Recently Yours Sincerely ‘Tayo Aderinola engaged the Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Hon ‘Lola Akande on incisive issues bothering on women empowerment and other relevant issues. Please enjoy excerpts from the interview.
As a two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I first scrutinize myself before being scrutinized – Akande
LPM: For benefit of our readership can we meet you?
Hon Akande: I am Honorable Mrs ‘Lola Akande, Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
LPM: Does your experience as a legislator strengthen your understanding of the workings of government from the executive standpoint?
Hon Akande: Yes, you know quite alright that we have 3 arms of government namely the executive, legislature and judiciary and we all work together to achieve the same goal. All the activities of the executive are first legislated before implementation by the executive. They have the duty to scrutinize the executive especially our expenditures, so as a two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I first scrutinize myself before being scrutinized, am equipped with sufficient knowledge of government workings and this have really come-in handy.
LPM: Women empowerment is a significant aspect of the Millennium Development Goals. What are your specific targets in this regard?
Hon Akande: The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation’s Vision is to Sustainably Reduce Poverty in Lagos State and our Mission is Women Development and Poverty Reduction as a Means to attaining Sustainable Growth through efficient and Prompt Service Delivery. To attain our vision and achieve our mission, women must be empowered and this we have been doing through enlightenment and economic empowerment programmes. Despite the global economic recession which have obviously affected access to adequate funds, we have been able to provide cost-effective sustainable development within available resources and result-oriented synergistic partnership with the private sector. Specifically we have formulated, evaluated, executed and monitored policies relating to Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
We have also Liaised with women voluntary organizations, non-governmental organizations and international bodies to coordinate resourceful women programmes as well as promote the activities of women co-operative societies. Women education vide vocational training in addition to promotion of small-scale industrial/commercial activities amongst women groups through our 16 functional skills acquisition centers spread within 5 districts. We have procured equipment and tools to be distributed to trainees after the training programme. For a low form fee of N250.00 to encourage them, we gave them materials for training and made provision for starter-park to get them started. In essence we have a host of other activities to make our women economically independent.
LPM: Primary health care of women and children should be of concern to your office. How do you interface with the health ministry to deliver health care to your target social group?
Hon Akande: Thank you, it’s a very important question as it’s one of the Millennium Development Goals, because you need good health to be able to fight poverty. We are constantly in liaison with relevant MDAs to accomplish our functions and achieve our goals. For example, we collaborated with the Health Ministry for our recent de-worming exercise and we have also proposed to them a “Save One-Million Lives” programme to be sponsored by World Health Organization to enable more women at the grassroots level benefit from this initiative. So whatever relates women and children in Lagos State, we seek supports of other MDAs where need be.
LPM: How do you address the increasing issue of women battering and raping of under age?
Hon Akande: These are sad and serious issues, there is hardly a day without the issues of domestic violent or child abuse of different forms reported in the news. The social media have really helped in exposing so many ills. We were reactive but now we are proactive because the spate of domestic violence and child abuse have increased so we as government, have doubled our efforts. Like I said earlier, we and the legislatures work together for same goal. The Lagos State House of Assembly enacted laws against domestic violence and the Child Rights Laws were enacted in 2007. In case of any report of woman or man battering, we go to the residence or whichever place to rescue the victim as well as move to prosecute the perpetrator through Office of the Public Defender (OPD) . If we need to put the victim in a protective custody we take them to a transit-home where we feed and take care of their basic needs and enroll their children in school if they are still within schooling age or enroll them with our skills acquisition centers. You can report all forms of sexual or domestic violence and child abuse in your respective Communities to the Ministry’s help lines 08102678443, 08085754226, and 08085594141.
LPM: Can you assess this administration’s performance within the context of the scope of your ministry’s purview?
Hon Akande: I think we have really done very well, I must give it to the administration of our hard-working Governor His Excellency Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who aside from tasking us on the need to deliver the dividends of democracy to the electorates. He has also created the enabling environment with resources to make our work easy. If you’ve been following this Ministry since resumption to office, as a media person you’ll agree with me that within a short while, we have done so much. We have instituted over 2,000 Domestic Violence cases within one year. We have also engaged in frequent sensitization of Women on Gender Based/Domestic Violence. We have empowered women through our skills acquisition training programmes and in the last 6 months have organized 2 Skills Acquisition Training Programmes for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) And Special Needs.
We also held a prison intervention programme at the Kirikiri maximum security prison Ikoyi, Lagos, the aim of the meeting was to bring relevant stakeholders together in order to invest in the lives of prison inmates within prison and their post- prison life.
In a bid to create a social interactive platform where issues concerning women and children can be discussed aside the Ministry’s Website Page, Face book and Twitter Accounts; WAPA ALERT has proven to be effective resource for critical stakeholders of the Ministry as well as members of the public to address relevant issues. Furthermore we have also organized and celebrated the 2016 International Women’s Day Celebration which was a huge success. The Ministry organized and celebrated the Year 2016 Children’s day with the Theme: “Protect the Rights of the child in the face of Violence and insecurity’’: End Child Marriage. His Excellency launched the Priority Action to end Violence against children. Before the Launch, the Child’s Development Department of the Ministry held series of meetings with stakeholders, Civil Society Organizations, Religious Leaders and Media Practitioners towards the successful launch of the year 2016 Action to end Violence against Children in Lagos State. May 2016 the Lagos State Government through the Ministry in Collaboration with Dangote Foundation Launched the Dangote Micro Grants to be disbursed to over 10,000 beneficiaries in the 20 LGs/37 LCDAs in the state. All these and several other programmes have really impacted positively on the population of our target social group while creating sustainable development for our women and Lagosian as a whole because when you empower a woman you’ve empowered a nation.
LPM: Orientation of Lagos women for increased business and political participation is crucial. Is Lagos State veering towards a woman governor soon?
Hon Akande: (Laugh) I am not in the best position to say that, you can presume such only probably seeing a woman been groomed for such but I don’t know of any. Be that as it maybe, there is no reason why a woman cannot be a governor of the State, those of us in the cabinet work as hard as our male counterparts if not harder because we need to work harder in order to be distinguished by people among your male counterparts so we put in more efforts (laugh).
LPM: What are your expectations for Lagos by 2019 after Gov Ambode’s first tenure?
Hon Akande: First I will want to appreciate the opportunity given to serve under His Excellency Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, a compassionate, hardworking, responsive and proactive leader who is passionately building a new Lagos. By 2019 you will see a new Lagos that you’ll be proud of as a Lagosian. A true mega-city, a Lagos for all.
LPM: it’s nice talking to you Ma.
Hon Akande: Thank you Tayo.