Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says all Federal Government social and entrepreneurial programmes, in the past six years, are targeted at women.
Osinbajo said this while speaking at the National Dialogue Forum on Girls with the theme: ‘Putting girls’ rights high on the national agenda’, held in Abuja on Tuesday.
The Vice President, who said the Federal Government has always insisted that its empowerment programmes bore a reflection of affirmative action for women, stated that 98 percent of beneficiaries of its Conditional Cash Transfer programme were women.
He said, “From 2015, we have ensured that all government social and entrepreneurial programmes have an affirmative component.
“The reason why we have done this is because we very strongly believe that young girls need strong role models of successful women at all levels of society
“Of the 2.4 million beneficiaries of government entrepreneurial and empowerment programmes, 56.4 percent were women.
“A total of N38bn in loans have been disbursed in the last four years. Of the 1.1 million beneficiaries of our conditional cash transfer programmes, 1.078 million of them; that is, 98 percent are women.
“In addition, in our youth empowerment programme where we have engaged 526,000 young people, and just recently, the president had asked that it be increased to a million young people.
“Of the 526,000 we have employed, 40.4 percent of them are female. And of the 106,074 cooks in our homegrown school feeding programme, 97 percent of them are female.
“So far, what we have tried to do is to ensure that affirmatively, we dedicate a certain percentage to women in our social and entrepreneurial programmes.”
Osinbajo however regretted that despite these efforts, the government still had a long way to go.
“It is not because the numbers (population) are huge while resources are limited, but also the discriminatory social and cultural practices and attitudes against women are deep,” he lamented.
He also said that states and local governments had roles to play in mainstreaming the rights of women and girls, especially in education and justice.
In her remarks, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, noted the challenges that girls face on a daily basis, at home, in schools, in the community, and other places.
To address the situation, she said the country must address the gaps in existing legal and policy frameworks, allocate adequate resources for the protection of girls, and eliminate gender norms and cultural stereotypes that impede the efforts made to protect girls and to end all forms of violence against children, particularly abuse and sexual exploitation of girls.
The Minister said, “This is a call for political, traditional and religious leadership in all efforts and interventions targeted at advancing girls’ rights.
“Such Leadership also requires that we listen to the girls and provide them with the platform to tell us what we should do and do better.
“I want to appeal to our Leaders at all levels to pay attention to the infrastructural development of our schools.
“These schools contribute largely in shaping the mindsets of students and must be properly furnished to provide a holistic development of the Nigerian child; including the girl-child.”
In her keynote address, the President, Women Arise (WA) Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, identified early marriage, sexual abuse, and Labour exploitation as some challenges facing the girl-child, and called for the initiation of a comprehensive social protection programme targeting girls, especially those in impoverished communities.
She added that the nation would thrive better when the girls were no longer devalued and marginalised because of their gender
“Nigeria has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in Africa and our girls are also at high risk of abduction, displacement and even death due to insecurity and conflict caused by insurgents and armed criminals. Covid-19 pandemic had made things worse,” Okei-Odumakin noted.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, African Child Policy Forum, Dr. Joan Nyanyuki, said the government was not doing enough investment on the girl-child; noting that both federal and states’ budgets fall short in critical areas such as education and health.
According to her, since statistics show that some countries in Africa which are poorer than Nigeria spend more on the girl child; it was not a problem of inadequacy of resources but lack of political will.