2011: FIRST LADY, JOSEPHINE ANENIH CHART NEW COURSE FOR WOMEN
This was irrespective of the collaboration they got from the government bureaucracy through the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs.
Indeed from Maryam Babangida's 'Better Life for Rural Women Programme' through the Stella Obasanjo Child Care Trust to the Turai Yar`Adua Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, it has generally been perceived that such programmes were merely platforms conceived to draw attention to the office or person of the First Lady of the moment.
This perhaps explains why majority of Nigerians seems to have lost sight of the contributions, however little of the pet projects of the former First Ladies in securing the future of Nigerian women , children and the less privileged.
One of the major reasons often adduced for the poor perception of these programmes and rightly so is the elitist colouration they evoked. Meetings, whether small or large often turned out to be a fashion parade of some sorts. What is more, wives of politically exposed persons and VIPs accompanied by their hordes of security aides often out numbered the ordinary people for whom the pet projects were conceived for.
It may not be far from the truth, if previous women and child focused programmes promoted by the office of past First Ladies and Women Affairs Ministry is regarded as lacking in mass appeal and relevant to the short and long term goals of advancing the course of the Nigerian woman and child.
But as the nation moves towards a critical bend in its political history, it does seems for once, that the current First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan and Women Affairs Minister, Iyom Josephine Anenih have finally succeeded in taking women and children issues out of the confines of the glamour closet to the main street of politics, policy formulation and implementation.
The First Lady's Women for Change Initiative (WCI) a new and pro_active policy initiative from the Ministry of Women and Social Development Affairs may well be the right mix capable of transforming the lot of Nigerian women, particularly as far as involvement in governance is concerned.
The WCI among others, seeks to correct years of gender imbalance in political representation, that has seen States such as Kano with the highest population of females in Nigeria estimated at 4_5 million not having a single representation in both the National and State assemblies.
The WCI also seeks to mentor and provide financial support for women, who otherwise may have been marked for a fall by societal prejudices against women who aspire for political offices.
Since the national launch of the WCI in July, the First lady has visited several state capitals, to induct wives of state governors. The occasions, though tinged with elitist coloration, was in large part a gathering of women of all classes and means.
One of the cardinal focus points of the WCI, according to the Minister of Women Affairs and social Developmen during the national launch is to raise a platform for advancing the strategic interest of women in the forth_coming general elections in 2011.
'No doubt, 2011 is an election year and we must prepare for it. I believe that this group will be more than ever ready to help us bring about the much desired 35% affirmative action in all elective and appointive positions' Iyom Anenih declared.
The apparent synergy between the office of the First Lady and the Ministry in recent times has raised concerns of a ploy to mobilize women for President Goodluck Jonathan presidential ambition.
This veiled inference not withstanding, the fact of the Ministry's mandate of promoting and supporting initiatives that would uplift women and children makes the WCI an important ally.
The Minister said as much, when she described the Ministry's romance with WCI, as a platform for reaching, 'the unreached and helping us spread the message that the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and all its state counterparts are alive and more than committed to create a new wave of change in the Nigerian polity.'
With the launch of WCI in several states, in most PDP controlled states of course, the office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development are not letting up on the goal of mobilizing Nigerian women to participate in the coming elections.
The train of change has since moved on to other spheres, including the summit for the participation of women in politics, summit for the aged, disabled, South West PDP women rally, institutionalization of women political trust fund, the 100 women group, among others.
The showing of the women folk in the final out come of the 2011 general elections, would certainly be the template by which the WCI and indeed Anenih will be judged.