Press Release: Friends of Africa – Women & Girls Summit

Reinforcing the Agenda for Girl Child Education & Development in Nigeria at the  first –ever Women & Girls Summit

there is no meaningful development without women; individuals and corporate organizations in Nigeria must continue to support and partner with women to realize the goals and objectives of the summit”

This statement by Dame (Dr.) Patience Faka Jonathan, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly reiterates the need for a deliberate and continuous effort in ensuring the safety, development and empowerment of women and girls in Nigeria.  Despite the increased role that women and girls play in the growth and development of the nation’s economy it is acknowledged that development programmes haven’t completely met the need of this select group.

Thus was the need to address these salient issues at the just concluded, first ever  women & girls summit which held on October 13th & 14th in Nigeria at the National Centre for Women’s Development to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child. The summit which was convened by the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) and Friends Africa in collaboration with the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dame Dr Patience Faka Jonathan was held to urgently address the issues of Education, Health, Safety and Security and Economic Empowerment facing women and girls in Nigeria. 

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The atmosphere was charged with excitement as over 1,000 women and girls; decision makers, leading gender advocates, technical experts and leaders from international organizations focused on developing an all-inclusive policy framework that will help government achieve its objectives in addressing the immediate and long term needs of the Girl-Child. It provided a platform for extensive in-depth dialogue on existing barriers, challenges and analysis on the progressive methods that would provide girls an opportunity to improve their lives and their contribution to national development within their circle of influence.

The summit , designed to be an annual event is targeted at; drawing attention to the  strategic importance of the girl-child to the development of the society and the nation at large; Engaging key stakeholders of girl-child education in Nigeria for the purpose of discussing and evolving effective strategies on how to curb situations that threaten the well-being and ultimate success of the Girl-Child” as well as  “demonstrate government’s commitment towards the eradication of threats to the education and development of every Girl-Child in Nigeria.

At the summit, 32 distinguished speakers were present, 1786 women, 128  girls, 25 sessions held simultaneously and 34 men were in attendance with the first lady of Nigeria, Minister of Health and the representatives of the President Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Security Adviser, Minister for ICT, Finish Ambassador, US Consulate Deputy Charge, UNFPA, UN WOMEN, UNESCO and UNICEF gathered to deliberate on the Education, Health, Safety, Security and Economic Empowerment of the Nigerian Girl-Child and Women.

In her opening address, Dame (Dr.) Patience Faka Jonathan, stated that “With the support of well-meaning Nigerians, women will be able to care for themselves, and also contribute to the development of their families, communities and the nation”.

Hajiya Zainab Maina, MFR, CON, the Honorable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development on behalf of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, congratulated the First Lady for a successful summit with high turn-out and greatly commended the effort of the National Center for Women’s Development and Friends Africa noting that the summit will be a reference point and will contribute to national development.

According to Mr. President “… we cannot claim to be developing if we do not recognize the sacrifices women and girls have had to make in this great journey. From the Aba Women Riot of 1929 over double taxation by the then colonial administration, the fortunes of women and girls have continued to improve as a result of access to education. Women and girls represent the heartbeat of any nation. Our women and girls hold the key to the untapped potentials of this great country.”

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On her part, the co-convener of the summit, the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, National Centre for Women Development, Lady Onyeka Onwenu, MFR, said that “The summit was a “game changer” in policy planning and implementing programmes for the Girl-Child and women in the country as it drew attention of policy makers to the important issues of the Girl-Child and created a platform for high level discourse on the challenges confronting women and girls in Nigeria. The summit outcomes include new strategies for economic empowerment for marginalized women and girls.”

The CEO/Founder, Friends Africa, Dr. Akudo Anyanwu Ikemba and co-convener of the summit also noted in her speech “…The special role of women in the field of sustainable development has already been acknowledged globally, girls are change agents, they play a crucial role in solving the most persistent development problems facing the world today. By investing in their economic potential through education, issues such as HIV and AIDS can be resolved and the cycle of poverty can be broken.”

In the keynote address, Chimdi Neliakuchukwu (16 years old girl-child), noted that “…Within social development, lies the factors that can bring about its destruction. I speak for the girls in my generation when I say that though we desire to be educated, we do not want to be educated to the point where the lines of right and wrong begin to get blurry. We desire to be citizens with a healthy dose of Godly fear leading us to imbibe and joyfully uphold moral values’’.

In his remarks, the former Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu emphasized that “…as Nigeria successfully contained the Ebola epidemic, the Federal Ministry of Health is determined to deploy the same exhaustive strategies to manage the health issues affecting women and girls.”

In her contributions, the Country Representative, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Mairo Mandara noted that “…the reality is that children’s programs focused on 0-5 year-olds, youth programs tend to focus on males and older groups, and women’s programs don’t typically capture adolescent girls. Programs that do reach girls rarely address the ones most at risk. To break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, programmes must be designed for, and measure the impact on, girls and their education”.

Some other purposed s include; inspiring hope for success in the minds of affected categories of Girl-Child in Nigeria and beyond and to sensitizing the public on the need to complement Government’s efforts at tackling prevalent Girl-Child and gender related challenges in Nigeria.

The high point of the summit was the presentation of the voices of the Girl-Child tagged “Girlifesto” to the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Her Excellency, Dame (Dr.) Patience Faka Jonathan and appointment of a child ambassador from the entertainment industry, Maryam Booth as Advocate of the Girl-Child in Nigeria.

The summit is expected to release a communiqué highlighting key conclusions from the meeting, as well as, key announcements and decisions agreed by the thematic working groups. The Summit outcomes will be disseminated on various global development platforms, circulated to stakeholders at the National, Regional and International levels, as well as the United Nations Post 2015 Development Planning Unit.