STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF WOMEN AFFAIRS, DAME PAULINE K. TALLEN, OFR, KSG AT THE MEDIA AND STAKEHOLDERS DIALOGUE IN COMMEMORATION OF HER ONE YEAR IN OFFICE ON MONDAY, 24TH AUGUST, 2020
This is indeed the day that the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it. So in appreciation to God Almighty, I want to beginin by acknowledging President Muhammadu Buhari for the confidence and the opportunity to serve as his Minister of Women Affairs, which is the mother Ministry in this country. I also wish to acknowledge our members of the National Assembly both Senate and House of Representatives for their commitment to take the Ministry to greater heights in achieving its mandate. I wish to recognize the presence of all our partners, friends and well wishers, who have despite their busy schedules joined us at this historic event, either physically or through the virtual space in our journey to consolidate on our gains and recreate a road map to guide us in delivering on our mandate to women, children and other vulnerable groups in Nigeria.
2. Who would have ever imagined that the virtual space would today become the "normal" of global engagement as COVID-19 continues to ravage the world with no cure in sight. Like I would always say, life will not stop for pandemics and we will continue to be innovative and proactive, as we work towards addressing the plight of women and children especially girls in the face of the pandemic.
3. Please join me to observe a minute silence in honour of all those who lost their lives and their loved ones to the Corona Virus pandemic, those who lost their lives as a result of rape and other forms of Gender-Based Violence which engulfed the country like wildfire, and those whose lives have been cut short due to the activities of mindless criminals. The list is endless. May their souls rest in peace
4. Today is a sheer testimony of the journey which began on 21st August, 2019, after our inauguration by President Muhammadu Buhari. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and as critical stakeholders, the importance you all attach to the Ministry of Women Affairs, as the fulcrum for crystallizing action, as well as bringing about a paradigm shift in the task of redesigning projects and programmes to create a just and egalitarian society.
5. Upon my assumption of Office, we were not unmindful of the challenges that we would encounter in achieving the mandate of the Ministry, including other national and international commitments. With the support of all our partners and stakeholders, I can gladly look back now and say well done.
6. Therefore, our successes are guided by the need to take urgent steps to mitigate the effect of unsustainable patterns of development; which continue to reinforce gender inequalities, whereby women and girls are often disproportionately affected by political, economic, social and environmental factors, as we champion the cause of attaining the next level of socio-economic prosperity defined in the Priority Projects of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs (2019 to 2023) listed as follows:
- Collaboration with the Ministry of Education to Increase the Enrolment and Completion Rates of Girls in Primary and Secondary Schools
- Activate an Action Plan to Promote Political, Social and Economic Participation of Women in Nigeria
- Advocate for the Domestication of the Child Rights Act (CRA) by All States of the Federation
- Conduct a Review and Propose Amendments to Legislation to Ensure Gender Equality and End All Forms of Discrimination Against Girls and Women
- Take Advocacy of the "He For She" Campaign to All States of the Federation
- Collaborate with Ministry of Health to Eradicate Harmful Practice to Women and Girls, including Female Genital Mutilation
- Collaborate with Relevant Stakeholders to Develop and Implement Economic Empowerment Programmes for Women
- Actively Collaborate with the Private Sector to Create a Large Number of Well-Paying Jobs for Nigerian Youths
- Implement a strategy towards the realization of Mr. President's June 12 promise to take 100 million Nigerian out of poverty in the next 10 years
7. Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as we mark one year in office, it has become expedient to share with you our accomplishments, regardless of COVID-19 pandemic. Today's theme "Repositioning the Ministry for Optimal Impact” speaks to our commitment and dedication as we strive to effectively and efficiently deliver on the Ministry’s mandate, since my appointment as the Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
8. For this, I thank my colleagues, the Ministers who continue to support us in their belief that women and children's issues are cross-cutting, Directors-Generals of various Agencies and Parastatals, Development partners, Civil Society Organizations; including the Disability community, the youth and the media. Your support truly makes the difference.
