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Maryam Aminu- Abuja

In commemoration of the International Day for Rural Women marked annually on the 15th and 16th of October, the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen OFR, KSG, on Friday called on capable persons in the society to invest in the lives of underprivileged rural women languishing in abject poverty across communities in the country to affect their lives positively even if it means teaching them just a skill.

Tallen made this call at the “launch of her majesty” as women from all walks of life and the He(s) for She(s) converged in Her Majesty’s Hall, Women Development Centre Abuja to rain praises on the former Nigerian first lady late Dr. Mrs. Maryam Babandiga, who founded the Better Life for Rural Women.

The launch of Her Majesty” is a fifteen-minute film, designed to chronicle and amplify the struggles, challenges, and contributions of the Nigerian rural woman.

She said, “It is no gainsaying, that, rural women are the key agent for development. They play a vital role towards the achievement of transformational economic, environmental, and social changes required for sustainable development in the system.

“They ensure food production and form a large proportion in the agricultural workforce. Yet, every day in Nigeria and around the world, rural women and girls face persistent threats that prevent them from fully enjoying their human rights and hamper efforts to improve their lives as well as others around them.

“The Nigeria rural women and girls over the years face consistent threats, ranging from domestic violence, sexual harassment, traditional harmful practices, fear of intimidation, limited access to credit facilities, malnutrition, lack of health care facilities and education among others.

“Empowering them is essential, not only for the well-being of individuals but also for overall family lives, economic growth, and development” Tallen added

“I call for support in the area of leadership and participation of rural women in shaping laws, policies, and programmes on all issues affecting their lives including improved food nutrition, security, and better rural livelihoods to equip them with the new technologies.

Tallen noted that “As you may be aware, the present administration under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is working seriously not only to eliminate all forms of discriminatory practices affecting women and girls but also to bridge the socio-economic gender gap between women and men.

She added that it is a reign of hope as Muhammadu Buhari has called on all MDAs to be gender-sensitive.

She said, “With the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to encourage and empower the vulnerable women at the grassroots, the Ministry in the last one year has been able to collaborate with relevant organizations to provide: “Relief assistance including food and hygiene materials (washable face masks, detergents, bathing soaps, sanitizers, etc.) to about 3,060 households/vulnerable women and girls worst affected by the knock-on effect of the COVID-19 Virus across the six geo-political zones of 16 states and FCT; Disability and those living With HIV/AIDs under the UN Basket fund in 20 LGAs in 10 states.

The Ministry also said,  implementing the second phase of the Presidential National Cooking Gas Project Cylinders distribution and Economic tree planting project in additional 15 states to reduce deforestation, drudgery, and health hazards among rural women is ongoing.

She assured all of the readiness of the Ministry of Women Affairs to continue to give necessary push and support to policies and programmes that will uplift the status of the rural women.

Tallen also called on all to support digital technology, improved and better amenities for our rural women with a view to reduce poverty and enhance their status.

She again called on individuals and organizations to be ambassadors and make a difference in the lives of rural women as the government cannot do it alone.

She commended the Chairperson, Better Life Program for the African Rural Women, Hajia Aisha Babangida for putting together this initiative aimed at promoting the welfare and rights of rural women in our society.

Hajia Aisha Babangida, the daughter of President Ibrahim Babangida, is the Chairperson of the Better Life Program for the African Rural Woman BLPARW, in keeping the hope and legacy of her late mother, Mrs. Maryam Babangida.

Hajia  Babangida, called for unity amongst humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, to harmonize operations to make the desired impacts on the lives of the underprivileged rural women

In her remarks, the Director-General, National Centre for women Development, Hon. Dr. Asabe Vilita Bashir lamented that the rate of increase in hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity is on the increase while the women are at the receiving end. 

According to her, “Climate change and insecurity, banditry,  farmer herdsmen clashes compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic have further worsened the situation of food security in Nigeria and rural women are the ones most affected by all these factors.

“It is difficult for them to go to their farms, which is their major source of livelihood; this has resulted in increased gender-based violence, increased disproportionate share of unpaid care work, opportunities, and poor income for rural women.

“On its part, the National Centre for Women Development continues to uphold the tenets of its initiator to advance the issues and concerns of Rural Women and ensure Food Security for Women; the Centre promotes the livelihood improvement and wellbeing of the rural woman through its Women Development Centres Activation Project at the 774 Local Government Areas of the Federation.

“The project is intended to ensure an alternative source of income for rural women, improvement of their livelihood, and also curb domestic violence at the grassroots.  

“Another project the Centre is promoting is the Backyard Farm with high yields from a small piece of land using improved technology for rural women to ensure food security and personal safety.

“It is on this note that I am calling on all stakeholders, international donor organizations, CSO, private individuals to join in amplifying commitments in adapting solutions and technologies that would enhance and promote the livelihood and wellbeing of rural women.

“I wish to once again commend Her Excellency Hajia Aisha Babangida, Chairperson, BetterLife Program for the African Rural Woman (BLPARW) for hosting this event.”

In her speech, the wife of former Military Administrator, Mrs. Ngozi Madaki who described Dr, Mrs. Babangida as a woman of missionary and foresight, recalled how she set up the better life for rural women in September 1987 when she was the first lady of the nation.

She said the idea then was to achieve Gender equity with a special focus on rural women, adding that,  “we the first ladies of the different states then supported her and were working to impact on the lives of the rural women. It was a laudable programme which she kept closet to her heart until death.

“Thank God the children have not let this idea die; I must thank my daughter Aisha Babangida for keeping this candle burning.

“In asking rural women to rise and claim Basic rights to sustainable development; of course we all know what basic rights are! The problem now is what is holding us back from attaining this or claiming right? Some will say the men, our society, our laws, our religion, Culture, No Economic power, and so on.

“But truth be told, we are the cause of our problems. We have held ourselves down on these primordial reasons for too long now more than ever is the time for rural women to step forward, out of their shells to regain their lost confidence and claim their rightful place in the area of sustainable development.

“Thank God we have women in government now, who can help us shape the laws as they affect women and lobby for change on those laws that are not favorable to women. The rural women today are accessing education and are more literate today than yesterday. Obnoxious cultures are going extinct and times changing”, she added.

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