By Farida Adamu
“As we seek progressive attainment for our society, we must ensure the vigorous participation of everyone that lives in it; that includes recognizing, supporting and promoting women to make contributions to society” — Gov. Nasir El-Rufai, 2019.
In most climes, politicians are described as men of many words, a by-word for not matching rhetoric or promises with action. In other words, politicians rarely ‘’walk their talk,’’ to use a more popular cliché. To most of them, women empowerment, gender inclusion or equity are mere buzz words to win votes, attract applause or plaudits during campaign rallies or at social events. However, the case is different in Kaduna State, where women empowerment is one of the key drivers of Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s administration.
In fact, the sub-national is one of the most gender-friendly States in Nigeria and in the north, it comes first, second and third in women inclusion. As the world marks March 8 as International Women’s Day (IWD), Kaduna State women have cause to truly celebrate. In the last four years, they have made significant strides in the social, economic and political realms in the State.
Interestingly, the theme of year’s International Women’s Day(IWD) is “Each For Equal” and that is what Governor El Rufai has been emphasizing since he come into office in 2015. Mobilising funds and exercising political will, El Rufai has enacted pro-women policies spanning governance, women empowerment, enacted sexual and reproductive health policies and protected women from Gender Based Violence.
On November, 2, 2018, El Rufai did the unprecedented in Kaduna State, when he chose Dr Hadiza Balarabe as his running mate. Prior to her sojourn into politics, the University of Maiduguri-trained Medical Doctor was a Senior Registrar at Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital(ABUTH), before transferring her services to the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) in 2004. At the FCT, she rose to become Director of Public Health and thereafter, she came to serve as Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Primary Health Development Agency in 2016. Two years later, Governor El Rufai nominated her as his running mate and on March 11, 2019, Dr Balarabe became the first elected Deputy Governor in Kaduna State, the second in the north and the first in the North West geopolitical zone.
Similarly, Governor El Rufai has capable women in his star-studded cabinet. In a 14 member State Executive Council, there are six female Commissioners. Besides that, there are more women heading parastatals and agencies of Government than at any time in the history of the state. For example, the Ministry of Justice is headed by Aisha Dikko, who served as Special Adviser, Legal Matters, during the first term of this administration. She was called to the bar in 1988 and had worked in the banking sector. Similarly, she had engaged in private law practice before joining the Government.
In addition, the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure is headed by Balaraba Aliyu-Inuwa. Earlier, she served as Special Adviser to the Governor on Rural and Community Development in 2015. Subsequently, she was appointed Commissioner of Rural & Community Development, before moving to the Ministry of Works, Housing and Transport.
Similarly, Fausat Adeola Ibikunle is the Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development. Earlier, she served as General Manager of the Kaduna State Urban Planning & Development Authority (KASUPDA) in 2016. She studied Architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and graduated in 1983. She had worked with the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Federal Capital Development Authority(FCDA), prior to joining the Kaduna State Government in 2016.
Also, Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed-Baba is the Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development, who is responsible for promoting and protecting the welfare of women, youth and vulnerable groups. The Ministry’s mandate also includes the monitoring and implementation of the equal opportunity agenda, ensuring the promotion and preservation of art and culture and implementing social protection programs.
Specifically, Dr Amina Mohammed Baloni is the Commissioner of Health. Mohammed-Baloni is a medical practitioner who is a fellow of the West African College of Physicians. She holds a Masters’ degree in Public Health and has over 20years of practice as a clinician and as a public health professional. Her career has been devoted to improving the health and wellbeing of children and women. In addition, she has helped build the capacity of Government partners through technical skills transfer in planning, analytics, formulating strategies and monitoring for results.
Likewise, Hajiya Halima Lawal is the Commissioner of Agriculture. She joined the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) in 2011 as an Assistant Director, after working in several banks. Halima graduated with a degree in Agronomy and Soil Science from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1985. In 1999, she earned an MBA from the same university.
In addition to these cabinet position, women also head several Agencies of Kaduna State Government. For example, Hajiya Umma Aboki is the Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Investment and Promotion Agency(KADIPA). She has more than 20 years’ experience in the banking and finance sector, during which she worked with Guaranty Trust Bank and Sterling Bank, among others. Umma graduated with a degree in Statistics in 1994 and holds a master’s degree in Finance. She was appointed Special Adviser Economic and Investment Matters in 2017.
In the same vein, Aisha Saidu-Bala is the pioneer Director-General of Kaduna State Transport Regulatory Agency (KADSTRA). Before then, Aisha was Senior Special Assistant on Mass Transit, where she worked on the design of mass transit initiatives such as a BRT for Kaduna metropolis.
Indeed, several women head top government positions in Kaduna State. For example, the Director General of Kaduna State Geographic Information Service(KADGIS), Altine Jibo is a woman, so is the Accountant General of the State, Shizzer Bada. Likewise, the Managing Director of Kaduna Power Supply Company, Dolapo Popoola, is a young lady. In addition, the Executive Vice Chairman of Kaduna Peace Commission, Priscilla Ankut , is a woman, so is the Head of Service, Hajiya Bariatu Yusuf Mohammed.
Signifcantly, the El Rufai administration’s pro-women policies is not just about appointing women in top government positions. In addition, the Government has initiated several policies and programmes that are benefitting women, like the Kaduna State Women Empowerment Fund (KADSWEF). In November 2018, Hajiya Hasat Baba, as Commissioner for Women Affairs, spearheaded the scheme, where N200million was disbursed to several women groups and cooperatives at a single digit loan. The beneficiaries included petty traders, young female entrepreneurs and startups, with a 10% component set aside for women living with disabilities. KADSWEF also provides entrepreneurial skills, business development, management and financial literacy to its beneficiaries. So far, KADSWEF has reached 7,064 beneficiaries, 1,736 (24%) and 5,328(75.4%) from rural centres across the 23 Local Government Areas in Kaduna State. In fact, the first batch of beneficiaries, are paying back by demonstrating remarkable profits, thereby guaranteeing that even more women will benefit. Impressed by the positive impact of the empowerment fund, Malam Nasir El Rufai announced at the 4th Kaduna Women Economic Empowerment Summit in October 2019, that KADSWEF fund has been jerked up two-folds to N800m in the 2020 budget. According to him, the amount will be further raised to N1billion annually, starting from 2021.
Similarly, Kaduna State Government is also prioritizing healthcare for women and children. In partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, General Electric, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), 255 Primary Health Care Centres are undergoing a comprehensive upgrade with maternal and antenatal care equipment supplied by G.E Healthcare. Qualified healthcare personnel are also being employed.
Perhaps, one of its most popular and lauded policies of El Rufai’s administration, is the extension of paid maternity leave for female public servants from three to six, so as to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding as recommended by the World Health Organisation(WHO). The policy, the second of its kind in Nigeria, is part of efforts to improve the health of mothers and children. Also, the Government has established four Sexual Assault Referral Centres to cater for victims of Gender Based Violence. The Sexual Assault Centres provide psycho-social counseling, forensic examination, medical treatment and legal services for survivors of sexual violence. Similarly, N50 million has been set aside for the treatment of about 12,000 recorded cases of Vesico Vaginal Fistula(VVF) patients.
Since becoming Governor, Malam Nasir El Rufai has continuous pushed through legislations, enacted policies and pursued programmes that underscore the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “Each for Equal”. In other words, he has been pulling down the barriers that impede the upward mobility of women, by smashing the proverbial glass ceiling.
▪ Adamu is a Special Assistant on Media and Communication in Kaduna State Government.
(Opinion) el Rufai: Walking the talk of his love for women
By Farida Adamu