By GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
Deaconess (MRS) Regina Oviaesu is a former Vice-Chairman of Oredo local government of Edo State and also the National President of the Great Women Movement, based in Edo State. A woman of many parts, in this interview with Sunday Vanguard in Benin, she speaks of the importance the group attaches to the empowerment of women in the state, the importance of the girl child education, the 35 percent Beijing affirmation for appointment of women into government offices, and the need for women to take active part in partisan politics.
What is the Great Women Movement all about?
The Great Women Movement is a threefold Non-Governmental Organization which provides social, economic and philanthropic services. We are registered as a Co-operative Society which enables women to be empowered. We are also registered with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, so that women can have the opportunity to export whatever products they are able to produce.
We serve as an avenue for women to interact socially in events involving them and their families. We give financial assistance to women to help improve their lot. We also encourage them to improve on their academic qualifications, acquire skills, and as for those who are not educated, we encourage them to enroll at Adult Education Literacy Programmes.
We advise those that have WEAC/NECO Certificates, to enroll for part-time programmes in the Universities and other institutions of higher learning. We also assist those who have been unable to access their education due to lack of finance to do so. We also assist those who are unable to get jo
bs and their families, as much as we can.
What is the strength of your membership?
For now we have about three hundred members. Women are eager to join because of the benefits the organization provides. We address women’s health because we feel that a healthy woman is of great importance to her family, society and nation, as she would be fit physically to carry out her duties.
In this regard, we have collaborated with other Health NGOS, especially AMEN FOUNDATION who has assisted us in the area of provision of health facilities to help the women when they need medical attention. Some of the NGOS have assisted women in the area of surgery, free eyes test, free eyes glasses and those that needed cataract operations were assisted by AMEN FOUNDATION to have them.
We have been able to create an awareness in women to know their HIV/AIDS Status, have Cervical cancer tests, know their diabetic status by undergoing blood sugar tests, and regularly check their Blood Pressure. Doctors and Midwives are also brought in to educate our women on their health and hygiene.
So, we have done a lot in the area of health and this is a continuous process. We have an Advocacy Programme every 21st of August where we go to the market to sensitize women on keeping their environments and homes clean. We go around distributing free cleaning equipment.
We have been doing this since the past ten years. We have also visit communities on advocacy and campaigns on cleanliness, and we have distributed cleaning materials like brooms, Mugs , dustbins, cleaning pans, etc.to churches. Thus, we’ve assisted in getting people to be aware of the need to keep their environment clean.
We visit Orphanage Homes every year , donate items to them, and help wash their clothes, and clean the premises as a kind of community assistance. Every Easter Monday, we visit the lepers’ settlement to give them food and clothing items, provisions, toiletries, books and other items for their children.
In the past we have given scholarships to some of the children of the inmates. We are sponsoring one of them at the College of Education and we also set to train others. We have also defended the rights of children especially those children that have been sexually abused.
We have been able to collaborate with other NGOS who have provided us with Lawyers to prosecute some fathers that abused their children sexually. We have done quite a lot as an NGO, the Great Women Movement in Edo State. Every year we join the prayers Intercession Ministry and join Mrs. Margret Agbonifo in praying for our State. We’re proud of the great strides that the Edo State government is taking to develop the State, and we commend the governor for the work he’s doing.
What is the source of funding for this group?
I want to say that we give all the glory to God and it is God alone that can do all things. God has been faithful to us. We’re mostly self-funding, but a few people have in one way or the other supported us when they saw what we have been doing. Some of them just assisted us with cash donation to key into the programmes.
I cannot fail to mention the Eson N’ Erie of Benin Kingdom, the Queen, who happened to be our grand Matron, she has been very supportive and some of the NGOS as I mentioned earlier. Chief (Mrs.) Rita Ogunforibo, the President of AMEN FOUNDATION has also provided healthcare assistance to the group.
Captain Hosa Okunbo gave us two brand new buses to enable us mobilize women especially during our advocacy programs and going around to help the under privileged people in the society. He’s been most supportive. The Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Erediauwa has been supporting us and has given us money and food items to support what we are doing. I will also mention Barrister Noji Imuokhuede who also has been supportive of our course through her NGO in assisting children who have been sexually abused and most especially, my husband has been very supportive.
What is your comment on the 35 percent Beijing Conference Affirmation on the appointment of women into offices?
I strongly believe in the empowerment of women which has been the subject of our discussion, so, our drive is to support the empowerment of women in all its ramifications. So, even, the 35 percent to me is too small and we should be talking about 50-50. Every human being should be given a chance and equal opportunity in national development. Given the way the women have been developing themselves, one day, a woman will become the President of this country.
What do you have to say about the girl child education?
This is what I have been emphasizing that all people should be given equal opportunity and empowerment. Male or female child, every child should have equal access to qualitative education. It is just that the Nigerian society has not been fair to women and that is why we are talking about the girl child education. When you educate a woman, you educate a nation and we have a slogan, “Great women on the move, on the move, great women”, you train a woman, you train a nation, no woman, no nation”.
As a former Vice-Chairman of Oredo local government area of Edo state, how do you see women’s participation in politics? Do you think enough has been done in this area?
I want to say that we have not made much progress in this area and I expect that by now, it should have been 50-50, but we are not yet there. However, I believe that by the grace of God and with the performances of women in government, men will come to appreciate that when women are given the opportunity, they perform well.
I pray that we have more women in politics. I believe that the greatest problem women are having are women themselves. Women have not been able to appreciate the fact that they need to come together and support fellow women to be able to come to power.
What areas would you want the Oshiomhole administration to assist women?
I know that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is women friendly, he listens to women and looking at him, his daughters and his family, he is a leader who believes that there is nothing women cannot achieve. I believe that his passion for hospitals for women, he will help women a lot. The area that I think he will help the women a lot is the areas of cost of surgery for women.