STEVE OKO, in this piece, captures the new bond among the wives of Southern governors as they unite against some vices militating against women and the girl-child in the region.
On February 15th, 2017, wives of the 17 Governors from the three geopolitical zones in Southern Nigeria - South East, South West and South-South gathered in Umuahia, the Abia State capital for their summit. The three day- event had 11 First Ladies from the three geo-political zones in attendance.
Southern Governors’ Wives’ Forum ( SGWF), a brain-child of the wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari, came in existence 3rd March, 2016 in Owerri, Imo State.
The forum’s aims and objectives include: to promote unity and peaceful co- existence among Southern States of Nigeria; to impact positively on the lives of women, children, youths and the vulnerable in society; and to complement the giant strides of the Southern Governors for the development of the region, among others.
SGWF pioneer Chairperson and wife of the Imo State Governor, Mrs. Nneoma Rochas Okorocha, set the tune of the summit when she said the forum was seriously committed to eradication of child labour, promotion of the girl- child, women empowerment and sensitisation of women on self-reliance. She also identified creation of awareness on some threatening diseases like cancer and diabetes as the major focus of the forum.
She regretted that some parents pay little or no attention to the education of the girl child and called for attitudinal change, arguing that if the girl child is adequately educated the society will be better for it.
The first Ladies unanimously declared war against obnoxious widowhood practice, child abuse, neglect of the girl child and other harmful practices against women. The summit also stepped up advocacy for women empowerment and sex-education .
The wife of Enugu State Governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, almost stole the show during her presentation as she spoke eloquently against harmful widowhood practices which she said still exist among different cultures in Nigeria. Describing such obnoxious practices against widows as barbaric and inhuman, Mrs. Ugwuanyi said time had come for their total eradication from the country.
Her words: “ Why is it that any time the man dies we think it is the woman’s fault? Sometimes she is forced to sleep with the corpse or to drink the water used in bathing the corpse.”
The Enugu First Lady whose speech was interrupted with applauses and ovations from the audience as she made her points, called on women to rise against every form of inhuman treatment meted out against widows and women in society
Her Lagos State counterpart, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, called on women to rise against all forms of violence against women including child trafficking and child abuse. She also joined in the advocacy for sound academic empowerment of the girl child.
Sensitizing women on the rising incidents of cancer and other killer diseases, Dr. Mrs. Linda Ayade of Cross Rivers State, called for caution against some habits and life styles that could predispose people to the diseases.
She identified breast cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of the womb as the most common among women which according to her, claim about 80 of their victims.
Delivering talks against gossip and pull- her down syndrome, Mrs. Edith Okowa of Delta State, warned women against gossips, blackmail and slander, even as she regretted that a lot of families had been scattered as a result of gossip, and charged women to eschew such evil tendency.
In her speech, the Akwa Ibom State First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, charged women to imbibe in the girl child the fear of God and moral values of the society, even as she advocated for sex education and warned parents not to leave their girl child with male strangers or the so- called uncles to avoid defilement.
The host First Lady and wife of the Abia State Governor, Mrs. Okezie Ikpeazu, had earlier in her opening remarks, assured her colleagues of their safety while in the state.
Highlights of the summit were the official launch of her pet project, the Vicar Hope Foundation; and the distribution of empowerment items to some indigent women in the state. Some of the empowerment tools include sewing machines, grinding machines, hair dressing kits, coolers, among others.
Mrs. Ikpeazu announced that she had so far built 24 houses for indigent widows across Abia under the indigent widows shelter scheme of the foundation. The Foundation according to her, has also distributed 320 wheel chairs and clutches under the silver cloud programme while plans have been concluded to provide 200 artificial limbs to the physically challenged.
The governor’s wives deserve commendation for coming together under one umbrella despite their political and cultural differences, they should go beyond the usual political rhetoric and match their words with action.