Recently, the Ogun State Government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, empowered a total number of 3,850 women from across the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
The beneficiaries received a sum of N100 million micro-credit during an empowerment scheme which the administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the state flagged off in collaboration with a commercial bank, Ecobank Plc.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Elizabeth Sonubi, who declared the event open, disclosed that the empowerment programme was an integral component of the mission to rebuild the State.
Sonubi said that the empowerment initiative of the present leadership in the state was targeted at women across the state, particularly those in the rural areas to help improve their lives and ultimately reduce poverty to its barest minimum.
She addressed the beneficiaries as well as well-wishers who came to identify with them, and urged the beneficiaries to make judicious use of the funds in order to reciprocate the kind gesture of government, which has pegged the interest rate to 7 per cent to facilitate easy repayment.
Sonubi told the beneficiaries that her ministry was involving 12 Non-Governmental Organisations across the state as its implement partners to disburse finally to the beneficiaries at 9 per cent rate.
The representative of Ecobank Nig. Plc, Mr. Muyiwa Adesanya, who spoke shortly before disbursing the funds, assured that the bank would do the needful to ensure that funds were properly disbursed to respective beneficiaries.
Aside empowering the women in the 20 LGAs, Sonubi said her ministry has resolved to also ensure that orphans, abandoned and vulnerable children are adequately taken care of.
She disclosed that officials of the ministry had visited registered children home and orphanages, engaged in empowerment programmes, capacity building programmes on effective business management, protocol, security and leadership amongst others.
According to Sonubi, the ministry, among its continuous programmes, was the recent vocational training programme on barbing and sewing for wards at the Abeokuta Juvenile Remand Home, Asero, to empower them with a trade in order to be made self-reliant immediately after their stay at the correctional centre.
She added that the Department of Women Empowerment Services of the ministry, since inception of the present government in the state, has been concentrating on issues affecting the generality of women in the state.
“The department witnessed great strides, among which was the successful inauguration of the Women Advancement Forum (WAFO), a non-partisan mix of women drawn from various interest and other civil groups comprising 300 members from the 20 local government areas of the state”, she said.
Sonubi said the ministry was on regular health awareness campaign for women across the state, disclosing that it organised a Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness campaign for women across the state to acquaint and educate them on the possible negative heath implications of the dreaded slow-killer disease.
She recalled that the ministry few months back paid visits to homes located in Egba and Ijebu zones for similar purpose, saying the state government’s commitment was to ensure that the welfare of all children in the state remained unwavering.
She added that it was in connection with the position that the routine visit was made to the privately-managed children home to become familiar with their modes of operations and challenges; to explore areas which the ministry could render assistance to enhance their operations.
She said other homes visited include St. Monica’s Children Home in Iju, Ijamido Children’s Home, Divine Help Home and the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Hope Children’s Home; all in the Ota axis of the state.
The Commissioner, however, said the Ogun State Ministry of Woman Affairs and Social Development which was formerly known as ‘Women Affairs and Social Welfare’ had provided social support services to all category of its citizens and foreigners alike across the state.
Speaking further, she said upon assumption of office as the fifth executive governor of Ogun state, Amosun appointed her for being a development expert and a gender activist to professionally manage the affairs of the ministry as it relates to issues bothering on the various categories of children, vulnerable, less privileged and most importantly women, referred to as homemakers in the society.
On the first step taken, Sonubi said she commenced the repositioning the ministry as part of its mission to rebuild the state, which was the name–change from ‘Social Welfare’ to ‘Social Development’ that was broader than the former, to encompass the overall transformation of every citizen and residents across the state.
According to her “immediately that was done, the various departments of the ministry, five in all, were restructured, resulting in the creation of two additional core-competence department to complement the existing ones previously on ground.”
The motive of the restructuring according to the commissioner was to have a full- fledged department of Child Development and Rehabilitation to solely cater for every category of persons across the state devoid of bias, race, gender and religion.
She added that “all together, the ministry has a total of seven departments, out of which four are specialised departments; including child development, social welfare, women empowerment services and rehabilitation, while others are the conventional departments; administration and supplies, finance and account, and planning, research and statistics.
