leadership to take them to where they deserve in the sky, not where they were.

Since the dawn of this new era, Ogun State has not remained the same again, as it has continued to witness progress in leaps and bounds, courtesy of the strategies, tactics, and operations of the youthful Governor, whose passion for serving his people especially and humanity at large is primus inter pares. A Governor with his insight, hindsight, and gravitas about whom everyone must have an opinion, courtesy of his dossier of achievements, Prince Dapo Abiodun’s emergence as the Governor of Ogun State has been a blessing to the state in all ramifications. Meanwhile, one truth is clear to the blind: the Governor takes no half measures when it comes to proclaiming, projecting, and transforming the state, and the good citizens of the state stand firm behind him.

When many people outside the state wonder why the Governor enjoys immense popularity among the people of the state and rarely gets criticised, little do they know that Prince Dapo Abiodun is a Governor with a difference, a Governor who actively and proactively drives the development of his people and state. Latest on his excellent scoreboard is the executive order to provide 35 per cent representation for women in government and politics and the re-launching of the Oko’wo Dapo scheme in collaboration with the Nigeria For Women Project (NFWP). 

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Wherever the female folks are marginalised, progress is always suppressed. The aforesaid seems to have formed one of the reasons the Governor has decided to not only integrate women into his agenda but make them an important part of his administration by signing an executive order to provide 35 per cent representation for women in government and politics.

According to the United Nations Organisation, “women have made important inroads into political office across the world, their representation in national parliaments at 23.7 percent is still far from parity.” Thus, the 5th of its 5 goals of Gender Equality is to “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life.” And with Prince Dapo Abiodun’s initiative on women empowerment and involvement in politics, Ogun State has just scored a pass mark in that respect.

When the Governor Abiodun, on Thursday September 5, 2019 launched an interest-free loan scheme named, “Oko’wo Dapo”, he must have rightly reasoned that the solution to the pandemic poverty in our society, today, must come in the form of a chain reaction-like empowerment— a process in which the products themselves promote or spread the reaction— where the empowerment of a person positively affects several people around them.

Oko’wo Dapo is an initiative to provide interest-free funds to the people, especially women, who are involved in SMEs across the State. The program, which started with 2,000 beneficiaries, is an initiative that has doused the pains traders experience in accessing bank loans and quite several other loans that are harmful to womanhood. Many of these strange loan schemes had in the recent past sent women to untimely graves.

On one hand, in Ogun State women are mostly involved in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) but always find it difficult to access financial resources for the growth of their businesses from conventional financial institutions, it is apt and commendable that Governor Dapo Abiodun’s administration has devised other approaches to empower the womenfolk such as  “capacity building of 500 female entrepreneurs across the state to enable them access financing and scale up their businesses; empowerment of 2,500 rural women across the state through the provision of products worth ₦100m; empowerment of over 600 youths through vocational training while 400 women and youths are still undergoing training at the vocation training center under the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; empowerment of 95 Women across the three senatorial districts and more than 100 widows were also empowered during the commemoration of the year 2021 International Widows Day”. Through these empowerment programs, he has been able to disburse livelihood grants to 2,094 women in Ogun state and still plans to empower 100,000 women in six months— a powerful combinatorial force of mission, vision, and action all of which are wrapped in quality leadership.

It is noteworthy that globally, governance becomes a success as a result of the significant contributions of the good people of the state, corporate bodies, and so on. This is validated by an aphorism that says, “agbajo owo la fii n so ya, ajoji owo kan ko gberu dori – transliterated – a combination of hands does much, one hand cannot lift a load.”

It is the truthful salience of that aphorism that birthed the synergy between the Nigeria For Women Project (NFWP) to key into the “Okowo Dapo”, the project conceived by the World Bank in conjunction with five other states with the support of the Federal Government is focusing on taking women in the state into affinity groups which is the lowest level in the community. The affinity groups would focus on helping women in the state build social capital, as well as teach them how to come together to support each other— collaboration. Teamwork.  And the Nigeria For Women Project has been so successful in Ogun State that today, 37,000 women have benefited from it in three local governments.

On the other hand, while demonstrating his commitment to the total and complete emancipation of women in Ogun State, Governor Abiodun recently signed an Executive Order aimed at providing a minimum required 35 per cent representation for women in both government and politics.  With that singular progressive action, women in Ogun would have equal opportunities to achieve their aspirations as well explore their full potential through the establishment of the Ogun State Women Inclusion and Equal Opportunities Role.

Visibly, Governor Dapo Abiodun’s empowerment initiative at the grassroots level aims to empower women in the informal sector to become self-dependent to contribute greatly to the economic growth of the state. Similarly, with the just signed executive order, there would be a paradigm shift in the trend as more women would become proficient and distinctive in the formal sector as well as the political sphere, all thanks to Governor Dapo Abiodun’s giant strides toward economic development.

We are all aware that empowerment programs are an effective and pragmatic approach to empowering women for economic independence and self-reliance. Given the massive role they play as homebuilders and change-makers, women are powerful agents of change. Consequently, the relentless commitment of Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration to ensuring that the rights of the women are protected and given equal opportunity to thrive is a right step in the right direction that is worthy of commendation.

Since it is almost impossible to separate the strong association between female empowerment and economic development, the Governor’s recent twin action of re-launching the Okowo Dapo scheme and the signing of the executive order to provide 35 per cent representation for women in government and politics is an indication of his consciousness of gender equality, passions for economic development and all-inclusive style of governance.

Finally, anyone who empowers a female already empowers a household. Since a household is one of the building blocks of the society, it means he who empowers a household is a builder of a society. Consequently, we would be right if we refer to Prince Dapo Abiodun as a working and brave builder of women and sociology-economic development of Ogun State.
Somorin is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun

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