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INT’L WOMEN’S DAY 2016: WHO ARE THE ADVISERS OF, DR GLORY EDET, MARTHA UDOM EMMANUEL?

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By Udo Bassey
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I just left the Ibom Hall Grounds, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, 10 minutes ago….disgusted and depressed! That is the venue for the event put together by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Office of the First Lady of Akwa Ibom state to mark this year’s International Women’s day in Akwa Ibom state.
The International Non-Governmental Organization I work with as an ad-hoc staff – “WOMEN ON WINGS AFRICA” had drafted me to attend and forward to it a report of the series of activities organized by the Akwa Ibom state Government to mark the International Women’s Day 2016. In that report, I am supposed include the issues raised by the organizers of event as they relate to the theme for this year’s celebration which is “Pledge for Parity”. Also, there is a space in that report template where I am supposed to gauge the understanding of the cogent issues bothering on Gender Equity by the women who are gathered for the event.
Sadly, all I have witnessed at the Ibom Hall grounds has been a noisy jamboree supervised by the same person – the wife of the Akwa Ibom state, who is supposed to lead sober discussions on how Akwa Ibom women could break away from the restraining yoke of gender discrimination, violence against women and other forms of social injustice and rise to take places of impact and leadership in every sphere of human endeavor.
As I pen down this piece, it breaks my heart that all I am going to be sending as report to our headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa will be few words and disturbing pictures of the Akwa Ibom state women dancing while the invisible but limiting chains of domestic violence, sexual discrimination (at the family level and at corporate leadership level), male supremacist ideas, and all form of misogynistic barriers continue to hold them down.
My heart is further deeply broken by the fact that my colleague Marilyn Effiom who is attending the Cross River state version of this event just informed me that over there, the wife of the Cross River state Governor Dr Linda Ayade is in standing in league with the Commissioner for Women Affairs Mrs Stella Odey to enlighten women on how paying more attention to their health can help them forge ahead in their well-founded desire for parity. In Cross River state, I am told that some of the highlights of the event include free medical screening for women, talks to teenagers about abortions and dangers of pre-marital sex. I heard it is a solemn event over there and from my colleague’s assessment, the participants are actively benefiting from every segment.
But over here in the land of my birth – Akwa Ibom, buses had ferried hundreds of women from nearby Local Government areas to the Ibom Hall Grounds for the purpose of dancing, idle chatter, and some needless match past after which they will get N1000 each as their thank-you-for-coming gift.
It is saddening to realize that in Akwa Ibom state today, every direction you turn, you are greeted with ample occurrences (as they have to do with governance) that reinforces your fears that Akwa Ibom state is fast moving to taking a comfortable place as the worst governed state in Nigeria.
How come the handlers and advisers of the Akwa Ibom state First Lady, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel and those advising the Women Affairs Commissioner have failed to understand this there is a time for serious impact as there is also time for jamboree in governance? Why reduce an event as important as the International Women’s Day to a fiesta of pointless chatter and hollow merrymaking? How come the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare who has a background in the academia did not appropriately advise the Akwa Ibom First Lady that the International Women’s Day the world over is meant to be marked with live-touching discussions and reflections on how to better the lots of women in the society.
Last month, a Danish woman travelled down to Akwa Ibom state to rescue a 3 year old boy who was tortured and left by her parents to die on the claims that he was “a witch”. All over the state, there are legion of cases of social injustice and violation of women and Children rights and this has not in any way moved the Akwa Ibom first lady and the Commissioner for Women Affairs to initiate a feasible strategy to contain these malaises.
For the duo of the Akwa Ibom state First Lady, Mrs Martha Emmanuel and Dr Glory Edet, the drill for these past months has been to get appropriation for some unfounded initiative or event, send word out to some women who have uniforms, gather them at a venue and dance, while you spice it with idle political chatter. If they lack the ideas, I know of a young man from Akwa Ibom who has worked with various organizations handling Gender Advocacy issues who can help in an advisory capacity.
Just yesterday, our Governor had toured some Local Governments, not for the purpose of interacting with the people on areas they need government intervention, but to dance with a few candidates who are seeking reelection into the rerun elections scheduled for this weekend.
With one month to their one year anniversary in office, all we get are displays of different dance steps from the Governor and the wife. One has not advised the other that it is time for serious work. The commissioners who should even advise the Governor are either bereft of ideas or intentionally want him to fail. All they do is sit idly and count the days their salaries will drop in their individual bank accounts.
And so tonight, those Akwa Ibom women who gathered at Ibom hall will return to their homes and all they will remember about the 2016 International Women’s Day will the hours of dancing and match past. Our younger women in Secondary schools and tertiary institutions this year again missed an important opportunity to engage an important model as the Governor’s wife on talks about Gender equity, women healthcare issues and even how women can engage in viable economic ventures.
Why? Because a dancing jamboree was more important!
Doomsday is closer to Akwa Ibom than we think.
Udo Bassey is a Social Worker, Public Affairs Analyst and Founder of the Business Finishing School GiantStrides Academy

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