Goodwill Message Delivered by Iyom Josephine Anenih, Former Minster for Women Affairs and Social Development of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Launch of the Women’s Voice and Leadership – Nigeria Project.

Date of event: 22nd July 2019

PROTOCOLS. Good morning. It is an honour to be here today at the launch of the Women’s Voice and Leadership – Nigeria Project. It gives me pleasure to be here because of the significance of our objective, the stature of Action Aid Nigeria as one of the implementing partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, and my commitment to matters concerning women and girls. In a 2015 report titled, Women’s Voice and Leadership in Decision-Making, researchers at the Overseas Development Institute reviewed the global evidence on the processes of change that enable women to have substantive voice and leadership in decision making. The paper answers the questions regarding the enabling factors for women and girls’ voice, leadership and access to decision-making and [the questions regarding] whether and how women and girls’ voice, leadership and/or presence in decision making roles result in greater gender equality. Across the world, women overwhelmingly still have limited access to positions of leadership and too little is known about how women become leaders. However, the individual and collective action of women, whether in formal politics, civic society or the economy, provide opportunities for women to voice their needs and demands. Indeed, across class, religion, ethnicity, caste, and sexuality, women’s voices form alliances around shared interests. These alliances are coalitions that have been critical to development. You will agree with me, and evidence exists that suggests that women’s social and economic activism can improve their access to public goods and services. Definitively, when tactically aligned and appraised as broad-based, the collective voice of women is a tool that significantly impacts their ability to negotiate remarkable change. Therefore, this Women’s Voice and Leadership – Nigeria Project could not have come at a better time. Despite the contributions of Nigerian women, some of which are well documented, we are still under-represented in politics, business, and industry. Therefore, efforts to further tackle the barriers to gender equality and support the empowerment of women and girls are welcome. Providing resources to local and national women’s rights organizations that are advancing the rights of women and girls and championing equality is a step in the right direction. Our host, ActionAid Nigeria, is a reputable social justice organization working to achieve social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication. Their objective is to shift and transform power, through empowerment, solidarity, campaigning and generating alternatives to ensure that every person can enjoy a life of dignity and freedom from all forms of oppression. Thus, based on their achievements in terms of meeting their mandate and their commitment to these ideals, the choice of AAN as one of the implementing partners of this program is laudable. Last but not least, matters pertaining to women and girls are very personal to me. As the pioneer elected National Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, as Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development and in my personal capacity, I have prioritized creating spaces for women and girls to excel in business, industry, and politics. As National Women Leader, I created gender-sensitive and inclusive party policies and worked with other female politicians across party lines to tackle the problems faced by all-female politicians. As Minister, we undertook projects that bequeathed women with economically empowering skills such as beekeeping, pottery and vegetable oil production. We also provided equipment and training to women’s cooperatives and promoted literacy and health programs for women. Privately, through the Women Foundation Nigeria and other organisations, I am affiliated with, I have provided mentorship and encouragement to women interested in politics. Today’s launch signifies outstanding progress. Although we are a great distance from our aspirational society in which women will have access to equal opportunities and representation, we are on our way there and the Women’s Voice and Leadership – Nigeria Project represent is a vehicle for the actualization of our aspiration. Today, as we launch this program, I wish us fruitful deliberations and a great event. Thank you.