The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, called on all levels of government, the private sector, civil society, traditional and religious leaders as well as residents of the State to relentlessly continue to clamour for gender equality and gender access.
He made the call during the ‘Y2021 WAPA Connects with Women’ conference, organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, with the theme, “Women in the Evolving World, Challenges And Opportunities”, held at the Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Represented by the Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Sanwo-Olu said it is a collective responsibility to ensure that women are not held back in any way, be it socially, culturally and professionally.
He said, “It is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that women are not disadvantaged or held back in any way. We still have a long way to go in fighting for gender equality and gender access, but we must know that every process, no matter how small, must be appreciated and we must not relent in our push”.
According to him, there is a direct link between closing the gender gap and developing the economy, noting that if Nigeria successfully closes its gender inequality gap, including access to education, financial services, healthcare, employment opportunities and leadership positions, among others, it will contribute to economic growth of the country.
“All hands must be on deck to support and empower women; collaboration is also very important to us as a government, because it will enable us to target as many people as possible. We all know that any society that doesn’t take women in society seriously is not ready to develop, because women constitute half of the population of Nigeria”, Sanwo-Olu said.
He stated that the Lagos State Government is committed to making opportunities available for girls and women to thrive, stressing that it is important to move against gender violence and sexual abuse.
His words: “Our domestic and sexual violence response teams are doing a great job, we have been tough on sexual abuse perpetrators and it is important that those of us in the society always report this act because the biggest challenge will be for people to see it and do nothing. Men and women must not encourage it. If you see something bad, say something quick”.
The Governor noted that women are well represented in his government with 26 of them among the 57 Permanent Secretaries.
He urged women and girls to key into the various programmes made available by the State government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, across its several skill acquisition and vocational training centres, stressing that the programmes are designed to empower and support women, particularly the vulnerable.
Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, represented by the wife of the Senator representing Lagos East, Mrs. Feyisola Abiru, said the conference was convened to bring women in all strides of life together to address challenges that influence their psychosocial perspectives with a view to embracing the new societal values to foster economic growth.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Mrs. Cecelia Bolaji Dada, said the conference was specially convened for distinguished women from various professions to meet with the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, stating that Lagos State has achieved high female participation in key leadership positions in both the private and public sector towards building a Greater Lagos.
She explained that with the outbreak of COVID -19 pandemic in 2020, the theme for the conference is apt, considering the roles that women play in the socio-economic development of the society.
Dada noted that the ratio of female participation and representation in Nigerian politics is still low, noting that the meagre size is characterised by male chauvinism and patronage-based political culture combined with gender economic and household inequalities, which are the main barriers against women participation in governance.
She emphasised that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation has over time stood up to defend the cause of women in Lagos State by coming up with different programmes, policies and innovations.
The Guest Speaker and Chairman, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Mrs. Bola Adesola, while noting that women face several challenges across business, profession, entrepreneurship, politics and in public service, called for identifying and maximising the opportunities therein.
She emphasised the need to close the gender gaps by creating an environment that allows every woman to have equal opportunity for growth and development.