By Mary Agidi
Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes- Napoleon Hill. And the ability to convert ideas to things is the secret of outward success, Henry Ward Beecher adds. If an idea is conceived, definitely it has a purpose and objectives. To execute the idea, the conceiver must have strategies and approaches to achieve the set goals.
The Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female political appointees, FOWOSO, was an idea conceived by the wife of the state governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu to reach out to women in the state in form of socio-economic empowerment. FOWOSO was launched on 7th December 2017, months after the inauguration of this current administration.
The forum is a new dimension of women empowerment initiative as it applies the approach of skill acquisition for women across the 18 local government areas of Ondo state.
Led by the wife of the governor, Arabinrin Akeredolu, FOWOSOh toured all the local government areas in 2018 where women were empowered with business tools, including the youths who were given laptops. The activity of the forum in 2018 was, therefore rounded up with a first of its kind summit.
The second summit of FOWOSO which was held on 4th- 5th December 2019 came in a new form and design. It was an all-inclusive programme. It started with a pre-activity tagged ‘Crawlers race competition’. This fun-filled event witnessed crawling competition among babies within the ages of eight to 11 months old.
To some, the Crawlers race was a waste of time and lack of a good idea. Meanwhile, the purpose was to detect the level of love and unity that exist within family, and to what extent our men contribute to child upbringing, said Mrs. Akeredolu.
She stated that the race was to foster co-parenting among couples and reduce the number of absentee fathers in the society, as it was discovered that most men distanced themselves from their families; living the task of child upbringing to the wives alone, and by so doing reduce the quality of parental care a child receives.
The Crawlers competition was not limited to the state capital, it was first conducted across the 18 local governments and the winners converged on Adegbemile cultural centre Akure the state capital for the final competition.
The style adopted was that, fathers of the babies stood at the beginning of the race petting their children to crawl along the lines and join their mothers on the other side. The 18 winners were divided into three groups and the three winners competed for the final. At the end, baby Olukayode Shadrach from Idanre emerged the winner, followed by baby Ogunsemilore Darasimi from Ilaje local government while baby Timothy Erastus from Ile-Oluji came third.
Speaking on the outcome of the crawlers race, Mrs Akeredolu affirmed that the exercise exposed the true reflection of what was happening within families; she stated that “I have always had the idea that men show less concern in the upbringing of their kids, but I never understood how terrible it is until the crawlers programme brought this sad reality to light. As one of our activities for this year’s summit, we included a family a family game that requires the participation of the father, mother and their toddler.
“The family game, is aimed at strengthening the bond between both parents and their kids. In preparation to the event, my team went to all the local governments in Ondo state to select families that will participate in the crawlers’ race during the FOWOSO summit. Their visit to the local governments has really shown that most men are unconcerned in the care and development of their children. From the reports, I learned that there was lack of bonding between parents”.
The winner babies went home with cash gifts while other participants got souvenir bags containing baby’s items.
Coming to the main summit held on 4th December at the international event centre The Dome Akure. It was an eye-opener, educative, innovative, and interactive; featuring symposium which was focused on the theme of this year’s event ‘Prioritising women’s health and wellbeing in Nigeria’.
The morning session had five speakers who spoke extensively on different health topics relating to women. Mrs Oluwatosin Oladipupo spoke on Female Genital Mutilation: A form of Sexual Gender Based violence; Dr. Lekan Olasehinde lectured the participants on Breast cancer: Detection, Treatments and Myths, Mrs. Morenike Osilaja spoke on Good food for good health, while Dr. Elizabeth Oloruntoba addressed Women’s health and a healthy household and Ms. Brave Ogidan spoke on Healthy living through exercise.
The evening session was a dinner and award night. The recipients of the awards were majorly young girls who have distinguished themselves, this was a demonstration of FOWOSO’s vision to empower women and girl-child and encouraged them to make their voices to be heard in the society regardless of intimidation.
These girls were discovered through another initiative of the wife of the governor, BEMORE Summer Bootcamp for Girls Naija. They showcase their inborn abilities and put into practice some of the skills they acquired during the two weeks training, and have since then started impacting their immediate environments, positively.
