Obaseki, Women and Inclusive Governance –By Gloria Adagbon

By Ikenga Chronicles November 11, 2016

Come November 12, 2016, Mr Godwin Obaseki will be sworn in as the Executive Governor of Edo State. From that day, he will assume the responsibility of steering the ship of the state.

As he prepares to assume office, Edo people and in particular women are patiently waiting to see how, and in what way, they are incorporated into Obaseki’s governance architecture to drive the continuity agenda of his administration.

There is no gainsaying that Obaseki garnered a high number of votes from women, with whom he shared a common understanding that when elected he will empower and encourage them to participate actively in governance and decision making process.

The Governor-Elect, during his campaign made big policy pronouncements regarding bridging the gender gap and taking deliberate steps to remove the impediments to the realisation of equality by women, a step closer to the “Pledge for Parity” – a commitment of the All Progressives Congress, his political party.
In a statement accredited to Mr Obaseki, “the time when our women were relegated to the back seat in governance is over. Edo state – and indeed the entire country is blessed with many great women of strong character and intelligence with a track record of excellence in private enterprise and public service.

“Our government will support and encourage the women to bring all their knowledge and experience into governance for the betterment of our people. We have women who have made a mark in different facets of our public life, and we will empower them as an integral part of our government to drive our prosperity agenda not only in the area of education and health but across all sectors, including the agri-business revolution we are engendering” the statement said.

If the above pledge is anything to go by, Edo women are on the road to a remarkable place in the history of women advancement and participation in governance. Consequently, there are high expectations from the people to see the implementation of the good policy direction for the Obaseki administration that will ensure that women are encouraged, and nurtured to be equal stakeholders in the development agenda.

So, what exactly are women to expect from the incoming administration? Well, during the electioneering campaign, the Governor-Elect, Mr Godwin Obaseki toured the 18 Local Government Areas in the state, soliciting for women votes, during which he promised some empowerment programmes such as soft loans, small enterprise, training and other forms of support to ensure that women thrive under his government. This is a welcome development for women in Edo state and it is therefore important that these programs are followed through and implemented especially for women at the grassroots.

While it is accepted that execution of this policies can be delivered through government structures such as ministries, department and agencies, robust mechanisms must be established to safeguard the implementation to ensure that it gets to grassroots women. To this end, the ministry of women affairs should act as a conduit while engaging directly with women to establish and gather the data, their requirements, skills gap etc so that the empowerment programme can get to them directly.

Another important aspect for most women is the availability of the platform to achieve the inclusion. That is having an inclusive government that encourages active women participation in policy decisions of government. Fortunately, women inclusion is one of the key priorities of the incoming governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki. It is therefore crucial to ensure women are giving the platform to prove their capabilities and showcase their skills, experience and expertise. However, such inclusivity should be based on merit and capacity to deliver in the appropriate area of governance.

Importantly, this is where the incoming First Lady of Edo State, Mrs Betsy Obaseki will play a huge role and act as a voice for Edo women. Why so? She occupies a very strategic position that can champion the cause of woman affairs in the state. Mrs Obaseki as a financial expert by profession and with her experience as the Managing Director BOI Investment and Trust Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Bank of Industry, will no doubt be very efficient and effective to run and supervise women empowerment programmes to an excellent standard, ensuring that the women whom the empowerment programmes or initiatives are meant for benefit from it.

Generally speaking, women representations into public office are not commensurate with the contributions made during elections but in Edo State the Oshiomhole’s administration has started an improved women empowerment as well as their involvement in governance. That is why this Continuity, Consolidation and Improvement of existing programmes aimed at women is critical to ensuring that Edo women are fully engaged to contribute their quota in governance, which undoubtedly will improve the economic growth and development of the state.

I recall vividly during the electioneering period how professional women like nurses, doctors, lawyers, women in governance, teachers, hair dressers association, market women and a raft of other women groups came out en mass to support, campaign and vote for Godwin Obaseki. It is therefore incumbent on the incoming governor to ensure that active women participation is highly encouraged. There is a popular consensus that economically strengthening women not only spurs economic growth, but also advances women’s rights in society.

It is also an established fact that women as good managers of the home and resources could make a huge impact on Edo state economy, if they were given improved access to credit as well as removing the stumbling blocks to women advancement. Take for example the Agro business initiative, the larger population engaged in farming in rural areas are mostly women and these women may not readily have access to land ownership, or credit facilities, or the knowledge about how to get support for their business. This inability to access credit is a major challenge for the entrepreneurship and business development and this is another area where the incoming First Lady will be a leading voice to ensure that grassroots women understand when and how to access support for their business and enterprise.

In relation to women in politics, equal opportunity should also to be afforded to them in order that adequate representation is given to women especially APC women who galvanised support for the candidate and party alongside Mrs Obaseki, who is passionate about women and girls, as evident in her women empowerment initiatives and strong belief that empowering women is a major way of advancing economic and social development of women in our society, Edo women are in safe hands.

As we approach November 12, Edo women are expectant and at the same time excited about the incoming administration and the promise to hit the ground running and unfolding the developmental agenda in stock for women. This is an incredibly an exciting time for Edo people because it is the first time we would have a technocrat as governor and a technocrat as the First Lady to manage the state resources. From a cursory look at these two professionals, one can predict that financial probity, accountable and transparent government shall feature prominently in the next four years.

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