Reporting from Uyo
Rising from their national summit in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital,
female students in Nigeria under the umbrella of the National Female Students Association while declaring their preparedness for leadership responsibilities also called for presidential assent on the Sexual Harassment Bill recently passed by National Assembly.
The charge was contained in a resolution reached at the summit. Also contained in the resolution are calls for the adoption of a resolution calling on government to actualize the 35% Women Affirmation Action Bill and an appeal on government, religious bodies and other relevant authorities to give prominence to the rights of the girl child.
In her welcome address, the National President of the Association, Comrade Idongesit Micah, revealed that the summit was held with the aim of “developing strategies for effectively addressing obstacles in securing and sustaining a critical mass of women in leadership and decision making positions”, adding that “the aim of this summit is to inspire and sustain the leadership and self-development potentials of female students in our country.”
Comrade Micah announced that “female students in Nigeria are on a mission to rectify the leadership problem which has been a major scourge bedeviling the nation for decades. We are not okay with being relegated to the rear. The time for emancipation is now.”
On the exploits of the National Female Students Association, she noted that, “education has been placed at the center of the struggle for democracy, eradication of poverty, women’s right, sustainable development and peaceful co-existence. We have been in the forefront of the campaign for a Bill Prohibiting Sexual Harassment by randy lecturers in our tertiary institutions. The issue of sexual assault has caused a lot of our female students to drop out of school, some end up with low grades, some fail respective courses intentionally by lecturers and some change courses because of a particular wicked lecturer. I am happy to announce that, the Bill has been passed by the Senate awaiting Presidential assent.”
She called on the presidency to swiftly grant assent to the Bill.
In his address at the event which had as its theme, Female Students and the Challenges of Bridging Global Leadership Gap, the President of Nigeria’s Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, described the advocacy as an appropriate step in the quest of mentoring female students for leadership as well as correcting the misconception that a great percentage of Nigerian women aren’t fit for leadership responsibilities.
Represented by his Special Assistant on Students and Youth Matters, Barr Oscar Obi, the Senate President said education should be the paramount tool in the advocacy.
Saraki highlighted that the Senate under his leadership has taken giant steps in ensuring that females’ rights are protected.
“I am proud to report here that the Senate is playing an important role in this advocacy. A Bill prohibiting Sexual Harassment which has been passed into Law is awaiting presidential assent. Several other Bills like the one seeking equal share for male and female child in the sharing of inheritance has scaled through second reading.”
The Senate President lauded Comrade Idongesit Micah for her commitment to the struggle and promised continued support to the National Female Students Association.
In his speech, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Legislative Affairs, Barr. Utibe Nwoko, noted that the summit being held in Akwa Ibom is significant.
“We realized long ago that education is the key to empowering the next generation. That is why free and compulsory education was introduced and sustained. Akwa Ibom has always been an epicenter for the campaign for social justice and equality. The famous Aba women riot took place in present day Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State. I am here to convey the unalloyed support of the Senate Minority Leader”, he concluded.
The Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Felicia Bassey, revealed that having been active in politics, she has firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by females in their quest for leadership.
Mrs. Bassey, however, urged relevant authorities to implement the resolution reached at the summit.
The wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, who was unavoidably absent, was represented by the Deputy Speaker.
In a keynote address, Amb. Mrs. Unyime Ivy-King, decried that despite the belief that women exhibit more leadership traits, the masculine versus feminine leadership gulf has continued to widen.
To bridge the gulf, Amb. Ivy-King called for the education and protection of rights of the girl child to be given prominence.
Leading a panel to discuss the theme of the event, Female Students and the Challenges of Bridging Global Leadership Gap, President, Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), Mrs. Funmilayo Oladipo, hinted that the present generation of female students in Nigeria have an opportunity to change the staus quo.
The panel which included the Chairman of the Joint Campus Committee in Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Akwaowo Clifford Ukpong; Comrade Amina Yahaya, the first female Students Union Government President in Northern Nigeria, as well as other students’ leaders, harped on the need for female students to embrace the challenge of preparing themselves for a better tomorrow.
They called on government to formulate policies and programmes aimed at supporting and empowering female students in tertiary institutions.
The event which was also attended by all female students’ leaders in Nigeria, featured solidarity messages from students activists and presentation of awards/ certificates of participation to participants.