An Address by Her Excellency, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu at the Ondo State 2019 International Women’s Day Lecture on the 6th of March, 2019.

Today we dedicate all we have to our common struggle, we expend all available resources to air our common voice. Today we speak in unison, we march in one accord. Today we mark the International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to advancing gender equality all over the world. Every year today, we reestablish our unrelenting and dogged commitment to ensuring that every woman’s right is protected, every woman’s potentials are harnessed and every woman’s independence is assured. Since the inception of the International Women’s day in 1975, the world has made appreciable progress in closing the gender parity gap, unfortunately, gender based inequality remains a challenge in many parts of the African continent. This year’s International Women’s Day, themed balance for better, tells us that the world becomes a better place when there is gender balance across the socio-economic spectrum.

We know that gender inequality in virtually all spheres of life still persists. The gender parity gap is even worse in developing countries where cultural norms and traditions evidently spell out well constructed gender biased system. For many years of promoting gender equality, not much gain has been made so far.
Although gender equality is a great catalyst for sustainable development, women continue to live as second class citizens in a male dominated Nigeria. Little wonder the country has not made substantial progress in national development. To change this undesirable narrative, conscientious effort must be made towards empowering women. The empowerment of our women cannot be left to chance. As Ester Duflor (a gender issues expert) puts it “achieving gender equality throughout the socio-economic spectrum will not automatically follow development, there is a need to carryout deliberate actions targeted at improving women’s decision making power at both the household and societal level.”
In the wake of the gender parity realities in Ondo state and its daunting effect on family health and wellbeing, the forum of wives of Ondo state officials and female political appointees typically known as FOWOSO, has been working tirelessly to improve the socio-economic status of women in Ondo state. Thousands of women across the 18 LGAs of the state have been empowered with skill acquisition, empowerment items and health information. These women are now leading better lives.
Young girls are not left out as we strive to bridge gender gap in science and technology. The BEMORE Summer boot camp, an initiative of the First Lady of Ondo state, has successfully trained over 700 girls to become proficient in ICT and solar technology. In addition, the partnership between the Office of the First Lady of Ondo state, Ministry of Women Affairs and FOWOSO has led to the launching of the Solayo initiative. Today, through the SOLAYO initiative, we demonstrate our commitment to promoting safe motherhood in Ondo state by distributing birth kits to all needy pregnant women across the 18 LGAs of Ondo state.
The uniqueness of this year’s international women’s day in Ondo state is not just the launching of SOLAYO, it is also the fact that wives of the local government chairmen will serve as hosts at their various local government areas thereby promoting participation and raising awareness of international women’s day as an annual event among women at the grassroots.
Although FOWOSO has been the major group galvanizing actions for the elevation of status of women in Ondo state, it should be clear to all that the quest for gender equality is not the responsibility of women alone. All individuals and institutions must work unanimously to create a gender balanced society. We must all take our stand against traditions and norms that discriminate against women. We must all draw our swords against all forms of abuse against women. We must never relent on our pursuit for a gender balanced society.
Thank you. God bless the women of Ondo state.