9. I will not fail to recognize the effort of the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Ifeoma N. Anagbogu, the Management and Staff of the Ministry as well as the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development, Barr. Mary Ekpere-Eta and her team for working assiduously to ensure we forge ahead. Your commitment and hard work are most appreciated.
1. As we gather to reminisce on the past one year, we are not unmindful that we still have a long road to travel. As we speak, somewhere in a community a newborn is being dumped by a mother, a widow is being forcefully ejected from her home by greedy in-laws, a woman is being battered by her husband, a girl is being raped, children are walking around the streets with no food to eat, an old woman is being raped, another abandoned by family, or a father is molesting his own daughters, while we all watch helplessly as the issues threaten to overwhelm us though our indomitable spirit has spurred us on.
11. Therefore, to ensure that we properly reengineer the architectural landscape of the Ministry to address the issues, our first task was to set achievable milestones for all to understand that it was no longer business as usual, as time was of the essence. This led to my prioritizing Girl-Child Education as the pillar upon which to address the challenges confronting the society. The saying goes that an educated girl who becomes tomorrow's mother has many choices and is better empowered to take charge of her life and by extension the nation will be better for it.
12. Our modest achievements in this regard include:
- Inauguration of two Teams - the Ministerial Think Tank within the Ministry and the Ministerial Technical Advisory Committee on Private Sector Initiatives made up of members of various civil society organizations; including Women With Disability. It will interest you to note this Ministry is the first to consciously include women with disability in its technical committee. The ideas of these Teams is to compliment existing structures in the Ministry to ensure inclusion, pro-poor and people centered- programing and service delivery.
(i) In the area of Child Development we have:
- Forged closer collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education to promote Women and Children’s rights and champion girl-child education. This informed my physical presence at the National Council on Education in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2019, where I had the opportunity of addressing all the State Commissioners and other Stakeholders in the Education Sector
- Convened a Meeting with past Ministers of Women Affairs to provide an enabling environment for galvanizing action towards promoting the Ministry’s priority actions on girl-child education and other related issues
- Launched the "One Million Girls March to School" Project towards promoting free and compulsory quality secondary education for all girls. This is one strategy aimed at achieving Goal 4 of the SDGs "Quality Education," while also addressing Goal 5 "Gender Equality" Goal 10 "Reducing Inequality" during the 2019 International Day of the Girl-Child on 11th October, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education and other partners.
- Organized a Stakeholders meeting to tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation on 23rd October, 2019. I appeal to parents to pay attention to how their children and wards handle their devices and what they watch to avoid the incidences of exploitation
- Flagged off the Accelerated Nutrition Result in Nigeria (ANRIN) Project in Gombe State in March, 2020. It featured Advocacy visits, sensitization trainings and meetings with relevant stakeholders in 3 selected LGAs of Nafada, Balanga and Yelmatu of Gombe State.
- Provided Nutritional Support and carried out Medical outreaches to Women and Children in IDP Camps and Children’s Homes in the FCT from 29th – 31st December, 2019 and 8th February, 2020
- Plans have been concluded to commence advocacy to the remaining 10 States yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act (2003) and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (2015). But I have been in touch with the Governors of the affected States.
