The Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials, COWLSO has, indeed, come of age. Founded by the Late Mrs. Olufunmilayo Johnson, wife of the first Military Administrator of Lagos State, Late General Mobolaji Johnson (rtd.), COWLSO has continued to grow in leaps and bounds, breaking new frontiers and achieving greater feats.
Presently, under the leadership of Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, COWSLO has continued to soar to greater heights, as it has become a huge platform for the promotion of the cause of women in the country.
One major platform through which COWLSO significantly touches the lives of women in the society is her annual National Women Conference. The Conference, which has become a reference point in women advocacy in Nigeria and, indeed, the African continent, is undoubtedly a hugely inspiring forum for women development.
While also having its own distinct uniqueness, this year’s Conference simply continued in the excellent tradition of previous ones. It had in attendance 3,000 participants from across the country and beyond.
Coming under the theme: “Unlearn, Learn and Relearn: 21st Century Women’s T.H.E.M.E.S Perspectives/Approach”, the 2019 COWLSO National Women Conference was specifically designed to empower women with skills to key into emerging opportunities being provided by the Lagos State government under the inspirational leadership of Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
Aside the main theme, other sub-themes include: “The 21st Century Woman – Build Not Born To Influence The Society; Entertainment And Tourism: Prism Of Possibilities – Tourism and Entertainment; The Total Woman; Entrepreneurship: Making Money And More Money – Agric Entrepreneurship, Financing and General Trading; Mould A Child And Build A Greater Generation; Healthy Woman – A Healthier Nation: Maternal & Child Mortality; Development And A Healthy City – Creating A Balance; Waste To Wealth; and Obey Traffic Laws,” among others.
Eminent Nigerians and outstanding professionals facilitated at the Conference to help women come to terms with how best they can key into the emerging opportunities being provided by the government of the day in Lagos State. As part of efforts to give more women the opportunity to participate from any part of the world, the Conference was live-streamed on various media platforms.
Kudos must be given to the COWLSO leadership as well as organizers of the grand event for bringing women related issues in the country to national consciousness. This is quite commendable, especially considering the fact that women are most suited to influence and give direction to the society.
It is particularly gratifying to note that COWLSO is actually taking a cue from current efforts being made by the Lagos State government to promote the interest of women across the state. Currently, the Sanwo-Olu administration is redefining gender balance in the state with the appointment of 13 women into key decision-making positions in the cabinet.
Empowering women with the right skills and giving them opportunity to be part of the decision making process in the state is certainly a way of setting the state on the course of sustainable growth and development.
It is, however, crucial that women must tactically position themselves to take full benefits of the various women friendly programmes of the state government. In line with the theme of this year’s Conference, to unlearn means doing away with habits that are outdated and as well jettison practices that are against public good and public safety.
In this contemporary era, women must also embrace new ideas and new innovations to be relevant. Women must learn to think outside the box and even go a step further to think without the box, in order to effectively fit into the modern society. An empowered and educated woman would raise empowered children.
The 21st century woman needs to pay good attention to their children because children who do not enjoy parental care easily grow to become a threat to the society. The rising trend of leaving the girl-child entirely in the care of housemaids, neighbours or strangers in pursuit of income or for flimsy reasons, should be discouraged. We owe it a duty to give good parenting to our children and indeed all other children put in our care. We must give them hope and allow them see the positive side of life.
The theme of this year’s COWLSO conference has offered a template for strategic thinking towards changing negative narratives against women in our country. A 21st century woman must learn and re-learn. To hold a woman back is to hold a society back. Democratic values don’t support the relegation of women and this is the real message upon which this year’s Conference was strategically anchored.
On the whole, the Conference was a befitting celebration of the perseverance, deftness and resourcefulness of women and their outstanding contributions towards nation building. At the end of the Conference, women were charged to step up their entrepreneurial skills and not be afraid of contributing meaningfully to nation building.
They were also urged to take full advantage of the paradigm shift from Nigeria’s dependence on oil and explore the many opportunities available in the fast growing agricultural industry. The Conference also tasked women to embrace entrepreneurial disposition because of their prudence and passion in order to be agents of wealth creation in the country.
The closing remark of the First Lady of Lagos State at the event is particularly instructive. While drawing the curtain on the hugely successive event, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu said it was important for Nigerian women to understand that they are in a unique situation at this point in time, and must see the current reality in the country not as a hopeless situation but an opportunity for entrepreneurial ambition to make a positive impact in a challenging situation.
She said: “I urge all participants to make the best use of all they learnt at the conference for their personal benefits. You should also please endeavour to pass on the knowledge acquired.”
Life without women would be full of crises and as such it is important for women to be given opportunities to contribute meaningfully to nation building.
It is time for us as a people to speak up against all kinds of inhuman treatment of women. Therefore, the family units, faith based organisations, NGOs, the civil society, the media, traditional institutions and community leaders must rise up to spearhead women friendly crusades.
We need to devote more time to enlightenment and awareness advocacy, especially at the grassroots on crucial women related issues such as Female Genital Mutilation, sexual abuse, marginalization among others. We must stand together against evil practices that threaten womanhood in our society.
Ogunmola is Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.