Women have better opportunities under Buhari – Omolewa Ahmed
Mrs Omolewa Ahmed is the wife of Kwara State governor, AbdulFatah Ahmed. In this interview she speaks on children and her empowerment programme and commends government for the opportunities given to women.
As the wife of Kwara State governor, what are the priorities of your intervention?
We've had series of programmes for the physically challenged in areas of empowerment, educational sponsorship, vocational training sponsorship and equipping with materials needed for their trade. We've done quite a bit, especially for adults. We try to take them off the streets and empower them. We find out what they love doing and empower them to get formal training and we equip them to be self-sustaining.
Many women, before the assumption of office of President Muhammadu Buhari, were skeptical that women's position may be relegated to the background. What's your assessment of this administration on women affairs so far?
Nigerian women are in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. They campaigned for him to win. The present Minister of Finance is a woman. He has given women several opportunities to be part of government and to express themselves. He brought in Dr. Amina from the United Nations. So, he has a lot of women in his cabinet. His wife has also been encouraging us. There's been a lot of collaboration between the governors' wives and her office. We have a forum where we discuss our programmes, things we want to do and we encourage each other on activities that are going on in our respective states. This is something that has trickled down from the head.
How do you hope to help the physically challenged develop their talents and earn a living?
We intend to explore the talent of the physically challenged that are professionals and develop them. We did something like that in 2012 when we had our first edition of Reading Camp. We discovered some talents at the camp. Some children could act. When they staged a play on Sango for His Excellency, the governor, he couldn't believe it was performed by children from public schools in Kwara State. So, with what happened there, we will be working with the Special Assistant on Social Welfare because of his affiliation with Nollywood to develop the kids' talents.
How many people have you helped in the last five years and what effort have you made to ensure speedy implementation of the Child Rights Act?
I can't put a number to how many children we have assisted. We've actually done quite a bit. Our acronym, LEAH is Life Empowered Anchors Hope, and our slogan is ‘Touch a life positively’. We try to assist everyone we come across, except their request is above our means which is rare. At least, we try as much as possible not to leave the person the way we met them. We've empowered people with deep freezers, grinding machines, sewing machines; we have set up people in shoe-making business especially those who are physically challenged since our resumption of office.
On the issue of child abuse and Child Rights Act, we are already working on that. We have a committee that will be inaugurated. It will be working to stop violence against persons, both male and female. We are already working with the Ministry of Social Welfare in that regard. We want to embark on a massive advocacy and ultimately, we want to have a home for them, a sort of refuge where they can stay, like when a child is molested.
Last year, we also produced a movie, titled, Delima, which was nominated in the Ghana Movie Award in the best short film category, still talking about the ills of child abuse in our society. We want to do more. We want to do a lot of advocacy with community leaders, religious leaders. We will be encouraging the government. You know that there is so much we can do as an NGO, but I try to strike a balance with other private NGOs that are taking care of these children. We encourage them to work with the relevant ministries, be properly registered so that these children can have access to whatever is coming from government. We'll be doing a lot of advocacy for them. We want government to give them more opportunities because of the children.
You talked about mobility aids for the physically challenged, how soon would that take off?
It's a state government programme. The Commissioner of Women Affairs said that. They must have it in the pipeline. But as a mother, I will lend a voice to see that the programme is carried out.
Mrs Omolewa Ahmed