Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman Abulrazaq on Wednesday won a lifetime achievement award for his transformational gender inclusion policy in the state as prominent women leaders from across Africa commended his remarkable feats.
That comes as the Governor called on development agencies to design a ‘programme for result’ initiative which rewards any community or subnational that intentionally votes certain percentage of women into legislative offices, saying this would drive up gender inclusion and promote sustainable development.
At the ongoing 7th Voice of Women (VOW) Conference and Awards in Abuja, the Governor received a plaque specifically honoring his historic inclusion of unprecedentedly high number of women in key leadership positions, including having the highest number of women in cabinet in the history of Nigeria.
The award was a “big surprise” to the Governor by the Women Radio 91.7fm whose chief executive officer Toun Okewale Sonaiya called AbdulRazaq a historic figure in Nigeria as far as gender inclusion is concerned.
“This award recognises an individual, female or male, who has contributed in a profound way to gender empowerment during their lifetime or posthumous,” according to the organisers.
The event, enriched by fireside conversations around issues of women empowerment and victimization, was attended by First Ladies from different states, female federal and state parliamentarians, ministers from across the continent, and dozens of gender rights activists, among others.
First Lady of Kwara/Chairperson of Governors Wives’ Forum Ambassador (Mrs) Olufolake AbdulRazaq led her colleagues to the event; while Minister of Youth Dr Jamila Bio also briefly took the floor to point out how the Governor has mainstreamed gender inclusion in political leadership.
Two Kwara commissioners — Women Affairs’ Hon. Abosede Olaitan Buraimoh and Education and Human Capital Development’s Hajia Sa’adatu Kawu-Modibbo — are attending the conference, which is supported by MacArthur Foundation.
Erelu Bisi Fayemi, former First Lady of Ekiti State and author of the African feminist charter, said the Governor of Kwara has truly earned his stripes for giving women a voice in a way never seen before in Nigeria’s history.
She also commended her husband former Governor Kayode Fayemi for his efforts in gender inclusion, and urged Governors in Nigeria to emulate the Kwara helmsman.
“If you check all the recent indices, the truth is that Nigeria is not doing so well in gender equality or women empowerment. It remains difficult for women to access political leadership,” she said, singling out AbdulRazaq for “using his platform as a Governor to promote women inclusion. He has shown adequate political will that is worth emulating.”
Maureen Hinda-Mbuende, Namibian Deputy Finance Minister, said at the event that she is humbled by how much “the Governor of Kwara State has deployed the goodwill of his office to support women empowerment”.
In 2019, the Governor appointed a cabinet that had 56.25% female — apart from keeping some 50 % slots for women permanent secretaries. He currently has a 50% female cabinet, including young commissioners.
He has also introduced a legislation that mandates Kwara to have at least 35% gender parity in appointive political offices, including in the state bureaucracy.
The Governor received a standing ovation from the large crowd, especially when the plaque was officially presented to him.
AbdulRazaq, for his part, thanked the organisers and wives of the Governor for their great efforts to put the issue of women empowerment on the front burners.
“This august gathering reminds us of the noble role that the Women Radio, organizers of this event, has played over the years in spotlighting every issue that concerns women, the girl child, and general wellbeing of our community,” he added.
“I am personally proud to associate with the management and staff of Women Radio. I congratulate you for this wonderful initiative. Women Radio has been a major cheerleader for what our administration has done in gender mainstreaming in Kwara State. This support dated back to 2019 when we nominated a 56.25% female majority cabinet in Kwara State.
“But we have gone beyond just appointing women as a matter of choice. We have enacted a legislation that compels any government in our state to have at least 35% gender representation in all government appointments, including at the level of permanent Secretary or boards of parastatals.
“This policy has had appreciable effects in the larger political space in our state. Today, we now have the youngest female lawmaker in Nigeria. This is apart from the other female legislators in the House. It is our intention that this will tear down all barriers against the girl child and spur them to reach for the stars!
“To make this possible, we have keyed into different educational and sanitation programmes that will encourage the girl child to enrol in school and complete her education. One of them is the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), which we have keyed into.
“We have similarly introduced a policy of six-month maternity leave to encourage women to nurture our children without losing their professional status or abandoning work.
“I’m optimistic that many other states of the federation are in the race to break new positive grounds in gender mainstreaming. Together, we can influence national legislations that support gender parity and empower women and the girl child to fulfil their destiny.
“Once, again, I congratulate Women Radio on its successes over the years. I specially thank you for the honour done to me and to our state so far. I promise that we will not drop the ball.”