Moshood Adebayo

The 19th edition of the conference of Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO),  has come and gone, but its footprints will remain indelible, particularly  in terms of empowering women to be active players in national development

The over 3000-participants, mainly women drawn across the country positively explored emerging opportunities being provided in Lagos and Nigeria by the governments both at national and state level

The  three-day conference  which  held at Convention Centre, Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, had the theme: “Unlearn, Learn and Relearn: 21st Century Women’s THEMES Perspectives and Approach.”.

Chairman of COWLSO, Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, said the theme of the conference was strategically chosen to empower women to continue to play important part as pillars of growth and development economically, politically, socially and in all other areas that matter.

“As women, we must strategically position ourselves to take full benefit of the programmes of government. To unlearn means to do away with habits that are outdated and as well jettison practices that are against public good and public safety.

“In this 21st Century, women must also embrace new ideas and new 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 the modern society,” she said.

While urging women to key into programmes of the state government in strategic sectors such as health, environment, agriculture, education, and investment opportunities for entrepreneurs, Mrs. Sanwo-Olu added that the committee would be investing its energy and resources on implementing projects specifically aimed at strengthening the capacity of women and helping them to build resistance against disabilities that may limit their economic potential.

Declaring the three-day event open, Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman of Kwara State, congratulated members of the Committee for taking “bold steps” towards empowering women and making sacrifices for the development of Lagos, while Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, in his goodwill message, said it is on record that COWLSO has 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.

“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 a society back. Democratic values don’t support the relegation of women,” he said.

On her part, Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, represented by the Wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo who gave the keynote address urged wives of political office holders to work towards impacting the lives of the less privileged and vulnerable persons in the society.

“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 a duty to raise better Nigerians,” she said.

Speaker, House of Representatives,  Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that women possess the natural ability to influence the society positively, adding that education was vital towards empowering the women.

He assured that the House of Representatives would continue to leverage legislative process to champion action that would challenge laws that limit women.

The host governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the theme of the conference is aimed at imparting knowledge that would engender value re-orientation and equip women with skills that would make them relevant in the state.

He 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.

“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 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 the learning. It is also about reminding ourselves of old and unchanging truths, which is the re-learning. It is important that we discard ways of thinking that are no longer 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,” he said.

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Sanwo-Olu said his administration had redefined gender balance with the appointment of 13 women into key decision-making positions in the cabinet.

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.

The event also featured panels of discussion on a number of topics anchored by seasoned professionals including Mrs Ibukun Awosika, who spoke on the ‘21st Century Woman – Build Not Born To Influence The Society’; Mrs Omotayo Omotosho, ‘Entertainment And Tourism: Prism Of Possibilities – Tourism’; Mrs Joke Silva, ‘Entertainment And Tourism: Prism Of Possibilities – Entertainment’; Mrs Funke Felix-Adejumo, ‘The Total Woman’; Mrs Olufunmilayo Agbato, ‘Entrepreneurship: Making Money And More Money – Agric Entrepreneurship;  Mrs. Adun Akinyemiju, ‘Mould A Child And Build A Greater Generation’;  Professor Adetokunbo Fabamwo, ‘Healthy Woman – A Healthier Nation: Maternal & Child Mortality’; Mr Olukayode Pitan, ‘Entrepreneurship: Making Money And More Money – Financing’; among others.

In a communique issued at the closing ceremony, the committee specifically urged the Federal Government and indeed all states of the federation to see the issue of maternal mortality as a national emergency that must be seriously addressed with the view to considerably bringing down the high figures.

COWLSO said it was important for government at all levels to empower women, saying there was strong need to invest effectively in maximizing the capacity of women, adding: “maternal mortality is abysmally high; the death of a woman is more grievous than the death of a man. Maternal mortality is taken for granted in Nigeria and this must be seen as a national emergency.

“An empowered and educated woman would raise empowered children; as a nation, we need to invest effectively in maximizing the capacity of women.

“All stakeholders – families, schools, religious bodies, communities and government must, therefore, play active roles in nurturing the child to be upright, hardworking, result oriented, focused, organised and have the fear of God. Moulding a child is a collective responsibility. Every child should have access to quality education.”

While noting that there are limitless opportunities in entrepreneurship, COWLSO also urged the people to see it as a vital way out of financial difficulties, just as the committee admonished residents to imbibe voluntary compliance to laws, and well-being.

Conference Convener and Chairman of COWLSO, Mrs. Sanwo-Olu said it was indeed gratifying that the conference had been positively impactful, and urged participants to make good use of the lessons learnt.

“It has been three days of mind shifting trainings and brainstorming on how to equip women and position them to key into the emerging opportunities in our dear State. Several papers have been presented on the main theme which centers on unlearning, learning and relearning, as well as other topics.

“I can confidently say that we have all benefited tremendously from the facilitators who have mounted this stage to address us. For me, the target is that we must all go back to our respective offices, homes and business areas to put what we have learned into practice,” she said.

On his part, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, who, declared the conference closed congratulated COWLSO for the success of the conference, urging women to ensure that the knowledge and skill-sets acquired at the conference are put to good use.

Highpoints of the conference included several mouth-watering prizes including two houses, cars, return tickets to London, Dubai and Ghana, cash rewards, deep freezers, cooking gas, television, washing machines, exquisite beds, among others, which were won by participants, while A-list artist including Tope Alabi, Teni the Entertainer and others, performed at the conference’s  Gala Night.

Awards were also presented to deserving women including Senior Pastor of DayStar Christian Centre, Pastor Nike Adeyemi, who received the Inspirational Woman Award for her dedicated service to the empowerment of women; Wife of Deputy General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor (Mrs) Siju Iluyomade; and President of Elishama Ideh Ministry and former Presidential aspirant, Elishama Ideh, among others.

Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs.  Aisha Buhari, represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo gave the keynote address. Others were the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and wife, Mrs Salamatu Gbajabiamila.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his counterparts from Kwara and Ogun States, Abdul Rahman Abdul Razaq and Prince Dapo Abiodun respectively; Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat; and Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Noimot Salako-Oyedele also attended.

The First Ladies of Ogun, Osun, Edo, Taraba, Kwara, Ekiti, Ondo, Imo, Bauchi and Nasarawa states; former Deputy Governors of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States; Senator representing Lagos Central in the National Assembly,  Oluremi Tinubu; Lagos State Officials and body of Permanent Secretaries were also in attendance, among other dignitaries.