….Says invest in them, God will reward you
…As women pour encomiums on late Maryam Babangida
…Seek constitutional role for office of First Lady
…As Aisha Babangida urges synergy among NGOs

By Chris Ochayi

The Federal Government, Friday, challenged affluence women in the society to invest in the lives of underprivileged rural women languishing in abject poverty across communities in the country in order to affect their lives positively.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen made the plea as women from all walks of life converged on Abuja, the nation’s capital to pour encomiums on the former Nigerian first lady late Dr. Mrs. Maryam Babandiga, who founded the Better Life for Rural Women.

Dame Tallen spoke at the launch of Her Majesty” a fifteen-minute film, designed to chronicle and amplify the struggles, challenges, and contributions of the Nigerian rural woman, the Better Life Program for the African Rural Woman BLPARW.

Hajia Aisha Babangida, the daughter of President Ibrahim Babangida, is the Chairperson of the Better Life Program for the African Rural Woman BLPARW, in keeping the hope and legacy of her late mother, Mrs. Maryam Babangida.

Hajia Babangida , called for synergy amongst humanitarian Non Governmental Organizations, NGOs, to harmonize operations in order to make the desired impacts on the lives of the underprivileged rural women.

The goal is to create awareness of the crucial roles the women can play in society, in ensuring food and nutrition security, eradicating poverty and most especially improving the well-being of her family.

The occasion was part of activities marking this year’s International Day of Rural Women to honor women who play a significant role in economic development through food production, building agricultural and rural development worldwide.

Meanwhile, speakers at the event have canvassed for amendment to constitution to allow the office of the first lady be enshrined into the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to be assigned with the vital roles of improving the wellbeing of the rural women

Speaking at the 2021 United Nations International Day of Rural Womenwith theme, #RuralWomenRiseAndClaimYourBasicRightToSustainableDevelopment, Dame Tallen lamented that the woe of rural women was compounded by the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

She said, “It is no gainsaying, that, rural women are the key agent for development. They play a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economic, environmental, and social changes required for sustainable development in the system.

“They ensure food production and form a large proportion in agricultural work force. Yet, every day in Nigeria and around the world, rural women and girls face persistent cultural and structural constraints that prevent them from fully enjoying their human rights and hamper efforts to improve their lives as well as others around them.

“The Nigeria rural women and girls over the years face consistent threats, ranging from domestic violence, sexual harassment, traditional harmful practices, fear of intimidation, limited access to credit facilities, malnutrition, lack of health care facilities and education among others.

“These are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and the climate change. Empowering them is essential, not only for well-being of individuals but also for overall family lives, economic growth and development.

“I call for support in the area of leadership and participation of rural women in shaping laws, policies and programmes on all issues affecting their lives including improved food, nutrition security, and better rural livelihoods to equip them with the new technologies.

“Change is needed now more than ever in the face of increasing challenges and complexity presented by Covid-19. We need diverse and innovative thinking to create new initiatives that will see us transform our rural communities, environment and economies to create a sustainable and equitable society.”

The former Deputy Governor of Plateau State noted that, “As you may be aware, the present administration under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is working assiduously not only to eliminate all forms of discriminatory practices affecting women and girls, but also to bridge the socio-economic gender gap between women and men, and curb the rampaging impact of covid-19 and other concerns of women.”

She said, “With the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to encourage and empower the vulnerable women at the grassroots, the Ministry in the last one year has been able to collaborate with relevant organizations to provide:

“Relief assistance including food and hygiene materials (washable face mask, detergent, bathing soap, sanitizer etc.) to about 3,060 households/vulnerable women and girls worst affected by the knock on effect of the COVID-19 Virus in the six-geo-political zones of 16 states and FCT;

“Disability and those living With HIV/AIDs under the UN Basket fund in 20 LGAs in 10 states;

“The Ministry is also in implementing the second phase of Presidential National Cooking Gas Project Cylinders distribution and Economic tree planting project in additional 15 states to reduce deforestation, drudgery and health hazards among rural women.

