The need to fortify women with knowledge and skills that will make them relevant in modern economy tops the agenda of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) – a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
At the opening ceremony of its ongoing 19th National Women Conference at the Eko Convention Centre in Victoria Island, the Convener and First Lady of Lagos, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, said the Committee would be investing its energy and resources on implementing projects that specifically aim at strengthening the capacity of women and helping them to build resistance against disabilities that may limit their economic potential.
The event with the theme: “Unlearn, Learn and Re-learn: 21st Century Women’s T.H.E.M.E.S Perspectives/Approach”, hosted more than 3,000 women and was graced by the Wife of the President, Dr Aishat Buhari, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, ex-Lagos First Lady, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, Governors of Kwara sand Ogun states, Mr Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq and Mr Dapo Abiodun.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the theme of the conference was aimed at imparting knowledge that would engender value re-orientation and equip women with skills that would make them relevant in the State.
The Governor observed that continuous learning and capacity building remained a potent tool to drive social change, stressing that knowledge or mind-set that stood against the growth of the society must be discarded.
He said: “The goal of this conference is to impart knowledge on all the participants and equip them with relevant skills. The knowledge that will enable them to contribute effectively to the collective goal of building and delivering the Lagos we all deserve.
“Imparting knowledge is not only about adding new knowledge, which is learning. It is also about reminding ourselves of old and unchanging truths, which is the re-learning. We must discard ways of thinking which are not compatible with current realities. If impracticable knowledge is left unchallenged, it can stand in the way of our ability to imbibe and practise new knowledge. This is the un-learning.”
Sanwo-Olu said his administration had redefined gender balance in the State with the appointment of 13 women into key decision-making positions in the cabinet. Empowering women with right skills and allowing them to be part of the decision-makers, the Governor said, would set the State on the course of irreversible growth, economically and socially.
He added that implementation of his government’s six pillars of development, known as Project T.H.E.M.E.S, would not be effective without the support of women, citing waste management as one of the key areas where women would be playing key roles.
In her opening remarks, Lagos First Lady, Dr Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, said the theme of the conference was strategically chosen to empower women to continue to play an important part as pillars of growth and development economically, politically, socially and in all other areas that matter.
She said: “As women, we must strategically position ourselves to take full benefit of the programmes of government. To unlearn means to do away with outdated habits and as well as jettison practices that are against the public good and public safety.
“In this 21st Century, women must also embrace new ideas and innovations to be relevant. Women must learn to think outside the box and even go a step further to think without the box, to fit into modern society.”
She urged women to key into programmes of the State Government in strategic sectors such as Health, Environment, Agriculture, Education, and investment opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Mrs Aisha Buhari urged wives of political office holders to work towards impacting the lives of the less privileged and vulnerable persons in the society.
Represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, Nigeria’s First Lady said wives of key government functionaries must create people-centred programmes to catalyse social change.
She said: “One of the key tenets of COWLSO is the issue of restoration of values. I wish to call on more members to use the opportunity of this event to share ideas about ensuring that our children grow up morally upright, patriotic and with a sense of responsibility. We have to raise better Nigerians.”
Gbajabiamila noted that women possessed natural ability to influence the society positively, adding that education was vital towards empowering the women
He said House of Representatives would continue to leverage the legislative process to champion action that would challenge laws that limit women.
Declaring the three-day event open, Governor Abdulrazaq congratulated members of the Committee for taking “bold steps” towards empowering women and making a sacrifice for the development of Lagos.
In his goodwill message, Gov. Abiodun said COWLSO had been instrumental to the development of Lagos since its establishment, noting that the theme of the conference was one of the ways to change negative narrative against women.
He said: “The theme of the COWLSO conference has offered a template for strategic thinking towards changing negative narratives against women in our country. A 21st-century woman must learn and re-learn. To hold a woman back is to hold society back. Democratic values don’t support the relegation of women.”
The event also featured panels of the discussion centred on building entrepreneurial skills of women. Also, some women whose works and activities empowered the less privileged were honoured at the event. They include the founder of Real Women Foundation, Pastor Nike Adeyemi, who received the Inspirational Woman Award for her dedicated service to the empowerment of women.
Other honorees are Pastor Siju Iluyomade and Pastor Rosemary Ideh.