Faith Igbudu & Dorothy Abellegah
Women from all works of life in Benue state have agreed to come together and strategise for equal political representation in the 2023 general elections.
The decision was reached as The League of Women Voters in Nigeria (NILOWV) Benue state chapter held a symposium Monday to mark this year’s International Women’s Day in Makurdi tagged: “Women in Leadership; Achieving an Equal Future in the COVID-19 World” with the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge.
According to the symposium, women have 47% of the voting capacity in Benue state, a percentage they intend to use in changing the narrative. It was agreed that if the percentage is explored, there would be nothing holding women back from attaining elective positions.
In separate paper presentations, Executive Director, Centre for Transparency, Advocacy/Director, Elections and Democracy, NILOWV, Ms. Faith Nwadishi and Chairman, Benue Health Management Board, Mrs Comfort Agogo, charged Benue women to rise and fight for their rights as the society will not willingly give them a chance, urging them not to be decieved by the myths of women being weak and not being capable of leadership.
They said a woman is a born leader and charged them to change their mentality, join political parties, rise in the ranks, support each other and stop selling themselves cheap during elections to actualise the dream.
In a panelist session, discussants, Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mrs Ngunan Addingi,
Prof. Bibiana Igbabuul of the Department of Food Science & Technology, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and CEO 3B Chops, Sarah Omanche Obonyilo, all identified the lack of women in leadership roles as weighing negatively on the development process of the society and called on women to awake to their leadership capacity which they said begins from home. They emphasised mentorship as a channel to breed future leaders that will take the dream to the next generation.
They called for capacity building and trainings to position women for leadership roles in the society.
President and Founder NILOWV, Dame Esther Uduehi PhD, appreciated the Governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, for giving women a fair share in his administration, noting that women occupy about 200 political positions in his administration, a feat that is commendable.
The President who was represented by the National Secretary of the organisation, Pst. Regina Omoagege, PhD. said the organisation is so impressed by the step Benue state chapter has taken, charging women not to relent or be discouraged as victory is sure.
In her remarks, Wife of Benue state governor, Dr Eunice Ortom tasked women to ponder on how best women can equally participate in decision making, noting that an answer to the question will draw women closer to the dream.
“As women, we shall continue to push forward so that our men will know that they can trust us with leadership roles. Women are good managers and resourceful too, they should not only be mobilised to vote but be voted for. I will urge you not to focus only on the local, but aim to occupy elective positions at the federal too,” she stated.
Represented by the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Atoato Girgi, she urged women who have gained one political office or the other to compliment her efforts in the struggle to empower the Benue woman.
Earlier, in her welcome address, state Chairman NILOWV, Irene Awunah- Ikyegh said the event is one borne out of the need to change the political story of Benue state.
“In the past we have had fewer women giving a shot at political contest as several factors like lack of mentors, fear, low self-esteem, lack of strategic capacity, poor management of political capital, poverty and godfatherism and lack of impetus narratives which must change in the next political outing,” she noted.