KOWYAF: Rashida Bello’s Passion for women, Youth Advancement, By Mary Amodu

The tree of transformation planted few months ago by Wife of the Governor, Mrs Rashida Bello has yielded tremendous results in Kogi State. Leadership is vital and in fact the most germane indices of development in any nation or state. Despite the fact that Kogi State has witnessed series of crisis in recent times, this development has not undermined the support of the masses for the government. As a matter of fact, the series of developments that have taken place has laid a roadmap for tremendous growth in the State.

Kogi remains one of the States that has maximized the gains of democracy through the instrumentality of the activities of the first lady, although successive leaders have contributed little or nothing to ensure that Kogi state finds its foot amongst the comity of States that can be termed developed.

On assumption of her office, Mrs Rashida Bello defined for herself the role she wanted to play in the development and growth of Kogi State in line with the New Direction administration of her husband, Governor Yahaya Bello. After a thorough visibility study, she realized that not much attention have been paid to the demography of women, children and Youth in the State by previous administrations.

Rashida Bello as a mother felt challenged about the complacent and obnoxious manner the youths and women in the State were treated, which she saw as highly inimical to their growth. She was therefore spurred into creating this project not with the intention of profit maximization, but to liberate the vulnerable women and youths from the shackles of unemployment in the State.

The seat of the first lady has always been seen to be ceremonial. Owing to this fact there are laudable factors which have kept many Kogites in a state of amazement on the achievements of the Governor’s wife within her very short period in office.

However, it is clear that she has set a standard high for others to climb and this she has done by kick- starting a foundation called Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation (KOWYAF), which is geared towards the empowerment of both women and youths respectively.

KOWYAF has the core objectives of capacity building, giving trainings and skills acquisition, health support as well as providing equipments and tools necessary for economic and intellectual development. This is a clear indication that Mrs Rashida Bello is passionate about addressing inequality, poverty, vulnerability and unemployment.

Subsequently, over 100,000 persons in Kogi State have benefitted from KOWYAF with major testimonies from trainees and persons who have been empowered. As a First Lady who does not recourse to discrimination and marginalization, her great longing is to empathize equally with women and youths from all parts of the state, for instance, she celebrated the world Hepatitis day,sickcle cell day, World heart, day vis- a- vis international girl -child day.

The wife of the governor kick-started the KOWYAF project by empowering the beneficiaries with sewing machines, hair dryers and a non- refundable amount of N100,000 each to 42 women from the three Senatorial districts in the State.

These efforts by the First Lady shows she is one who has decided to raise her head above the waters to ensure that there is political stabilization for Kogites even in the midst of the present economic crunch.

Mrs Rashida Bello realized that the onus was on her to bring women into the scheme of things as contributions of women in the development of the State cannot be under estimated. This is why alot of attention is been paid to this demographic so that they can be motivated to give their maximum contributions to the economic development of the State.

The First lady, whose biggest motivation is to bring succor to the downtrodden believes that it is her mission to change the live of the girl child who has rarely the same opportunities as her male counterparts. She says that Kogi State of her dream is one where all women are well informed and educated irrespective of religion, ethnicity or social standing.

Mrs Rashida Bello became aware of the issue of gender inequality while working with other women on social justice problems. The first lady’s commitment to women’s full recognition and participation to Kogi politics is enormous and she has began plans to work actively with women groups around the State to ensure that women have a strong political will and recognition in the State.

The wife of the governor has continued to promote gender equality using a variety of different values such as promoting girl child education, creating sensitization and campaigns and better health practice for women and the girl child, women empowerment and skill acquisition trainings. She strongly believes that women must become more conscious of themselves as women and acquire the power in their ability to function as a group.

Mrs Bello believes that women have special qualities that make them peacemakers, conferees and mothers. This same qualities, she said will make them great politicians, reformers, advocates and professionals.

Just like Hillary Clinton, a onetime first lady of the United States of America, Mrs Rashida Bello can borrow a leaf from the pages of Hillary and apply some of her best policies to her methods. Policies like creating an office for violence against women, promoting the passage and roll out of the Stage Children’s Insurance Health program (SCHIP) which extended health insurance to children in lower income families.

It is said that when there is a will there is a way. The government of Alhaji Yahaya Bello in conjunction with the office of the wife of the governor and in line with the New Direction agenda has the political will to implement these policies, if not more than what has been obtained in the developed nations like United State of America.