Obasanjo calls for girl child education and women’s empowerment

February 14, 2013, Benin-City, Nigeria: The former President of Nigeria, Chief (Dr.) Olusegun Obasanjo has called for greater commitment on the part of policymakers and stakeholders to give girl child education the priority it deserves. He made the call in Benin-City while delivering the 1st Dr. Abel Guobadia Memorial Lecture.

L-R, Sir Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, Esama of Benin, Emeritus Prof. O. O Akinkugbe, Chairman of the Event, Chief (Dr.) Olusegun Obasanjo, former President & Guest Lecturer, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Executive Governor of Edo State, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Secretary to Edo State Government, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, Chief of Staff to Governor of Edo State at the 1stDr. Abel Guobadia Lecture

The lecture was organised by the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) to honour Dr Abel Guobadia, former INEC Chairman, who was also the immediate Chairman of its Board of Trustees.  Speaking on the topic “The Role of Women in Safeguarding the Nation’s Health”, Chief Obasanjo explained that the empowerment of women is a subject that touches his heart. He began by appreciating the progress that WHARC has made in its twenty years of existence in promoting various components of sexual and reproductive health. The former President reflected on the situation of women’s health in Nigeria and posited that it is yet to achieve the level of attention and interest it should have within our political, economic and social programmes.

To adequately address women’s health, it must be treated within the broader context of power, control and decision making. The extent to which women are included in essential political and economic roles will determine the extent to which all aspects of women lives, living and health will be appropriately addressed. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo presented current statistics of political representation at various levels in the country which showed that out of the 36 state governors, none is a woman. At the national level only 8 out of the 109 senators are women while the House of Representatives can boast of only 24 women out of its 360 members.  He said this did not augur well for efforts to re-position women’s health issues, since women comprise 50% of Nigeria’s population.

WHARC must not be left out and must get engaged in the current debate on the post 2015 global agenda, with a view to pushing issues that affect the health and social wellbeing of women and girls going forward, he advised. WHARC must be at the forefront of seeking for national and international reform in the area of women’s health. This was an issue very dear to the late Dr. Abel Guobadia which he devoted so much attention to during his lifetime. “Women can only make progress in life when they are not powerless, when they are educated, when jobs are accessible and when they are not permanently threatened by lack of access to healthcare”, Chief Obasanjo added.

The Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole while speaking at the event tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create a truly woman-friendly environment so that more women can vie for decision making positions via brains instead of arms which is the case in some parts of the nation. He praised the former President for finding time to appear in person at the event as this was the hallmark of a true leader. He believes the voice of the former president will help to bring high level commitment and action on issues affecting women.

Distinguished guests in attendance at the lecture which comprised government officials, members of the academia, development partners and stakeholders from all walks of life include Emeritus Prof. O. O Akinkugbe who chaired the event, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Executive Governor of Edo State, representatives of the Oba of Benin, Sir Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Secretary to Edo State Government, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, Chief of Staff to Governor of Edo State, Mrs Florence Guobadia, Wife of Late Dr. Abel Guobadia, and the representative of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega amongst others.

Earlier while speaking, the Chairman of the occasion Prof. O.O. Akinkugbe commended WHARC for starting the lecture series to honour Dr. Abel Guobadia a frontline advocate and social crusader for women’s health and social justice in Nigeria. Lady Winifred Onyeonwu, Chairman Board of Trustees, WHARC during her welcome address extolled the virtues of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and praised him for the number of women he appointed into places of decision making in the country, a feat which has never been done before in the country.

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