“The present leadership accords high regard to issues affecting the generality of children across the state, and as so, the administration had been favourably disposed to showing unreserved care, love and attention to their immediate need at all times”, she added.
However, in recognition of the fact that children are indeed the future leaders of tomorrow irrespective of their socio-economic status and that their voices needed to be aired and heard at all times, the state government through the newly-created department, ‘child development’, she said the ministry has inaugurated 40 Child parliamentarians as the 3rd Set of Ogun State Children’s Parliament.
"These set of Child lawmakers were carefully screened and picked through a proper selection process at their various local government levels, out of which two emerged from the process. And since then, they have aired their voices on issues affecting them and the state in general, out of which was the Vote of Confidence passed on the Governor and a resolution prohibiting school-age children from roaming the streets endlessly during academic hours", she said.
She continued: "Also, there is collaboration with the United Nations Population Agency (UNFPA) that has held series of capacity building workshops for journalists on gender based violence response and ways of reporting its occurrence. It recently inaugurated gender desk offices in all MDAs to focus and balance gender issues in their respective quarters."
They also provided technical supports for the House Committee members on Women Affairs and the Principal Officers of the Seventh legislature on the passage of the Equal Opportunity and Gender Based Violence bills of Ogun State. The purpose of the various training was to enhance and increase their capacity and be aware of social issues as it affects the generality of the people."
She disclosed that "the department via the ministry had begun the process of Re-representation of the Child Right’s bill to the seventh legislature for consideration and subsequent passage into law, while laws on other social issues pending will be reviewed for its quick passage.
The department has successfully handled a total of 350 child abuse cases, while it recently established a child protection committee. It also established a task force on implementation of the resolutions passed by the children parliamentarians in the state."
She however, said "the department of social welfare of the ministry has not relented in its discharge of statutory duties as it relates to issues affecting the vulnerable, abandoned children, matrimonial reconciliation and reuniting of every category of displaced persons with their families across the state.
A total of 403 matrimonial disputes have been handled by the ministry, out of which 173 marital cases were reconciled, 106 fathers paid its monthly due on their wards. While 71 cases were struck out and 53 cases are still pending."
She said sometimes in November last year, the state government through the ministry organized the 2011 International Day of Older persons, the first of its kind by any civilian government since the creation of the state thirty-five years back.
The gesture, according to her, was to celebrate the aged, the aging and senior citizens across the state remains indelible in their hearts, as it was a day set aside to recognize them for their various roles in the past and present day.
She added that the day was also aimed to sensitise the older persons on the social development initiatives of the present government in the state while the beneficiaries was 500 older persons from the twenty local councils of the state were seen at the event.
The Commissioner disclosed that the Ministry had also recorded giant strides via the new department of Rehabilitation, saying the department deals with issues affecting those referred to as disabled, destitute, vagrant lunatics and others.
According to her, “under the Ogun State Rapid Employment Programme, 107 application forms were issued to Persons with Disabilities (PWD), out of which 43 applicants had already being employed, while efforts are underway to employ the others into the state civil service as promised by the Governor.”
Also, 57 Vagrant lunatics/destitute were rescued from the streets. Out of which 15 had successfully being re-integrated back with their families. A total of 30 were also repatriated back to their respective states of origin, while 12 are currently receiving treatment under the care of the Neuropsychiatry Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta."
She continued: "The department is also continuing its raiding exercise of destitute, vagrant lunatics and beggars. Notable among the achievements of the ministry through the department was the successful hosting of the 2012 International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The Observance of the White Cane Safety Day also took place, where 25 white safety canes were distributed free to beneficiaries that included visually-impaired students of primary to tertiary levels. Also, a sum of N400,000 was disbursed as empowerment inputs to ex-trainees of the Federal Farm Craft Centre for the Blind from Lagos."
She however said that the three conventional departments in the ministry also complemented the efforts of other departments as it affects the welfare of staffers, for optimum productivity to be able to discharge its statutory responsibilities more effectively.