By Magnus Emuji
Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to boost women and girl-child empowerment and education in the state.
Senator Okowa stated this in Asaba today during an advocacy and inception meeting of the Japan-UNESCO project on empowerment of women and girls in marginalised communities for better well-being through education and advocacy.
The goverenor, represented by the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr Patrick Ukah, said that empowerment and education of the girl child was deserving special policy attention in view of the male dominated social construct that could marginalise the girl child.
Okowa said that the meeting would afford the state the opportunity to do a proper self examination and track the progress using advocacy and education to advance the economic and social status of traditional underprivileged girls in the state.
He noted that 26 years after the Beijing Declaration, the girl-child was still grappling with issues of gender discrimination, crushing poverty, early/forced marriage, identity crisis, social and parental pressure as well as low self-esteem.
Senator Okowa said that Delta State recognised the importance of women and girls in bringing about societal transformation hence their empowerment through advocacy and education was top on his administration’s priority list.
The governor said that in line with the state government’s commitment to the education and empowerment of the girl-child, the state had created the Girl-Child Empowerment Office with the mandate to train and empower young ladies between the ages of 18 and 30.
Earlier in his remarks, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Paul Osahor, lauded UNESCO for its efforts at tackling gender-based violence as well as support in curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The information commissioner stated that the Japan-UNESCO project would go a long way in alleviating the problems associated with the effect of COVID-19 pandemic that had ravaged the world.
He particularly that the pandemic had resulted in the closure of school, which according to him, affected 39,840,016 learners who were unable to access education.
Also in his remarks, the Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr Patrick Ukah, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Sir Austine Oghoro, identified women and girl-child as the most vulnerable group in the society during crisis situations occasioned by war, insurgency and pandemic.
Mr Ukah described the Japan-UNESCO project as a laudable initiative that should be emulated by other non-governmental organisations so as to make life easier for women and girl-child and for better well-being.
He noted that in recognition of the importance of women and the girl-child, the Okowa led administration made concerted efforts to empower women and the girl-child to make them self sufficient through various women empowerment programmes
The commissioner listed the schemes to include the Women Empowerment and Skill Acquisition programme (WESAP) and the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (GEST), among others.
He explained that since 2014 to date, annual enrolment figures of the girl-child in primary school stood at an average of 150,000 while that of secondary schools was 140,000.
Present at the meeting were the State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Mrs Flora Alanta who gave the welcome address, the representative of the Director of Japan-UNESCO, Abuja Regional Office, Lamite Sow.
Also present was the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Mrs. Oghenekevwe Agas, among other dignitaries.