She assured all of the readiness of the Ministry of Women Affairs to continue to give necessary push and support to policies and programmes that will uplift the status of the rural women.

Tallen also called on all other spirited individuals and organizations to come on board to support digital technology, improved and better amenities for our rural women with a view to reduce poverty and enhance their status. “

She commended the Chairperson, Better Life Program for the African Rural Women, Hajia Aisha Babangida for putting together this initiative aimed at promoting the welfare and rights of rural women in our society.

She said that Nigerian women constitute about half of the population, by implication, Nigeria cannot achieve the required growth and development without the inclusion and conscious deliberate actions to promote the welfare and wellbeing of these rural women.

In her remarks, the Director General, National Centre for women Development, Hon. Dr. Asabe Vilita Bashir, lamented that the rate of increase in hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity mostly affecting women.

According to her, “Climate change and insecurity, banditry, farmer herdsmen clashes, compounded by the covid19 pandemic has further worsen the situation of food security in Nigeria and rural women are the ones most affected by all these factors.

“It is difficult for them to go to their farms, which is their major source of livelihood; this has resulted in increased gender based violence, increased disproportionate share of unpaid care work, opportunities and poor income for rural women.

“On its part the National Centre for Women Development continues to uphold the tenets of its initiator to advance the issues and concerns of Rural Women and ensure Food Security for Women; the Centre promotes the livelihood improvement and wellbeing of the rural woman through its Women Development Centres Activation Project at the 774 Local Government Areas of the Federation.

The project is intended to ensure alternative source of income for rural women, improvement of their livelihood and also curb domestic violence at the grassroots.

Another project the Centre is promoting is the Backyard Farm with high yields from small piece of land using improved technology for rural women to ensure food security and personal safety.

“It is on this note that I am calling on all stakeholders, international donor organisations, CSO, private individuals to join in amplifying commitments in adapting solutions and technologies that would enhance and promote the livelihood and wellbeing of rural women.

“I wish to once again commend Her Excellency Hajia Aisha Babangida, Chairperson, BetterLife Program for the African Rural Woman (BLPARW) for hosting this event.”

In her speech, the wife of former Military Administrator, Mrs. Ngozi Madaki who described Dr, Mrs. Babangida as a woman of missionary and foresight, recalled how she set up the better life for rural woman in September 1987 when she was the first lady of the nation.

She said the idea then was to achieve Gender equity with special focus on rural women, adding, “We the first ladies of the different state then supported her and were working to impact on the lives of the rural women. It was laudable programme which she kept closet to her heart until death.

“Thank God the children have not let this idea die; I must thank my daughter Aisha Babangida for keeping this candle burning.

“In asking rural women to rise and claim and Basic rights to a sustainable development; of course we all know what basic rights are, but most importantly we must define what sustainable development is first and how to claim such rights.

“Sustainable Development can be define as the idea that human society must live and meet their need without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own need”

She said “The whole idea centers on rural women can be useful to themselves. Rural women. As major key in players in family, kindred, community and state Developmental formation should not be afraid to sit up to such challenges.

“For our natural role as mothers, wives places us at an advantage position to play this critical role better than the man, we are better managers and processor of wealth creation or procreation as the case maybe.

The problem now is what is holding us back from attaining this or claiming right? Some will say the men, our society, our laws, our religion, Culture, No Economic power and so on.

“But truth be told, we are cause of our problems. We have held ourselves down on this primordial reasons for too long that for rural interested in listening to us again, now more that ever is the time for rural women to step forward, out of their shells to regain their lost confidence and clean their rightful place in the area of sustainable development.

“Thank God we have women in government now, who can help us shape the laws as they affect women and lobby for change on those laws that are not favorable to women. The rural women today are accessing education and are more literate today that yesterday. Obnoxious cultures are going extinct and times changing.”


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