Friday, 5 July 2013

Galvanizing and Positioning Women for Leadership in the Society: A Perspective of a First Lady: Being a Presentation by Her Excellency, Mrs. Obioma Liyel-Imoke, Wife of Governor, Cross River State. 2012 MMS Plus Women of Fortune Hall of Fame at Lagos

 cannot but start this presentation by expressing my profound gratitude to the organizers of this event for the honor of choosing me to be the special Guest of Honor at today`s event.
I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to share my perspective of how Women can be galvanized and positioned for leadership. I count it a huge privilege to speak to such a distinguished audience especially coming on the heels of my christening the biggest container vessel to berth in West Africa, Maersk Calabar. This, to me, is one of the rarest honors I have received in recent time. I want to thank the leaders and stakeholders of the maritime sub-sector of the economy for this honor.
The maritime industry plays the most critical and crucial role in the life of any country including Nigeria. Water, we all know, is life. Everything, in fact, our very existence is predicated on water, so are nations and countries. So, it goes without saying that those of you in this sector are the live wire of the economy and you should be so treated. You need to be accorded respect. One this note, I think, you should give your selves a standing ovation.

Her Excellency Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke

The topic I am speaking on is germane for the reason that more than any time in the history of this country, women need to rise up to the challenge of leadership. Without prejudice, I can say, Nigeria currently parades some of the best leaders in the world who belong to the female gender. Let us not go far. Our very own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is today one of the most respected global leaders. Oby Ezekwesili, another of Nigeria`s daughters has also made Nigeria proud with her demonstrable leadership skills which she exhibited as the immediate past Managing Director (Africa) of the World Bank. Prof. Dora Akunyili shook the world with her courage and sense of wit in all the national assignments she has handled.
These are just some of the names of great women that readily come to mind when issues of leadership regarding women is discussed.

Women who aspire to leadership positions face challenges that include competing family demands, inadequate resources, lack of security and lack of positive media coverage. Women also have their vision of leadership colored from experiences they go through as young girls, growing up in a society characterized by gender inequalities.
International agreement and conventions have persistently stressed importance of women`s equal participation in leadership. The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, for example, emphasized that “women`s equal participation in decision making is not only a demand for justice or democracy, but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women`s interests to be taken in to account. Without the perspective of women at all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved”.
That women being a different perspective in leadership is not in dispute, as clearly indicated by studies done in other parts of the world. The question is how can women be galvanized and positioned for leadership in the society? In answering this question, I would, as requested share my perspective as Wife of Governor. I have the privilege of marrying a husband who is naturally endowed with leadership abilities. Over time, I have learnt quite a bit from him. So when he was elected Governor, my whole attention was on how I can contribute to making him achieve his plans and purpose for the state. To do this I initiated in NGO which I call Partnership Opportunities for Women Empowerment Realization, POWER, to provide leadership towards harnessing the strength and potentials of women.
In the simplest terms, POWER is about value addition. We use this vehicle to improve the lives of the women of Cross River State. Economically, we are putting more money in the hands of woman by strengthening their businesses, providing access to finance, shearing information and knowledge, facilitating mentorship for the women.
In five years that POWER has been running, women`s lives have been positively affected. Scores of women across the state have their businesses enhance through the micro credit facility POWER is facilitating. The success story of the micro credit scheme resonated across the country and earned us awards and recognitions including that from the Central Bank of Nigeria as Best First Lady in Micro-credit and Agriculture.
POWER strongly advocates that women should work in partnership to help one another tackle the problems that darken their lives – poverty, neglect, domestic violence, illiteracy, discrimination, inequality, malnutrition, disease. I have psyched up the women not only to believe in their abilities but work to change their world.
The other ways women can be galvanized and positioned for leadership include:
·         Organizing mentoring programmes
·         There is also need for better understanding by females on how to engage with the media and get acquainted with issues of local, national and international concern.
·         The society must embrace policies of inclusion, where gender forms a central part of this inclusion.
·         Civic education needs to orientate people on gender equity principles, and should start at an early age during which boys and girls receive massages that encourage them to aspire for leadership.

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