First Lady Aisha Buhari has solicited renewed support of the Nigerian media in reporting humanitarian issues and plight of women and children affected by conflicts.
Mrs Buhari made the call during the 32nd Anniversary of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalist (NAWOJ) on Thursday in Abuja.
Mrs Buhari was represented at the event by her daughter, Halima Buhari-Sheriff.
The theme of the anniversary is: “Leadership with a difference; setting the pace for a better future.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event also included the launch an endowment fund to support the girl-child and an award to Buhari and several others.
She also called on individuals and organisations to assist victims of humanitarian crises.
She commended NAWOJ for the support for women in Nigeria and reporting gender issues.
“I am highly impressed that NAWOJ has evolved to a formidable vanguard for not only female journalists but for women in Nigeria and the sentinel for gender issues.
“I commend the executive of NAWOJ under the leadership of Ladi Bala, the President, for considering me worthy of these award in recognition of my contribution to nation building especially through my Future Assured programme.
“I congratulate other awardees as well and call on all people of good will to redouble our collective efforts towards expanding humanitarian assistance to our growing vulnerable populations.
“I also use this opportunity to call on Nigerian journalist to prioritise humanitarian reporting in their regular reporting and commentary, due to the global impact on conflict especially on women and children who are often the worse victims.
“I call on all people of good will to support government by joining the global movement to assist victims of humanitarian crises.
“As President of African First Ladies Peace Mission i dedicate this award to all the vulnerable people of Africa,” she said.
In her speech, Bala, said the association was created 32 years ago as a child of necessity to bridge the gap of marginalisation.
She said it was to offer opportunity for women in the hitherto men dominated pen profession.
The NAWOJ president said that the association was was also to promote professionalism and advocate for the cause of women, girls and vulnerable members of the society.
“NAWOJ as a professional body is a strategic tool in addressing gender inequality and advancing the cause of women development by creating awareness and giving visibility to such developmental issues in the society.
“Thirty-two years down the line, I make bold to say the objective of establishing NAWOJ are gradually being realised judging by the increase in the number of women journalists and the quality of responsibility being handled by them.
“Development issues have not only occupy the front burner but receiving the required attention and change for the better, when compared with years past.
“NAWOJ has equally constituted itself into a pressure group of a sort by demanding fairness, equity, good governance and gender equality among others,” she said.
Bala said NAWOJ would not renege on its functions, including agenda setting and bridging the gap between government and the governed inline with its constitutional mandate.
Bala said the essence of the confab was to serve as a wakeup call to journalists as critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project to examine their roles in nation building.
She said no nation can rise above the mindset if its citizens, adding that the award to some distinguished Nigerians was to serve as a stimulus and spur other Nigerians to remain committed to the cause of nation building.
“It is worthy of note that the best life one can live is the one you live for others.
“It is on this premise that I want to appeal to all to support NAWOJ to continue to carry out programmes and activities for the betterment of the society.
“NAWOJ is willing to collaborate with institutions, bodies and organisations in carrying out advocacy and sensitisation on health issues.
“Such as cancer, VVF, Malaria as well as sexual and gender based violence in the society.
“I am pleased to announce announce that NAWOJ is in partnership with End Cervical Cancer Nigeria Initiative to reduce the burden of cervical cancer among women and girls in Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Women Affairs Minister, Paullen Tallen, appealed to Nigerians to join NAWOJ in providing succour to the girl-child living without hope as a result of insurgency, insecurity and the negative effect of early marriage.
She said government could not do it alone, adding that with associations such as NAWOJ, the issue of over 15 million out-of-school children in Nigeria which majority are girls, can be curbed.
The minister called on other meaningful organisations to emulate NAWOJ in supporting government fight the scourge.
“This anniversary is significant as it marks a milestone in redefining the objectives of its existence as the women’s voice for those in the noble profession and supporting the progress of gender mainstreaming in the country.
“I am also pleased to note that this event is holding on the heels of our historic visit to the National Assembly, led by the mother of the nation.
“Yesterday the first Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Aisha Muhammadu Buhari was fully supported by the President and many of the members.
“I thank you all the great Nigerian women in this hall that came out, in huge numbers, to register support for the bill and to make our presence known.
“That was the highest level of advocacy and I believe by the grace of God, as mothers of the nation, our children will not fail us,” she added.
Sen. Biodun Olujimi, former Deputy Governor of Ekiti, in her speech, advocated for the establishment of a centre for the training of female journalists.
She said women must decide to do things differently to move themselves and the nation forward.
“Educate our journalists, no female journalist should go about uneducated, we should live up to the expectations of the society,” she added.
Olujimi commended the NAWOJ leadership and encouraged them to work hard in fairness and transparency, to entice more assistance and higher positions in the society.
In his address, Sen. Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo, commended women journalists for their contributions to national development.
He said the endowment fund would give hope for a better future for the girl-child.
According to him, education is life and denying a child education is like killing the child’s future.
He said the Okorocha Foundation was willing to support NAWOJ by sponsoring the education of some of the out of school children within and outside the country.
Okorocha said that the foundation would take responsibility of the tuition fees and school materials of such children.
He said Nigeria needed a leader who would do things differently to better the economic situation of the country.
He urged Nigerians to pray against negative vices in the country.
National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, commende NAWOJ for the strides made in the last three decades of its existence.
“Not only has the association served as an effective umbrella for female journalists, but had also promoted the cause of women in the country creditably well, within the limits of its resources.”
He said the theme of the anniversary, “Leadership with a difference, setting the pace for a better future”, is very timely and very important.
Isiguzo said it also reminded journalists “of the agenda setting role of the media which unfortunately has not been effectively pursued by us.
“For any organisation or society to make a difference in leadership, those who lead must be effective, steadfast, compassionate and drive the process with transparency, accountability, with equity and inclusiveness,” he said.
The NUJ president said this was a wakeup call to leaders either in mainstream politics or in associations like NAWOJ, “as anything less was a charade”.
“Advanced societies of the world have progressed appreciably, because they have promoted girl-child education and development.
“No doubt therefore that doing such remains an important development issue,” he added.
Isiguzo said the event was not only about reproductive health, but also promoting the girl-child programme, which was an all-encompassing issue that deals with the growth of the economy.
He said national productivity and innovation, as well as the development of democracy and democratic values, were not left out.
“If we truly desire to raise the bar on education, poverty, disease and hunger, fight immorality and other problems associated with primordial sentiments, due consideration should be accorded to the girl-child,” he said.
He added that the decision by the NAWOJ to launch an Endowment Fund for the Girl-Child is a worthy call to service and should be supported by all concerned citizens.
“I am happy that female journalists have taken such a proactive and progressive step and hope that the proceeds realised from the launch today will be properly deployed and well accounted for.”
NAN reports that Prof. Umaru Pate, Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Gombe, delivered a lecture on the theme of the event.
Mrs. Buhari was presented with an award of Icon and Beacon of Hope for Empowered, while Borno Governor Prof. Babagana Zulum bagged the Achievers award as the Embodiment of True Democracy.
Other awardees were governors of Ebonyi and Kebbi, Sen. Olumiji, Tallen, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of FInance, Budget and National Planning and Jumai Ahmedu spokesperson of FCTA.
NAN also reports that late Mrs Marian Babangida, former First Lady of Nigeria, was given a posthumous Award of “Ideal role model for African Women Leadership”.
Her daughter Halima Babangida honoured the event. (NAN)
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