HAJARA JIBRIN GIDADO is the State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Child Development in Bauchi state. In this interview with KHALID IDRIS DOYA, the Commissioner gave some clues on the activities of her Ministry, excerpts:
Can we say this government has to some extent economically empowered women to fend for a living?
Well, from the inception of the present administration to date, my ministry has economically empowered over 2, 000 women. We are doing our possible best to ensure that at least we empower 100 women every month in Bauchi state. So in the past 20 months of the Kauran Bauchi-led administration, we were able to empower over 2, 000 who are engaged in various petty-petty businesses, and most of those women that were empowered are of low economic status such that the sum of N10, 000 can be a capital for a business. These women were engaged in businesses such as soap making, perfume making, making Guru-guru, Masa and host of other businesses that fend for living.
What about children, do they fall under your responsibility?
Yes, we also care for the children, especially girl-child, those then abandoned school because of the poor economic status of their parents. There were also the cases of girl-child who falls victims of rape or sexual harassment. My ministry gives its utmost support to such victims. We also approached the State House of Assembly with a draft VAPP law which eventually the House passed it into law to punish those undesirable elements in the society that engages I such acts of rape or sexual harassment.
We also cued into the global issue of establishing the children Parliament which is being implemented world-wide, with Nigeria and Bauchi state not an exception. The implementation of the children Parliament has been a lingering issue in the state, only to make it a reality by the present PDP administration when it assumed the mantle of leadership in the state. This Parliament structure and the subsequent elections of its leadership has already been put in place in Bauchi, the state capital, as efforts are now being geared to establish constituency offices of the Parliament across the local government areas of the state. The Parliament provides a unique forum for the children to either voice out their grievances or put their demands to the society, and governments at both state and national levels. So the ministry empowers both women and children in different ways applicable. Take the state orphans and vulnerable children agency (BASOVCA), and the Children Home for instance. These are places or organizations were abandoned, vulnerable or children of the poor are being taken for proper and moral upbringing, guidance and counselling, as well as provide them education in making them useful members of the society.
When we came to the government, there was an increasing number of out of school children, mostly girl-child, so in collaboration with the ministry of education, we were able to return about 5, 000 back to classes, which is almost 50% of the slightly over 10, 000 out of school the state had at the inception of the present administration in 2019. Such back to school children have the ministry of education providing them free learning materials, as well as all other necessary facilities to undergo formal education.
Of the 2, 000 women you mentioned to have been empowered so far, can you tell us how many LGAs benefitted from the gesture?
Well, the 2, 000 women beneficiaries of the empowerment programme were selected from three Local Government Areas of Bauchi, Toro and Dass, and our plan is to continue 2021 from the Bauchi Northern zone of Katagum, Zaki, Gamawa, Itas/Gadau downwards until we cover or take all the LGAs in the state. Our projection is to economically empower at least 20, 000 women before the end of the term tenure of the present administration, precisely by 2023.
Do you have any plan to increase the number of beneficiaries of the empowerment programme?
Well, this issue has got to do with monetary provision in the state budget, because what the ministry is getting from the annual budget is 1% or even less of the total sum. And with the empowerment of the 2, 000 women I was telling you, the ministry has even exhausted its allocation in the budget. And it was based on the increasing demands for such gesture that His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bauchi state, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed sought for the assistance and support of the State Legislature for a jerk-up of the ministry’s allocation in the budget so as to enable the teeming women and children seeking for such gesture to benefit from it. We are grateful to the House that it has magnanimously increased our budgetary allocation to about 2.5% of the budget size. This is also in conformity with the electioneering campaign promise of Governor Bala Mohammed, and fortunately we have just defended our budget estimates with the legislature. The increase in the budgetary allocation has given us an edge over our counterparts in states that are still battling with the 1% or less budgetary allocation.
Could you say your ministry has any challenge?
Well, the ministry has its own challenges too. For instance, some citizens, women in particular were not even aware of the existence of our ministry, because successive past governments have not accorded the necessary priority it deserves. It is only with the present dispensation that the ministry is being accorded proper recognition by the government. But despite this recognition by the Kauran Bauchi-led administration, there is still lack of proper synergy between the ministry and the MDAs. Activities of the ministry entails that it synergizes with virtually each and every MDA. It synergizes with the ministry of education owing to the schooling girls, with the ministry of health in relation to assisting patients, ministry for local government affairs in relation to the selection of beneficiaries of empowerment programme, with religious affairs ministry when it comes to the social welfare aspect, and so forth, and so forth. So virtually the ministry is working hand-in-hand with almost each and every MDA, but the problem is the absence of synergy between it and the other ministries, departments and agencies of the government, and this has been a big challenge. So, should we get the necessary cooperation from the MDAs, the ministry would excel in all its activities, and we may even empower thrice or even more of the already empowered 2, 000 women.
So it is likely you may still look for an increase in your budgetary allocation?
Well, now that His Excellency had sought for the increase in our budgetary allocation, to look for further increase in allocation would be subject to demands or as the situation may warrant, because the demands of women and children are in multiple folds, so it is the situation that would dictate the increment in the budgetary allocation.
What is your advice to the womenfolk?
Here, one can vividly say without the fear of contradiction that women were generally considered as the backbone of any society. They were the ones that gave birth to responsible and irresponsible citizens, literate and illiterate, leaders and the lead, so if we the women don’t possess knowledge on how to up-bring the wards, products or children, then the whole society will be in a mess. If we women are not disciplined to disciple the wards or children, the society would also be at a mess, so there is every need for the womenfolk to be educated both the western and Islamic education, to be able to produce good eggs for the society, so there is every need for the womenfolk to be educated to be able to produce or upbring a decent society for a decent living beneficial to one another in the society. And whether we like it or not, education and good moral upbringing are panacea to a decent society devoid hoodlums or miscreants, such as the kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers, rapists, insurgents and host of others that pose a nuisance to the society. It is for these reasons that I’m advising the womenfolk to attach priority to the acquisition of knowledge, acquire skills, and give the children all sorts of moral training to become useful members of the society.
How would you quantify the contribution of the womenfolk to the success of the present administration in the state?
Well, first of all, women significantly contributed in bringing this government into power through the 2019 general elections, because one can confidently say that 60% of the votes cast to bring in this government are from women. But in turn, the government has also reciprocated the gesture by bringing in more women into governance. For instance, we now have three females as commissioners in the government, we have two female advisors from the eight advisors, and this is a reasonable percentage or ratio. Women were appointed to head agencies of government such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Social Investment Programme (SIP), Bauchi State Orphans and Vulnerable Children Agency (BASOVCA), Bauchi Meat Factory and host of others, while they were also appointed into boards of various agencies and parastatals in the state, some of whom even chairing some of the boards.