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Why I am against early, forced marriage — Rashida Bello, Kogi First Lady

By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja

Tell us about yourself

I hail from Jattu in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State. I was born into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Imodagbe on May 2, 1985. I attended Brightway Primary School and Brightway Secondary School where I obtained my West African Senior School Certificate (WASSC) and then University of Abuja where I obtained a degree  in  accounting. After school, I participated in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and I was an Executive Director in Fairplus International Ltd before my husband’s election as governor of Kogi State.

Rashida Bello, Kogi First Lady

What is the job description of your office as the first lady?

My office supports the office of the governor to carry out the objectives of developing Kogi State.

What is your pet project all about?

Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation (KOWYAF) seeks to empower women, youths and the vulnerable economically through  education or learning of trades  and supporting them in establishing their own businesses, delivering quality healthcare to the people at the grassroots and generally improving the health and economic status of women, youths  and the vulnerable.

What have you achieved  so far with the project?

The project has been able to reach out to groups in diverse ways especially in the areas of women empowerment and primary health care. Within two months of the inception of the Bello administration, I empowered 42 rural women with capital to start their businesses and trade tools such as hair driers, hair washing basins, sewing machines, etc.

Women were chosen from each of the 21 local governments of the state to constitute the group of beneficiaries.“The empowerment programme was followed by the commissioning of ultra modern primary health care centres in the three senatorial districts of the state. During the commissioning, I donated to the health centres  drugs, delivery beds, lighting facilities, generators, furniture for doctors and patients, cleaning equipment and mosquito nets.

I also used the occasion to distribute exercise books to school children. In collaboration with Future Assured programme of the wife of the President, Her Excellency, Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, food items were distributed to widows, orphans and the physically challenged.

“KOWYAF understands the importance of protecting the girl-child from abuse, pregnancy, and the effects of gender inequality in the society and thus  organized a symposium for girls from  primary and secondary schools in Lokoja in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl-Child.“Recognizing the decline in reading culture among children of school age and children’s inability to use grammar and spell words correctly, I organised a Spelling Bee competition. Every participant, winner or not, went home with gift items.“On the occasion of the commemoration of my husband’s one year in office, there was a free health screening programme jointly sponsored by Mrs Aisha Buhari’s Future Assured  programme and myself through my pet project KOWYAF. The programme was a huge success as over 2,000 women and men were screened for various health conditions. Drugs were given out to beneficiaries whose blood pressure or blood sugar was high while those with mild eye defects were also treated. Beneficiaries with  serious  eye defects were referred to specialist hospitals and reading glasses were distributed to people whose eye defects made it difficult for them to read.

How has your office been able to assist your husband to achieve the goals of his New Direction agenda?

Most of the activities of KOWYAF are geared towards reaching the people that are seemingly far from the seat of government, the old people at the grassroots, the vulnerable and the physically challenged especially. The state makes provision for the whole populace but my office is mainly concerned with women, youths and the vulnerable groups. Therefore, we empower women for self-sustenance and development which, in turn, boosts the economy of the state.

What has been the challenges so far?

It really has not been easy as the biggest challenge the office is faced with is finance. I believe if the financial aspect of our challenges can be taken away, other issues will fall into place but so far God has been on our side and, with the support of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, we certainly will get there.

What is your advice to the women of Kogi, especially the girl-child?

My advice to women in general is that they should  strive to get  education or vocation so as to keep them economically healthy and stable and also be participatory member, in governance, while the girl- child should exercise her right to good health, education to say no to early and forced marriage, to ensure that her safety and rights are respected, free from fear, and live in peace.


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