Some participants at the event

By Peter Duru

A National Association of Women in Agriculture, NAWIA, in Benue state has honoured the nine female Local Government Chairmen-elect in the state charging them to take steps to address the challenges militating against women empowerment in their various Local Government Councils when they assume office.

The agenda setting lunch held Tuesday in Makurdi in honour of the incoming female Chairmen which drew women from parts of the state, was an activity funded by the Development Research and Project Center, DRPC, under the Partnership for Advancing Women in Economic Development, PAWED.

In her welcome address, the NAWIA President, Mrs. Ngizan Chahul noted that the organisation which targets women empowerment was sponsored by its partners to honour the incoming nine female chairmen and also brief them properly on the challenges facing women in the society.

Mrs. Chahul said: “Since we work with women we decided to hold this lunch with them to appreciate what God has done for them and for us because when they take over we are going to visit their local governments to tell them to empower women in their communities seeing that once you empower a woman you have empowered the whole community or the entire local government or state.

“We all know that the woman looks after the family without being annoyed. So we think the empowerment of women should be more than what the man gets.

“So when this women assume office we will still go to their various offices to press our demand for women economic empowerment.”

She noted that for the first time in the history of Benue state women would be assuming leadership in nine Local Government Areas of the state as Chairmen saying it was a function of their advocacy to the Governor of the state who heed their demands and supported the emergence of women.

In her opening speech, Consultant with the Development Research and Project Center, DRPC, Mrs. Helen Idoko said “we wish to congratulate these shining examples of courage and success; women who have emerged as council chairpersons through election and who have been entrusted to move our people forward.

“Today, marks a great collaboration between the civil society organizations working on women emancipation and economic development and our women leaders elected to drive change and development.

“The civil society groups in Benue state are happy to have you here and to recognize your significance in the process of empowering our women in the state.”

Continuing, Mrs. Idoko said, “Nigeria has an estimated 211 million population as of 2021. Out of this, women constitute about 49.95% and males 50.05%. Despite this high population ratio, they face serious life challenges which include but are not limited to poor access to finance, ownership of the asset, and taking care of their basic life necessity. According to the National Demographic Survey 2018, about 84% of women in Nigeria earn less than their husbands.

“In 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Poverty, Inequality Report had indicated that only 25.37% of women are involved in income-generating activities while about 74.63% were not. The situation could make their life more vulnerable. In the same vein, the 2020 Q4 labour statistics report by the NBS explained that female unemployment has been highest among the genders with 35.2% while males were 31.8%.

“A similar case was recorded for underemployment, 24.2% was reported for females, while males reported an under-employment rate of 21.8%.

“In our dear Benue state, the story is the same with only 2.5% of women owning land for farming and housing.

“It is because of this that we gather today to celebrate you and to set an agenda for you, our women leaders so that women in Benue state and especially in your various local governments will smile home as your administrations will continue to set economic policies that will emancipate women in your areas.

“We did not wait until your inauguration to organize this, this is because we want you to hear from the women so that once you are inaugurated, you will know our plight and act to resolve them since women economic empowerment had been one of your commitments during your campaigns.”

According to her, “Some of the issues bedeviling women in your councils are lack of access to financing, lack of policies that target the needs of women, poor funding of women focused interventions in business, agriculture, trade and more as well as inclusion and participation in decision making.

“In view of all these, we hope that your emergence will change this trend and you will bring the issues of women’s economic empowerment as the cardinal principles of your various administrations.

Mrs. Idoko who noted that she was not impressed with the level of empowerment of women in the society said “we need to step it up because when you go to the grassroots the women are really not well empowered so to say. More is really needed from the government because individually the people cannot help themselves that much.

“So we need the government to come in and empower the women so that we can have a better economy. There is the saying that when you empower the woman you empower the nation. So more needs to be done in empowering the women right from the grassroots which is the essence of the gathering.

The awards are also intended to encourage the recipients utilize their offices to better the lot of women in their various LGAs.”

In a presentation titled ‘Benefits and Approaches to Women Economic Empowerment’ Emmanuella Ikomon from Angel Support Foundation, ASF, noted the importance of teaching women how to fish to sustain their empowerment.

According to her, “sometimes women are supported and empowered to start up businesses and in no time the businesses die due to lack of proper training and monitoring; because as you know every business is suppose to create job opportunities for others to benefit from and if the entrepreneur is not properly trained the business will fail.”

She stressed that empowerment schemes should also aim at training or grooming the beneficiaries personally such that even when money is made available to them for the purpose of empowerment, the funds would be used to further the skills they had learnt.

Presenting a paper, titled ‘Capitalizing the gains of women in government and leadership to reduce employment and empowerment inequality of women in the society,’
Hembafan Utange, a legal practitioner noted that women were really not being empowered sometimes due to cultural orientation and believes that women are better off in the house and kitchen.

“Even when a man marries a career woman, the husband believes she should be a full time house wife. When she opts to do a business, most men are still not inclined to that. They just prefer you being solely dependent on them which is not helping the course of the woman and the society in general.”

In her contribution, the Chairperson of Benue Non-Governmental Organizations Network, BENGONET, Mrs. Shiminenge Ikyagba who pointed out the important roles women play in the society lamented that women were not being accorded the desired empowerment to help them discharged the critical responsibilities they owe the society.

She urged government to pay attention to women empowerment as it would help women deliver more on their responsibilities to humanity.

The awardees in their separate remarks commended NAWIA for doing them the honour promising to champion the course of women when they assume duty.

The Chairman-elect for Buruku LGA, Mrs. Judith Iember Mozeh represented by Kelvin Aor Imo specifically commended the organizers of the forum assuring that women empowerment as being championed by Governor Samuel Ortom and the First Lady of the State, Dr. Eunice Ortom that pave the way for nine female Local Government Council Chairmen to emerge victorious the council elections, be in the front-burner of her administration.

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