By Tunde Olofintila
The leading role theOoni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Eniitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, has been playing since he mounted the throne of his forefathers to ensconce unity in the Yoruba Nation and the country at large got a boost over the weekend when the wife of the Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Yeye Aare Modupe Babalola, described the frontline Royal Father as the “Ooni of our dream”.
The setting was the second edition of the Women Empowerment Programme titled “Women Empowerment as a Catalyst for Improved GDP in Nigeria”, a programme initiated by the Ooni to ensure that women are not limited or restricted to the informal sector of the nation’s economy alone, but encouraged to continue to play a pivotal role in the economic development of the country.
Oba with a difference
To arrive at her conclusion of Oba Ogunwusi as the “Ooni of our dream”, Yeye Aare Modupe Babalola who was the chairman of the occasion said: “Why do I describe Kabiyesi as the “Ooni of Our dream?” It is simply because in the olden days, it was the people that were bringing royalty to the Obas. But here is an Oba with a difference. Here is an Oba with a burning passion and desire for the development of his people. Here is an Oba that will stop at nothing to see that people make it in life. Today, he is championing the empowerment of women. Kabiyesi, I salute you sir”.
Yeye Aare Modupe who conceded that her role at the Women Empowerment Programme was largely ceremonial because of the array of the Resource Persons on parade to do justice to the topic of the day called the attention of the audience, which included the Ooni himself and the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Dr. Nasir Ladan Mohammed, to the fact that all over the world, especially in the developing countries, including Nigeria, young girls face various socio-economic challenges of exploitation, violence and abuse.
She listed other challenges faced by girls as rape, discrimination and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, food taboos leading to childhood loss and an endangered future. She pointed out that as they grow up especially those from poor households, they are heavily burdened with economic and domestic duties and labour which rob them of childhood education.
Her words: “Largely unschooled, many of these girls are married off early, for financial and cultural reasons. They arrive in marriage without education and their bodies inadequately developed for child-bearing. They are also faced with the dismal prospect of obstructed labour leading to Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF), unsafe abortion and maternal mortality.
“Many are trafficked internally and across borders for cheap labour, hazardous jobs and sexual exploitation. Girls also suffer domestic violence, live or work on the streets, in addition to millions whose tender lives are destroyed by rape, HIV and AIDS, and drugs. All of these, in her view, impact negatively on women’s contributions to our country’s GDP.
“There is no doubting the fact that unemployment and lack of productivity will reign supreme among any people that promote ‘baby mothers’ by consenting to early marriage by their adolescents girls instead of encouraging them to go to school or learn some worthwhile vocation that will stand them in good stead in life”.
She therefore enjoined the womenfolk to wake up from its slumber and appreciate that it is the symbiotic combination of economically and socially productive men and women that will turn the tide of poverty and unemployment around for better for the country.
The above discrimination against women notwithstanding, Yeye Aare who was happy that women continue to make their marks across all professions and making significant contributions to the economy particularly from the informal sector of the economy which they dominate, could not fathom the trend in some banks whereby women are precluded from having babies within certain periods of time to allow the banks to use them to drive their deposit for many years before they start procreation. This, according to her, is not only insulting, but it is also embarrassing to the womenfolk.
This should not be so. It is indeed unfair for men to dominate politics and take the commanding positions in almost all other sectors of the economy to the exclusion of women. The fact that women are found in some high offices both in the public and the private sectors of the economy is a testimony to the fact that women are no less intelligent than their male counterparts. They are equally no less productive in terms of hard work and getting results in their chosen careers.
There is no doubting the fact that an improvement in women representation in all sectors of the economy will enable them to address the socio-economic problems associated with their prolonged discrimination and encourage them to improve themselves and show that they are not limited to the kitchen, farms and petty trading but that they are as competent as their male counterparts and that they can hold their turf in any sector of the economy.
She appealed to leaders at all levels to always pay attention to the 30% “Affirmative Action” from the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995 and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the National Policy on Women as well as the third goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Commending the Ooni for the Women Empowerment Programme, she said: “The Ooni has sown a good seed today. It is left for us to go back home and water it, nurture it for it to be able to bear fruits, more fruits, much fruits and variety of excellent fruits so that together we can indeed change the world to achieve greatness and excellence in future. Through this initiative, we, as women will be able to impact the country’s GDP positively and contribute to the growth of our economy”.