By Dr. Joel Ademisoye
Having read the “FOWOSO: A new approach to women empowerment, ” report and in addition to my personal attendance at the organization’s many economic empowerment events for women and girl-child programs in the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State, I am a living witness to many of the stated contributions to, accomplishments and a successful testimonies directed at improving the quality of life for the most disadvantaged, under-appreciated and marginalized gender- women in the history of our state. The positive impacts of FOWOSO’s economic empowerment efforts, skills acquisition and literacy education for women and girl-child as recounted in the report on the FOWOSO’s just concluded Second Anniversary in the International Cultural Center at the Dome in Akure, are compelling and overwhelming to ignore, considering the robust scope, visibility and meaningful effects of their programs on societal progress so far. Let me seize the opportunity to congratulate the founder and leader of FOWOSO, Arabirin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu and kudos to the members of this unique organization, for their dedication, commitment and support to the successful story of the past two years in Ondo State. The truth is, that the new state and status of women and girl-child as recorded, is unprecedented and historical in our state.
Yes, indeed, FOWOSO is the new ‘Sheriff’ in Ondo State with its ideology, approach and programs in efforts to address, treat and solve the perennial challenges facing women using a holistic or comprehensive approach to shine lights on the historical problem of treating women from an inferior perspective in the Nigerian society. Of interest in this new approach, is FOWOSO’s inclusion approach involving the focus on the family and girl-child as an important parameters in the conceptualization, defining and understanding of what constitutes a woman’s challenges in Nigeria. For instance, I think FOWOSO pulled the ‘bull by the horn’ in debunking the cultural myths on the acceptance, menace and nuisance of rape of young girls in Ondo State thru it’s organized awareness lecture for secondary schools’ girls from different parts of the state and the well attended public protests against rape in Akure and in the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state. As the crawlers competition showed that a married man with his wife constitutes a family. Hence, the man-woman relationship fosters a building block for a strong family in Nigeria. Any relationship outside this acceptable cultural and social norms is destructive to a stable and rewarding family condition in the country.
In addition to FOWOSO’s economic empowerment efforts, its activism and educating strategy in promoting the women’s interests and rights in Nigerian politics and as an enabler of women seeking and holding political offices in Ondo State. I found this political reorientation of women to be a new frontier for a gender gap, who is perpetually shutout of the country’s political system, their denial of active participation and the freedom to exercise their constitutional given rights to seek political offices like men in Nigeria. FOWOSO as a ‘change agent’ in the past two years, it has been busy mobilizing, organizing and fielding women candidates for political offices in the state. Imagine in Nigeria where female constitutes 49.34% (Source: World Bank, 2016 population figures) of the country’s population, a seizable figure to pay attention to in terms of male to female ratio in the country. But, this seizable figure is not reflected in the country’s political sphere, for example, out of the 36 state governors, there is no woman executive governor at all. All the state government houses are occupied by men, meaning that women are shut out of governance at the state level. A similar picture is painted at the national level of the country’s political structure. Thus at the federal level of governance and in the National Assembly, involving the positions of the president of the country, president of the Nigeria Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Abuja are held by men. Note: The most powerful political positions in Nigeria are held by men, who make policy decisions and shape the government policy outcomes for the citizens. This is a political paradox facing the Nigerian women, who hold about half of the country’s population, but yet didn’t hold any important position of political leadership nor play a significant role in Policy making in Abuja. Against this backdrop, women are known to be outside and in the peripheral of the political loop of government and national decision making process in Abuja. In the past 2 years, FOWOSO has devoted its attention, publicity and concerted efforts thru a political education for women in order to create a sensitization and a ‘level playing field’ between men and women in the country’s political arena.
In the two years of FOWOSO’s existence, it is a truism that the organization has taken bold steps, constructive actions and implemented many viable and beneficial empowerment programs to change the women’s irrelevant and pathetic status in the country’s scheme of things.
FOWOSO’s arrival and its short time of existence in Ondo State, it has became a social institution, which made a paradigm shift in the public perception, philosophy of and government’s treatment of women in the Sunshine State. Today, it is a new dawn for women and girl-child in many areas of societal life as characterized by progressive ideals, values, social and economic mobility in a society, where the men are fully in control and dominant in every aspects of the Nigerian society. FOWOSO has been instrumental and effective in tearing down the gender or sex barriers, which are limiting the progression of and constraining the opportunities that are available to women and young girls in the state. In a nutshell, FOWOSO through its goals, public statements and programs, is dedicated and committed to reducing gender inequality and enhancing social justice, which are currently skewed in favor of the Nigerian men.