Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Benue - Where Women Are Catalysts of Change

Makurdi — Gone are the days when the world is a man's reserve in all spheres of life. Today's women have taken the bull by the horns and are making progressive impact in every aspect of life, such that some of them are now bread winners in their homes.

In Benue state, the women are no longer relegated to the background, they have since risen to the challenges mitigating against their advancement , through formidable commitment to their various chosen careers, in order to secure a better tomorrow.

The women, who are now making a remarkable difference in Agriculture, Education, Politics and other spheres of endeavour, recently converged on the IBB square in Makurdi to celebrate themselves.

Under a united fold known as, "Celebrate the Benue Woman," they stoop to spur one another to success for the benefit of their socio-economic and political awakening, that would create a sense of belonging amongst them in the society.

From all nooks and crannies of the state, they had congregated at the state capital, Makurdi, in a colourful show and dressed in unique attires to bridge the perceived gap created by the age long tradition of sidelining the womenfolk in the scheme of things, so that they would no longer lag behind their counterparts in other states of the federation.

The convener and wife of the governor, Arc. Yemisi Dooshima Suswam reckoned that the day was specially set aside for women of the state, especially those who are usually forgotten in the remote rural environs, to gain a sense of belonging for their invaluable contributions to the agrarian state.

She explained that the rural female folk constitute over 60 percent of the entire farming populace, which produces the variety of food and cash crops that have earned the state a prestigious title as the Food Basket of the Nation, yet little or nothing at all was being done to encourage such productivity until the coming of the present administration to office.

"At the inception of Suswam's administration in 2007, it was realized that the Benue woman is resourceful, hardworking, hospitable and politically inclined, but culturally disadvantaged. It was obvious then, that if nothing drastic is done to encourage their creativity, they would lag behind their counterparts from other states in the national scheme of things," she said.

Therefore, the need to nurture an idea that would forge a platform for the women to express themselves ,was conceived and finally berthed six years ago , basically for the mobilization and empowerment of Benue women, through the celebration of their creativity and achievements.

To this end, Mrs. Suswam called on the women from all areas of the state ,irrespective of their level of education and sophistication, to embrace change in all of its forms, by expressing themselves through various means captured in the basic tenets of the initiative.

She added that this year's event was meant to chart a new course such that effective interaction between Benue women at home and in diaspora would be encouraged, rural women would be provided opportunity to expose their farm produce to the world, and identification of women for appointment whenever the need arises are promoted among other objectives.

Moreover, she encouraged the women to embrace cooking, and the youth to embrace agriculture as a way of life, especially for the fact that a food festival was embedded as part of the celebration with different categories of prizes attached to winners of the cooking competition.

The opportunity, according to the First lady was also created to showcase the rich agricultural produce of the people, and to promote their several tasty local delicacies to the world, just as she stressed that, "without farms, there would be no food".

Some of them who took their turns to express appreciation of the women, included the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, his counterpart of the Interior Ministry Comrade Abba Moro and the minister of Trade and Investment Ministry, Dr. Samuel Ortom.

Others are the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mike Omeri, his counterpart at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, who all indeed eulogized the Benue woman for her uniqueness.

Addressing the large turnout of women from the 23local government areas of the state, Governor Gabriel Suswam admitted that the women of the state, had over the years advanced themselves to become a veritable tool to enhance development and political harmony.

He commended some of the women who have taken the bull by the horn, having distinguished themselves in the political terrain as local government chairmen, political appointees, permanent secretaries, directors and so on.

Suwam further enjoined them to make good use of the programme as a mega advocate to promote the girl-child education and the course of equal gender development.

The climax of the epoch making event was the food cooking competition by the contestants, drawn from the three senatorial zones of the state including the governor's wife who also prepared a meal and a local delicacy in her executive kitchen to the delight of her husband, Gabriel Suswam and his deputy, Steven Lawani.

At the end, a local food vendor, Martina Aseen clinched the star prize having emerged the overall winner. She went home with a KIA Picanto car and a cash gift of N500,000.

The second position went to Onyinye Okoye who carted away a motorcycle and N300,000, while Sylvia Avafa won a deep freezer and N200,000 for emerging the third position, just as the other contestants had consolation prizes for participating in the competition.

Responding, the winner, Aseen expressed gratitude to the First lady for giving her the opportunity to participate in the event that has totally changed her life.

Similarly, in the aspect of agricultural and food items displayed by various local councils, Vandeikya local government took the first position to be closely followed by Ukum, while Tarka local government emerged third. They were rewarded with over N1million cash prizes respectively, while the other 19 local councils got consolation prizes.

Commenting on the success of the occasion, representative of Uniliver Nigeria Plc who partnered with the office of the First lady to ensure the reality of the programme remarked that the event was worthwhile.

Marketing Director of the company, David Okeme who spoke for the Country Consumer Activation Manager, Mr. Femi Atoyebi, expressed satisfaction that the celebration has impacted positively on the lives of the less privileged citizens of the state

As a mark of appreciation, the company presented an award of excellence to the governor's wife, in recognition of her contribution and service to humanity particularly women, children and youths.

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