A former UN Secretary-General, late Kofi Anan, once said that, “There is no tool for development more effective than women empowerment”. Anan’s conviction is shared by the wife of the Governor of Anambra State, Dr Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme), whose messianic zeal and dedication to the course of women in the last eight years has improved the well-being of many within Anambra and beyond.
It would be recalled that since inception of the Obiano administration in 2014, the Governor’s wife, Osodieme, assumed the role of women championing by consistently seeking and creating avenues for women to become economically empowered and contribute to the development of the state and country. Osodieme’s single-minded approach in promoting women empowerment programmes is borne out of its transformational impact on the average woman’s economic status and well-being, and the need to tackle economic inequality in general.
A strong advocate of sustainable empowerment of rural women, Osodieme asserted in a presentation, entitled, ‘Opportunities for Entrepreneurship for Rural Women’, at the Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) Side Event at the sixty-first Session of the United Nation’s Commission for the Status of Women (CSW), in New York, USA, that “When you take away economic power from a woman, you take away her gender power.”
According to Mrs Obiano, the average rural woman is industrious and enterprising but needs opportunities as an entrepreneur, collaboration, and information sharing which encourage positive exchanges between organizations on capacity building; she needs empowerment through financial inclusion.
Apparently, these are among the principles behind the programmes of Osodieme’s NGO, Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), which has made remarkable changes in the lives of Anambra women. CAFÉ empowerment initiatives have, so far, provided over 6,000 women, especially indigent widows and youths, with training, new skills, and free start-up capital in the areas of tailoring and fashion design; soap making; bakery and confectionery; hair dressing and beauty therapy; interior decoration; telephone and computer repairs and community health services.
Osodieme recognizes that the first step in the emancipation of an indigent widow is to put a roof over her head. Thus, under CAFÉ’s Widows’ Housing Project, she has built twenty-eight 2-bedroom houses with boreholes for clean water supply and handed them over, free, to beneficiaries across Anambra communities. Also, under CAFÉ’s Market Toilet Project, which she initiated in furtherance of the dignity of the market woman and the promotion of hygiene, Osodieme has constructed many modern toilets in rural markets across Anambra state.
Perhaps, the most significant of Osodieme’s support for women in Anambra State is her role in the full implementation and domestication of the National Gender Policy of thirty-five percent Affirmative Action for Women with Anambra currently ranked above the national benchmark.
Today, in Anambra, women occupy positions of authority at all levels, including the legislature in eight years. Wowen are commissioners, special advisers’ heads of government agencies, local governments and other political appointments. In fact, many observers attest to the increasing number and active participation of women in politics in Anambra due to Osodieme’s encouragement and inspiration.
Happily, the projects undertaken by the wife of the Governor are financed through support and donations to the NGO by philanthropists. Osodieme consistently argues that her quest for women empowerment should not be seen as threat but complementary by the menfolk whose role as heads of family is not in doubt.
Such interventions by CAFE, she explained, are designed to incrementally help women become economically self-reliant by gaining better quality of life; acquiring self-confidence, self-esteem and basic life skills. Above all, over time, women will cease to be seen as burden in households but will be able to contribute to family upkeep.
Osodieme’s consistent promotion of women empowerment has, in the last eight years, helped in improving the quality of lives of Anambra women. As Dr Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano hands over to queen Nonye Soludo on March 17, 2022, there is no doubt that the wholesome value Osodieme adds to the life of women in Anambra State will continue to ensure that the voice of Anambra women will be heard.
We wish Osodieme the best in all her future endeavors.
WRITTEN BY DR. NNAMDI NWADIOGBU