(ii) In the area of promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment
- Two Departments have been created to fast track policy planning across the various sectors and programming: they include Gender Equality Department and Women Empowerment Department
- Cancer awareness campaign has commenced, with free cancer screening initiative which was flagged off during the 2019 International Day for Breast Cancer Awareness in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the MedicAid Foundation, over 300 indigent women benefitted from the free screening exercise held at the National Hospital and Jabi Medical Centre
- Held strategic discussions on modalities for enhancing synergy with other female Cabinet Members, Donors and Development partners such as UN Women, UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA, World Bank, a number of Embassies and CSOs
- Sustained the male engagement process as key to achieving gender equality. A number of He4She awards have been conferred on men who have demonstrated outstanding support and commitment to the advancement of women. Notable among these are the Governors of Kwara State with 9 female Commissioners out of 16, Lagos State with 12 out of 25, Ekiti State which launched the first sex Offenders Register, Akwa Ibom for best implementation of Child Rights Act, Ondo State for pro-poor projects, Kaduna State for Girl-Child Education and the Chief of Air Staff for the winging of 2 first female fighter pilots, decoration of first female Air Warrant Officer and returning the Air Force Girls School, Jos into its original concept of an all Girls Military Secondary School.
13. It is unfortunate that we lost Flying Officer TolulopeArotile, the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service on Tuesday, 14th July 2020. We have indeed lost a rare gem, a role model that has impacted greatly on many girls to join the force and excel. Our only consolation is the fact that in her lifetime, she left behind an enduring legacy of professionalism and footprints in the sands of time, in the efforts to rid our country of armed bandits and other criminal elements.
- the 2019 activities for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence provided us an opportunity to coordinate the Inter-Ministerial and CSOs joint outing at the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence with advocacy visits to the Judiciary, Inspector-General of Police, Launch of the National Sex Offenders Register and Referral Pathway, Commissioning of the remodelled Safe Space for Victims and Survivors of Gender Based Violence, lit up the Nigeria Police Headquarters Building in orange to signify the commitment of the Police to the cause, held campaigns in strategic markets, sensitized Traditional Rulers, Road Transport Operators and other segments of the society in the FCT and other parts of the country on the dangers of rape and Gender Based Violence
- The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned an ultra-modern Building for the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs on 16th January, 2020 as Government's further commitment to the promotion of women and children issues and concerns. This is perhaps the most beautiful building in the FCT today.
- Significant efforts have gone into the roll-out of joint programmes in Education, Agriculture, Health and Sports. To this end, the Gender in Agriculture Policy has been launched. The Policy is to ensure that the Federal Government Agricultural Revitalization and Economic diversification drive responds to Women’s Agricultural needs. The Federal Executive Council has also approved the Federal Ministry of Environment "National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change for Nigeria.
- Mainstreaming Gender in National Development continues to resonate in the programmes of the Ministry. To achieve this, we are supporting capacity building for Gender Desks/Units in line Ministries, Departments and Agencies with support from Development partners as defined in the National Gender Policy (2006) in December 2019 and August 2020. For those Ministries and Agencies who are yet to set up such Desks, please this is the best time to do so, as any intervention that is committed to COVID-19 response and recovery programs, must factor in the gender gaps in designing and implementation process.
- Flagged off the National Cooking Gas Project/tree Planting project in Nasarawa Katsina and Ekiti States. The project is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari directives that women in Nigeria’s 774 LGAs and FCT Area Councils are to benefit from the 1,000 Cooking Gas Cylinders aimed at improving health and livelihoods of women through promotion of environmental pollutant free nature and encourage tree planting in communities. The States of Adamawa, Ebonyi, Edo and FCT were halted as a result of Covid-19 Pandemic. In a few days from now we will resume the distribution process.
- Women's Political Participation is also very important. We are consulting with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that come 2023 women's voices in governance and decision making process in Nigeria is enhanced. We have commenced the process of reviving all the existing structures including the Women Zonal Political Training Centres, the G-100 Women Lobby Group, the Nigeria Women Trust Fund amongst others
(iii) In the area of Economic Empowerment of Women, we are retooling
many of the existing economic empowerment projects to make them more
accessible to the beneficiaries.
(iv) In the meantime, under the collaboration with ECOWAS Commission Gender Development Centre
- About 50 indigent women and girls in Kebbi and Ebonyi States have benefitted from VVF Repairs and Rehabilitation Programme collaboration
- 300 widows trained in different trade in Anambra and Plateau States. the Ministry has facilitated the eradication of Female Genital Mutilation, 200 were trained in this regard.