The awardees were Miss Marvelous Jegede from Arigidi Akoko who succeeded in lighting up her family house in the village by building and installing solar panel on the roof; a skill she acquired from the BEMORE Bootcamp.
Also honoured was Miss Funmi Akeremale the youngest breast cancer awareness Advocate who had in so many occasions enlightened people on how to conduct Breast Self-Examination, both within and outside Ondo. Miss Elebimoyo Oluwaseun got the Most Promising Musical Talent award; she distinguished herself at the Summer Boot camp through song and she was nick-named ‘Nigerian Celi Dion’.
It didn’t end there, a young upcoming female poet, Miss Chisom Ezugwu who was discovered through social media by Mrs. Akeredolu was also honoured and was applauded by the audience after she rendered a poem titled ‘Who am I’?. This is a reflection of the aim of FOWOSO, raising future female champions who would stand tall to contribute meaningfully in the society and at home; raising the generation of women who would break the jinx of female marginalization, relegation and be part of policy makers in Nigeria.
Those who were also conferred with the FOWOSO awards included successful entrepreneurs like Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, the Chief Executive Officer of Elizade motors and University, the Chief Executive officer of Airpeace flight, Chief Allen Onyema. They were honoured with Ondo Humanitarian Per Excellence and Nigeria Humanitarian Per Excellence awards, respectively. A beneficiary of the 2018 FOWOSO outreach, Olori Lizzy Akinlosotu who is now a successful shoe-maker, a skill she acquired through the training, was also honoured.
The FOWOSO award was justifiable and far from money-making venture which so many award ceremonies in Nigeria are known for, considering the categories of people that were selected. The Governor of Kwara state, His Excellency Abdulrahman, Abdulrazaq who was honoured as the Most Outstanding He4She Governor had in so many occasions in Nigeria, recognized as such, due to the level of female inclusion in his government.
The late wife of the Caretaker Chairman of Akure North Local Government, Mrs. Tiwalade Ogbesetore was given a posthumous award for her active participation and drive towards FOWOSO’s mission in her lifetime.
Commenting on the theme of the summit, the governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, stated that his administration prioritises the health and wellbeing of women in the state which birthed the commission of the maternal and child contributory health scheme.
He disclosed that his administration has made healthcare service free for children from age zero to five years old, with the use of ‘KaadiIgbeayo’.
Akeredolu noted that FOWOSO’s impact on the lives of Ondo women cannot be quantified, describing it as a good approach that was focused on empowering women. He assured that the FOWOSO empowerment training would commence next year across the state.
The Grand Finale of the second summit held at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Arcade Akure on 5th December was a moment of empowerment where participants gladly went home with sewing machines, gas cylinder, grinding machines, generators; cooking items from Mamador, one of the programme’s sponsors, detergents donated by PZ cusson, clothing materials as souvenirs.
It featured old people’s dance, couple’s dressing competition, cooking competition, parade by women from the 18 local governments, presentation of gifts and the raffle draw.
According to Mrs Akeredolu, FOWOSO’s aim was to seek a society where continuous development is achieved and sustained; she emphasized the need for high level of women literacy, noting that countries like the United Arab Emirate, UAE recorded a huge success because they invested in human resources without leaving any gender behind.
She attributed the reason for low income status of Nigeria to low ratio of female literacy, saying that ‘one more educated woman leads to much more national income’, hence the reason FOWOSO was conceived to change the narrative about womenfolk in Ondo state.
Her words: “FOWOSO has the ideology that everyone must be allowed to express theirselves without preference to any particular gender. As I have said before and continue to say, we should not expect any form of development if women, who make up more than half of the entire population are restricted to kitchen duties and child bearing only and are then expected to, like serfs, totally depend on their husbands for every need. It is simple, a high dependency ratio automatically results to stalled development”.
Dignitaries who graced the occasion included the wives of Ekiti state governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Osun state, Alhaja Kafayat Oyetola, Former deputy governor of Ekiti state, Prof. Modupe Adelabu, traditional rulers led by the Olugbo of Ugboland who is the chairman of the Ondo state council of Obas, Oba Frederick Akinruntan, women societies, professional bodies and artisans among others.
The 2019 FOWOSO Summit, had Mrs. Mercy Femi-Idris as the committee chairman.