Paul Orude, Bauchi
No fewer than 100 members of the High Level Women Advocates (HILWA) from northern states have converged on Bauchi for a five-day National Capacity Development Workshop in a bid to put girl child-education in the region in the front burner.
Speaking at the opening ceremony held at the Banquet Hall, Government House, on Monday, the Chairperson of HILWA, Bauchi State, Lydia Shehu, disclosed that the essence of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of HILWA members in promoting girl child education.
Shehu, who said that the workshop was organised in collaboration with the state Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) with support from UNICEF/DFID, said that participants were drawn from Adamawa, Niger, Plateau, Borno, Kano, Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi states.
The HILWA Chairperson observed that girl-child, particularly in the region, had been marginalised due to male chauvinism that is deeply entrenched in cultural and traditional norms.
She said that HILWA was an initiative of UNICEF and comprised of distinguished women who have received training over time right from their infancy to promote the enrolment, retention and completion of the education of the girl child.
She explained: “Most us grew up in the villages, with no social amenities available but then God in his infinite mercies allowed us to reach the apex of our career.
“We are therefore called upon to give back to the society to ensure we become role models to young girls that are coming up. We are supposed to share our experiences to ensure we encourage them to be in school, not just to be in school but they are supposed to be in school and to transit from one level to another. We all know the adage that says when you train a woman, you train a nation.”
She therefore commended the participants to avail themselves of the five days learning experience of the training as highly placed women who have left indelible marks in their states and societies and are willing to serve with passion to ensure that girls got to school.
Shehu, therefore, urged government and all stakeholders to cooperate with HILWA to achieve its aims by giving the girl child space not just to be in school but to also give women positions in decision making process as the best way to show society that women can deliver.
In her speech, wife of the governor of Bauchi State, Hajia Hadiza Abubakar, lamented that most of millions out-of-school children world-wide, girls from northern region are the highest.
Hadiza Abubakar urged participants to use the workshop to should create strategies and develop plans that will sharpen HILWA and facilitate a common understanding on the need to advocate for girls education and increase women participation in education governance and leadership.
She pledged that the state government will continue to support the girl education rights, check and sanction growing cases of domestic violence, child abuses, drug abuses and cultural taboos that are detrimental to the development and progress of the girls in the scheme of things particularly education that will enable all our girls and women realise their potentials.
In a goodwill message, Bhanu Pathak, Chief, UNICEF Field Office, Bauchi State, pledged that UNICEF would continue to support states and government of Nigeria and other stakeholders to increase access to education for every Nigerian child.