- 900 women from various Cooperatives groups in Six Area Councils of the FCT have been trained on Business Growth and sustainability from 26th – 27th November, 2019.
- Collaboration with ECOWAS has facilitated the 50 Million Women Speak Platform Project (50MWSPP). The project is aimed at providing a veritable rallying platform for knowledge-sharing and learning on entrepreneurship creation, sustainability and marketing in ECOWAS Member State. Since its launch this year, more than 25,000 women have received both online trainings and sensitization programs and have been co-opted into the various social media platforms for onward linkage to the project’s platform.
- the Queen Riders project has been commissioned in collaboration with SIMBA Group to enable 50 women participate in the Tri-Cycle business.
- Over 300 women have been trained in entrepreneurship skills, we will scale up the number of beneficiaries. We just concluded the two-day “Virtual Nationwide Training Workshop on the Business of today for Female Entrepreneurs” and all beneficiaries were presented with starter grants.
(v) Under the World Bank supported Nigeria for Women Project (NFWP),
we are making impact in 6 pilot States of Ogun (South West), Niger (NorthCentral), Abia (South East), Taraba (North East), Kebbi (North West) and Edo (South South). We will upscale to other States so that more women can benefit.
14 The National Centre for Women Development, our only parastatal continues to compliment our efforts in the empowerment of women and girls in Nigeria. We will strengthen it to carry out its mandate of Research, Training and Documentation, as well as act as a Database on Women Empowerment in Nigeria. Worthy of mention is the flagship Female Artisanship project which builds up a new generation of skilled female artisans in plumbing and piping, screeding, pop and painting, masonry and tiling, repairs of generating sets, repairs of air conditioners and air conditioning system for the Nigerian construction industry.
15. In view of the urgent steps needed to respond to the burning issues in the wake of the national outcry that trailed the surge in rape cases in Nigeria in the last few months, Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, my Ministry has made progress in the following areas with regards to Rape and Gender-Based Violence
- Let me place on record that Her Excellency, Dr. Aisha Buhari, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was the first to support us with the distribution of Palliatives to women networks for distribution to indigent women. This gesture no doubt helped to cushion the effects of the pandemic on many households. For this, we thank her.
- Our sister Ministry; the Humanitarian Ministry also came on strong in this regard. Let me pause to say that for all those wishing to join in this exercise, our doors are opened for such collaboration and every step will be accounted for.
- Constant engagement with grassroots and other traditional institutions through the use of radio jingles, community mobilization and other IEC materials, as well as the Media on the need to support the advocacy on the vulnerability of women and childrenin .
- Consultation with Commissioners of Women Affairs and CSOs on the growing trends and patterns of GBV and jointly proffer solutions
- Launch of the National GBV Data Collation Tool, the first of its kind, to ease the death of GBV data in the country, with directives that every partner and stakeholder should use the tool to collate and submit GBV data to the Ministry for effective coordination and planning.
- Launched the Abridged Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, (2015)which has been translated into three major languages for ease of understanding by all through an online validation meeting in June, 2020 under the UN-European Union Spotlight Initiative.
- Flagged off the one-Million Girls Pad Distribution campaign in commemoration of the World Health and Hygiene Day in May 2020. We will upscale this initiative as a holistic "Campaign to Support Girl-Child Education in Nigeria." The goal is to adopt one strategy to achieve the provision of basic sanitary and hygiene facilities within schools and in communities where girls reside.
- Joint partnership with UN Women on Covid-19 Palliatives Distribution in 17 States to provide relief assistance to 3,060 vulnerable households made up of Widows, Elderly Women, Women living with HIV/AIDs, Women with Disabilities. The items distributed included food items, facemasks and hygiene materials. The States are Imo, Kebbi, Borno, Taraba, Oyo, Lagos, Bayelsa, Edo, Anambra, Sokoto, Plateau, Kwara, Osun, Ekiti, Niger, Ebonyi States and FCT.
