Women have bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der Buhari – Omolewa Ahmed

Daily Trust - - HOME FRONT - From Romoke W. Ah­mad, Ilorin

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

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