RECENTLY the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen spoke to some selected journalists in her office, Correspondent, JIDAUNA YANUNG was there for SUNDAY STANDARD. Excerpts:
President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his cabinet towards the end of August 2019 and you were appointed a minister taking care of Ministry of Women Affairs, how has it been since you took over the mantle of leadership of the ministry?
So far, so good! I can say the issue of Women Affairs is quite huge and quite challenging, but with God on my side, we are doing our best and I am calling on all well-meaning Nigerians, when I say all well meaning Nigerians/mean every family must address women issues because every man is born by a woman, every man has a wife even if they don’t have a wife, they have a mother or sister and they may have children and for that the woman is very central to issues that affects humanity. The woman is a wife, sister and she is everything.
You can’t talk of life without a woman, because the woman makes a family and the family makes a society and the women constitute more than half population of Nigeria. So this ministry deals with issues concerning women. So, it is very strategic; that is why Mr. President is giving it the necessary support in order to reach out to the women at the grassroots.
We have come up with programmes that will benefit all women in the country, the ministry as a result of its strategic importance has to interface with other ministries to get the best for our women and children. For example, the girl child education is very important and central and I am proud to say we have a good working relationship with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and his counterpart, the Minister of State Education to bring a new lease and hope to the educational system especially that of a girl child.
In this regard, the Minister of Education was the first person who paid a courtesy call immediately I assumed office and since then he has embraced the Ministry of Women Affairs as a sister ministry and we are working together. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate all the ministers for their support to my ministry. This shows that Mr. President made the right choice in appointing this present cabinet. This is a formidable team and they should keep it up. We work as a team or family. In fact all of us work together.
Again, I want to appreciate the female ministers in the cabinet for their efforts to ensure tht issues bothering on women are addressed. I want to assure all that this year, you will see a lot of changes because, this is a year of action, we intend to form a strong collaboration with Ministry of Trade and Investment where we will closely work with the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) for the betterment of the women. We have desk officers in all the ministries as we have in Nigeria and programmes of action have clearly been spelt out. This year we are targeting all rural women and also intend to work with the Ministry of Women Affairs in all the 36 states and FCT.
In all these ministries, we have a council of women affairs and all the commissioners have been spell out their task and terms of reference and mandate to try and reach out to the local governments especially the department of social welfare in the local government. They have been mandated to work with all female counterparts in the state and local governments.
The Ministry of Women Affairs also has a good working relationship with the National Assembly this time and I want to commend both the chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Women Affairs for their cooperation because, we are working as a team. In fact, with this synergy I think the ministry will make significant progress because together we can achieve our set goals.
In terms of violence against women and rape, what is your plan towards arresting this?
This issue has become global one and I am very concerned about it. To achieve this, modalities have been put in place to address it, the President has given us the necessary support to address this issue. The President mandated that whoever is caught or found wanting in this regard will be properly dealt or face the full wrath of the law. So, all the problem connected to this in the child rights act will be fully implemented. We want to appeal to the remaining 10 states in the North that have not domesticated the child rights act to do so immediately and I want to tell you that we have written them letters and I will follow it up.
Similarly, I also want to appeal to the governors and their wives to ensure that their various state Houses of Assembly pass the law so that by March this year, at least, we can beat our chests when we go for the Council of State Women (CSW) in New York.
Since your assumption into office have you encountered any challenge?
Well, the major challenge I have is the poor enrolment of girl-child and the poor percentage of children enrolment in schools as well as the number of school drop-out. It is very disturbing and that is why I personally have been visiting the Minister of Education, so that the number will scale up, as well as ensuring that the girl child not only go to school but remain in school to the minimum of senior secondary school so as to address early child marriage.
Another challenge is poverty. The high rate of poverty amongst women is quite disturbing and that is why we are finding a way that they can be given or assisted with soft loans in order to beef up their business; because empowering the woman is empowering the family, community and empowering the nation at large.
Empowering a woman has a multiplier effect. We just have to get it right by empowering the woman. Again, violence against women should be condemned in its totality and also rape too has become a matter of concern. Each day you hear a seventy old man rape a seven year old girl or 50 years old rape 5 years old girl among others. I condemned it in its totality, it is not acceptable, I urged all hands to be on deck to address this problem.
What effort are you making to ensure that the Disability Bill which was passed to law is implemented?
Mr. President is working towards the implementation of the bill and has also reiterated his determination to ensure the speedy implementation. This is an area that torches my heart, my ministry and that of humanitarian service are working together to ensure the speedy implementation of this bill.
A Senator from Plateau State has recently push for full implementation of the provisions of the disability bill like establishment of disability commission in the 36 states and FCT just as it is being done in Plateau State.
What is your take on this?
I want start by congratulating and commending Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State for he is the leading governor to set up or establish this commission and was also the first to pass the Child Rights Act and is working towards the full implementation. I also want to commend the role Senator I.D. Gyang played during the passage of the bill at the National Assembly. In fact I am very proud of them, this shows that Plateau is leading. I hope other states will follow suits.
One of the challenges your ministry is facing is the movement to its permanent site, what is your take on this?
Well, if you go now, the work is fully completed. It is just the furnishing and by the grace of God, this January we are moving to the new office. I want to commend Mr. President for his support towards the project and actually the delay was from the contractor, but thank God, everything is okay now.
What is your message to women and children as we enter the year 2020?
I want to wish all Nigerians, especially women and children a prosperous New Year. I also want to appeal to all women to keep an eye on their children and watch the company they keep as friends and also be good mothers, wives and good sister. 2019 has come and gone, 2020 is pregnant with a lot of goodies for women and so many activities and plans have been put in place towards this to uplifte the women in nation building.