- Presented a memo to Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, 10th June, 2020 on the unacceptable trends and patterns and surge in Rape and other Gender-Based Violence in the Country. The outcome of this Memo led to the following:-
- Directives by Mr. President to the Attorney-General/Minister of Justice to immediately inaugurate an Inter-Ministerial Gender Based Violence Management Committee to proffer a synchronized approach to address all forms of violence against women and children in the country. The Committee was inaugurated on 23rd July, 2020
- Directives to Inspector-General of Police to deal with all perpetrators in furtherance of the declaration of Zero tolerance to Rape and other Gender-Based Violence, as well as constant engagement with the Police on the need to promptly address issues of Gender Based Violence.
- Presidential Directives to flag off the National Advocacy Campaign Against rape and other Gender-Based Violence in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. As soon as the situation improves, we will embark on this activity
- My participation in the webinar organized by the Nigeria Governors Forum on Wednesday, 10th June, 2020 led to the unanimous Declaration of the State of Emergency by all 36 State Governors.
- As a follow-up Wives of the Governors of the States have also formed themselves into a Coalition to address the hydra-headed monster of rape in our country.
- We have held constant engagements with the grassroots and other traditional institutions through the use of radio jingles, community mobilization and other IEC materials.
- Launch a Widows Database on 23rd June to enable us build a credible Database for Widows in Nigeria in collaboration with Almanah Hope Foundation and Women Radio to improve planning andprogramming for this segment of the society
- Engagement with all Female Ambassadors and Heads of Mission in Nigeria to assure them of the Country's zero tolerance to such issues on Friday, 26/6/2020. It was during this interaction that I learnt of the case of the abducted Filipino woman, Irene TorentoPanas, who has since been rescued from her supposed lover, who lured her to Nigeria. She is now in the care and custody of the Phillipine Embassy in Nigeria. Many of our daughters have also been victims of such cyberspace crime and we must be very watchful and concerned for their well-being
- Launched a Survey Report on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women-owned Businesses in Nigeria in collaboration with NACCIMA and SME.NG to establish the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women businesses in the country during the complete lockdown on 27th June 2020. We are planning a Strategic Virtual Donor Conference on 28th August, 2020 to bring together all Stakeholders involved in COVID-19 Responses to determine what funds and facilities are available to women-owned and Businesses led by women, determine the challenges of women in accessing available public/private funds and facilities designed to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on women owned businesses.
- Efforts to revive the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women Peace and Security, under the UNSCR 1325 are ongoing. We just inaugurated the Security Sector Gender Reference Group to provide the framework amongst others to ensure greater collaboration and interaction between gender-specific structures of security sector actors in the country.
- Ahead of the 20th Anniversary of the UNSCR 1325 in October, 2020, we are working with UN Women to conclude the development of the third National Action Plan as the second one lapsed in July 2020.
16. Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, under the President Buhari led APC Government, Nigeria as a Nation is taking major strides to bridge gender gaps across many sectors. Despite the gains, a lot still needs to be done to meet the needs of the almost 100 million female population of the country. Our gains have not been without challenges given the diversity of the country. Therefore, we continuously need allies to help us in our tasks, as we cascade the gains of Mr. President's promises to the majority of our target beneficiaries.
17. As the National Women and Children's Machinery, the Ministry will continue to work assiduously with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Development Partners and Local Communities, as well as other relevant stakeholders to empower women and children to achieve economic prosperity for the country. By so doing, we will together be able to contribute to building a just and free society for all.
18. In conclusion, let me say that when we do well, please applaud us and when we are not doing well, please call our attention, it will help us to move forward. Once again, I want to sincerely thank Mr. President for his support and the opportunity to serve in His Cabinet, to our partners, I sincerelyhank you all for your support in achieving these milestones.