SPEECH BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF OSUN, OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA, AT THE FIFTH NATIONAL WOMEN’S SUMMIT OF OYO STATE OFFICIALS’ WIVES ASSOCIATION (OYSOWA) HELD AT THE EMERITUS PROF THEOPHILUS OGUNLESI HALL, OPPOSITE UCH, IBADAN, ON WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 7, 2016
OUR WOMEN, OUR TREASURE
It gives me great pleasure to be at this event, the fifth edition of the national women’s summit, under the auspices of Oyo State Officials’ Wives Association (OYSOWA). The theme of this conference, ‘The Ultimate Woman at a Time like This’ is very apt and prescient. When things are tough, we need the moderating influence of women.
The theme also suggests that all women are not equal, hence the qualification for the ‘ultimate woman’. The ultimate woman is the ideal woman, the woman every man wants as wife, every child wants as mother, every parent wants as daughter and ultimately, every woman aspires to be.
But generally, women are a wonderful creation. God has a purpose in creating women to be unique. Some men of recent have been pretending to be women by going through cosmetic surgery and cross dressing. This will never make you a woman. You cannot be a woman if you are not biological designed by nature with the physical features.
The greatest and the strongest of men have been melted by the soothing balm of womanhood as epitomised by their beauty, gentle nature, charm and strength of character.
A woman has been prepared by nature from childhood to hold forth the home front and guarantee the family and society. As a child, she helps the mother at managing the home. As a wife and mother, she ministers to her family and in old age she becomes a matriarch. A woman’s life therefore is a lifetime of service to humanity.
To be able to fulfil her role, it is interesting to note that nature has prepared women to be stronger. While men may appear to be physically stronger, women are far stronger than men in many other respects.
Right from conception, medical science tells us that the X chromosome in a man’s seed (which will result in a baby girl if it meets with a woman’s seed) are stronger than the Y chromosome (which results in a baby boy) and therefore will live longer by at least 24 hours. The Y chromosome is usually the first to die. Also, a female foetus has greater chance of surviving the first trimester than a male in the womb. A girl will most likely survive the first three years of life than a boy while globally, women enjoy greater life expectancy.
Men are most likely to engage in dangerous and life threatening activities like starting wars, driving dangerously, living recklessly and putting their lives and others at risk. There is no society, no matter how well advanced, where men live longer than women. Women, on the average, live longer than men.
A woman is less likely to have car accident than a man. This has even made the car insurance premium payable by women in some countries lower than that for men.
A woman has greater capacity to cope with pressure than man. That is why suicide is rare among the female species than in men.
This is why women development is very important. We must develop and empower our women, beginning with full education for the girl child. Considering the role that women play in the family, they need to be well educated. The level and quality of education of the mother will, to some extent, determine the development of the children.
Women must also be empowered to work and participate actively in the economic activities of the society. It has been well established by studies upon studies that the level of development in a society is directly proportional to the level of empowerment of women and the role they play in the economy. Strangely, we have seen also that the societies, globally and in our country, with the most conflicts and instability are where women are mostly relegated.
Women must be empowered. There is no society that shackles more than half of its population that can develop or progress. This must begin with compulsory education of the girl child. I have searched the religions traditional, Islam and Christianity, I did not see anything that stands in the way of women education and empowerment.
In Osun, we have taken women empowerment to be an integral aspect of governance. Our O’meals programme in which we feed school children in Primary 1-4 every school day is basically a women empowerment programme. We engaged the services of 3,007 community caterers to prepare the food for the pupils as hygienically as possible. To be able to achieve this, the caterers were first medically screened and certified fit and proper, retrained on the rudiments of cooking and particularly made to understand the importance of, one, hygiene in disease prevention and secondly, good nutrition to healthy living.
Each caterer also benefits from a government facilitated interest-free loan of N41,500 for the acquisition of cooking and other kitchen utensils. The loan repayment period is spread over 36 months, with N1,152.78 kobo deducted from their account every month.
The community caterers are all provided free-of-charge with a pair of uniforms (comprising gowns, caps and aprons) by the State Government of Osun at a cost of N11.6 million to the government.
We also instituted a grooming programme at the grassroots under which we train women in vocations and empower them to stand on their own. The programme has nearly 30,000 clients and has distributed loans in excess of N1.7 billion. Each beneficiary receives loans ranging from N40,000 to N150,000. Interestingly, the women have been faithful in loan repayment as the programme recorded 99.89 per cent loan recovery.
This is in addition to nearly N2 billion that have been provided as interest free loans in our micro-credit agency; majority of the beneficiaries are women.
As a government, we share the belief that, if properly empowered, our women, particularly from the rural areas, can make meaningful contributions to the development of our dear state. To underscore this, we saw the need to establish a full government ministry to cater to the issues that concern women’s development and empowerment.
We are determined as a government to elevate the status of our women, both in the rural and in the urban areas. Beyond the economy, we are also mindful of their potential to contribute meaningfully in politics. Thus, we are making serious effort to encourage women to take up more prominent roles in political affairs. One positive fruit of this effort is the fact that my deputy is a woman; a woman of substance, Iya-Afin Grace Titi-Laoye Tomori, one of the very few that occupy that seat in the country. There are other women occupying top positions in the government. It is our belief that their position in government will serve to encourage more women to develop a higher level of confidence in their political capacities and efficacy.
There are other ways we provide for rural women. One of them is their inclusion in the ‘Agba Osun’ elderly support scheme. The government provides a monthly stipend for the most vulnerable among our elderly folks and predictably, most of them are women.
We hold women in high esteem. It is my sincere hope that as a society and government, we should raise the status of our women and help them to realise their greatest potentials.
I thank you all for your attention.