Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nigerian Prof. Omorogbe: We Want To Invest More In Edo Women
Prof. Yinka Omorogbe of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in West Africa.
Nigerian Guardian

Professor Yinka Omorogbe is an Energy Law expert. Together with some other women and children interest groups, she recently organised the first Edo Women Conference at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, which drew a lot of dignitaries including the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole. She spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU about the conference and other issues affecting women and the girl child in Edo.

What are the prospects the conference offered to empower the Edo woman and girl child?

I WOULD say that we were actually thrilled by the level of acceptance we got. To us, the conference was a success and we took away from it some possible action points. The idea behind the whole thing is to change mindsets, as everything we do revolves round that. It is all about empowering the women’s minds, as well as trying to empower them economically to enable them take right decisions. We undertake many different programmes, which are geared towards encouraging the women to take right decisions. And we are very pleased that at the conference, the Edo State governor promised an annual contribution of N10 million. We are very happy because this will go a long way in assisting in the many things we have to do. We are also gratified that different donors supported the conference and I am very sure that anybody that donated towards the conference would have been very happy at the way things turned out. It is money well spent.

   There are also other donors we shall be getting as time goes by. These are people that are concerned about the positive progress of the society. It is really momentous that at our first conference, the governor of the state recognised, empathised and saw clearly that there was a need to give the Edo woman her rightful recognition. If you listened to his speech, it was an excellent one, as it brought up and highlighted many things that needed to be done. It’s against that backdrop that he came and said he liked what we were doing and that he was going to make the contribution. We think it’s a very good omen, and so, we expect that by the grace of God, our follow up conferences will be better than this.

What informed your organising the conference?

  The conference came about because we were quite concerned about the different empowerment matters affecting the Edo woman. We felt the way we could contribute was through doing programmes that highlight some of these issues to stimulate, orientate and change mindsets. So, the three of us—Dr. Mrs. Roseline Okosun, Dr. Esohe Aghatise and I decided to come together to hold the conference. We are based in different places. Aghatise is based in Italy, where she runs a very successful non-government organisation by the name Iroko Onlus. The agency is involved in helping people that have been trafficked to Italy return to Nigeria and get absorbed into the society. Okosun is a full-time academic in Canada, but she also runs Association Against Women Export (AWEE), another non-government organisation that is actually working along the lines of the conference. The agency also works against child trafficking. What the name doesn’t show is the other work it does, which has to do with upholding the dignity of women. It tries to stimulate and appreciate the goodness and good behaviour in young girls.

  I have worked in the energy area for quite a while now and I’m very concerned about issues in developmental energy. I would, therefore, say that we are all working basically as a group that felt we have to positively contribute towards uplifting Edo women, who make up half of the Edo society.

Were you able to achieve much in reaching women at the grassroots?

  I would say that they got enough information regarding the occasion. But since this is just the beginning and if we were to stop at this point, then I would say we have achieved nothing. We definitely want to continue with some of these things. Overall, however, I think we made some efforts and were able to record some sort of success with grassroots organisations. For instance, the market women were involved. We actually had the head of the market women, Edo State slated to talk at the conference, but unfortunately she travelled abroad. However, her team came in full force, and different women groups were also represented. These include the AAWE cooperative women from the markets, Unique Women’s Movement, Great Edo Women’s group, Urhonigbe Women’s group, YWCA, National Council of Women’s Societies, as well as the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria. There were also some collaborators such as the Female Lawyers in Edo. They were all well represented at the conference.

   It’s a good start I would say. I am sure we are going to get much deeper and better with time. But we were able to make a solid penetration with the number of groups that were invited and which showed up. We effectively used existing networks such as AAWE and Dr. Okosun’s network. The Catholic women also played a part.

Are you doing anything about the seeming poor representation of women in Edo politics?

  We are trying to change mindsets and encourage women to know and remember that they make up half of the society. With their numerical strength, they can equally make a positive impact on the society. But this can’t be achieved if they don’t have a say and are voiceless. So, the idea is to uplift the women to such an extent that they know that they are part and parcel of the political process. If in the end and with our many activities, we are able to achieve that, we will be very happy. In this though, we are non-political, as we don’t care to what party anybody belongs, provided she contributes to the wellbeing of the society.

   We are generally non-political and our aim is not to consciously field women for any position or into any political party. These two are interwoven because the moment you say you are fielding women for political posts, the next question will be, which party? But we are non-partisan, which is why different parties attended our programme and from the look of things, they were pleased with us. We are all about progress, advancement and nothing else. A rose is still a rose irrespective of the garden it is planted.

Are you pleased with the strides the Edo woman has attained so far?

  They are so many. Edo State Government has two heads of service that are women. There are Dr. Mrs. Afe, who is an Edo wife and Princess Ekiuwa Inneh of the royal family. We also had Lady Winifred Onyowu, who was the first permanent secretary. There is Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, who headed FIRS, as well as Clara Ighodaro, a director at British Telecommunications. Senators Daisy Danjuma and Franca Afegbua, the first black female senator in the world and definitely the first in Nigeria are from Edo. We have been having female Permanent Secretaries for a long time now. Edo has also been producing many female professors. These include the first Bini female professor, Rebecca Aghaeisi Nevadumbsky, who is in her 70s now.

  Historically, Edo has been producing some strong women. For instance, there was Emotan, who was basically a trader and is deified now. There is also Adesuwa, as well as some queen mothers such as Queen Idia. There is also Justice Beatrice Adebayo in Ondo, as well as Justice Omorodion. They are both late but would have been in their 70s now. Edo is a place known for strong women, and there are still many strong women. But it is also a place, where women don’t always get on the front seat. And so, if you don’t know the strong women, you might not know that they exist.

  I can go on about accomplished Edo women and even the young and upcoming ones are very many. I come across them all the time and they are all doing very well.

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