By Femi Salako

Potash can easily be distinguished amongst stones, just the same way that the first lady of Ondo State is clearly standing very tall amongst her fellow first ladies in Nigeria. Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu
is not only defined by her position as the first lady of Ondo State; she also a virtuous woman of many parts.

Mama FOWOSO, as Arabinrin is popularly known has done a whole lot in her capacity to impact lives of women and girl child in some states. She has succeeded in changing the archaic and uninformed misconceptions about breast and cervical cancers through her BRECAN foundation platform.

The cancer battler and survivor has also created cancer awareness amongst her fellow first ladies through the First Ladies Against Cancer ( FLAC). Mrs Akeredolu has thus far put machineries in motion for a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer amongst Nigerian women and ladies. She has undoubtedly made her mark in the fight against breast and cervical cancer in Nigeria.

Her Excellency is blessed with the rarely combined qualities of resilience and grit. She also undying faith in her enlightenment message of early detection and management of breast and cervical cancers. Also, Mrs Akeredolu has over the years developed a project in a strategic manner to address various challenges facing the family system within Ondo State. She has also deployed her time and resources for adequate empowerment of the girl child within and outside of Ondo State.

The BRECAN founder has done a whole lot thus far to inspire and motivate Nigerian women on the need to take their health seriously and to equally ensure early detection of the disease. The modus operandi of BRECAN is to encourage government not to turn blind eye to the fight against cancer. The NGO also focuses on early diagnosis of the disease and also encourage government to improve on its policies; so as to curtail the health toll of cancer on women.

Of a fact, Arabinrin Betty Akeredolu truly deserves credit for the awareness and reassuring information she has so far created on breast and cervical cancer. Her words of hope has always been that if she could survive breast cancer, then any other woman can as well survive. She has also been working tirelessly to expand the operational scope of BRECAN since it was formed in 1997. Thus far, the mother chapter of BRECAN in Oyo State has given birth to eight other chapters.

Instructively, Her Excellency has cautiously worked out independent funding plans for BRECAN so as to ensure its sustainability. The Non Governmental Organization has since been deploying independent means of sourcing funds for its activities. Moreso, crowd funding has been one of the most viable instruments of sourcing funds for BRECAN. It is also important to state that all the funds so far sourced have been prudently deployed for the treatment of women with breast cancer in the affected states.

Mama FOWOSO has over time taken her awareness creation to a level where lots of woman are already know by now that cervical cancer is actually preventable and curableif detected early. She has also raised her awareness to a level of assuring women that the world truly has all it take to make cancer preventable and curable. She has equally been championing the campaign of making the relevant information known to Nigerian women.

As expected, efforts of Arabinrin Akeredolu in BRECAN have not gone unnoticed in Nigeria and in the international sphere. She has thus far received lots of accolades for her breast cancer awareness campaign, which has saved many Nigerian woman from untimely death.

In spite of her current level of success in the fight against cancer, Mrs Akeredolu still nurtures an audacious global target of 2030.
According to the targets, all countries are expected to have achieved 90% HPV vaccination coverage and 70% screening coverage as well as 90% access to treatment of cervical pre- cancer and cancer, including access to palliative care by year 2030.

Impressively, Her Excellency has also taken it upon herself the responsibility of forming the Foundation of Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female Appointees (FOWOSO). Digital mummy, as Mrs Akeredolu is also known, had thoughtfully came up with the idea of FOWOSO to reach out to women in the state through different socio-economic empowerment programmes. She had floated the FOWOSO initiative on December 7, 2017.

The forum also serves as a platform for women empowerment in Ondo State with a focus on skill acquisition for women across the 18 Local Government Areas of the Sunshine State. It is on record that FOWOSO has been able to reach out to over 18,000 women in the Local Government Areas of Ondo State since its inception.

It is also important to note that FOWOSO, under the leadership of
Arabinrin Betty Akeredolu has been offering benefits that could make long lasting impacts on members. The initiative is clearly beyond giving immediate financial gain, but is primarily focused on skills and knowledge acquisition. FOWOSO has indeed provided platform through which many women have learnt Bead Making, Fashion designing, Event Management, Shoemaking, tying of gele, Catering craft amongst other numerous skills acquisition programmes.

Another area through which the Ondo State first lady has also impacted lives is her BEMORE Foundation. She mooted the project’s idea to bridge the technological advancement gap between the girls and their male counterpart in Nigeria.

BEMORE is also an advocacy platform by Mrs Betty Akeredolu that is being effectively deployed to ensure the liberation and emancipation of the girl child. The platform has underscored the importance and relevance of girl child in the society. This avenue has also been used by Her Excellency to make the girl chill realize that they are not in any less human compared to their male counterparts.

The BEMORE initiative has so far trained and fully equipped more than 1000 girls in different skills acquisition ventures. The two weeks Annual Summer Boot Camp of Arabinrin Akeredolu has provided the right incentives for the girl child to excel in whatever venture since the projected came to light in 2017. The programme has thus far drawn participants mainly from Ondo, Ekiti and Imo States since it was launched.

The age bracket of BEMORE participants is 10-15 and they have in the last few years been exposed to different comprehensive trainings in Renewable energy, Solar panel development, Solar PV installation. The participants had also been taught Bead making, Liquid soap making, Drawing and Painting, Baking and Pastries, and tying of gele among many other skills.

It is worthy of note that BEMORE project has garnered lots of appreciative testimonies from the parents and guardians of participants. Many of them had attested to the fact that the skills
and knowledge acquired by their children and wards evidently came very handy, especially during the national lockdown of 2020 which was informed by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is also particularly commendable that Mrs Akeredolu has in more than two decades turned herself to leading campaigner for cancer prevention. Also, she is arguably the biggest fund raiser for breast cancer research. However, she is not shying away from the fact that many women still suffer from and dying of breast cancer due to ignorance. She is nonetheless disturbed that some women still attach spiritual meanings to cancer when they ought to focus on diagnosis and mastectomy. Unfortunately, the spiritual attachment to cancer also make the cases of women to have deteriorated by the time they eventually agree to visit hospital.

Above all, Arabinrin Betty Akeredolu has undoubtedly made her mark in the ceaseless campaign against breast and cervical cancers. She has also vowed to keep ensuring that no woman would die of breast cancer out of ignorance again.