A SPEECH PRESENTED BY GODWIN EHIGIAMUSOE PhD, FOUNDER, LIFT ABOVE POVERTY ORGANIZATION (LAPO) AT THE 5TH LAPO OUTSTANDING WOMEN LEADERSHIP AWARD CEREMONY HELD IN BENIN CITY ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2017.

 

The Chairperson,

Keynote Speaker,

Distinguished Guests,

Gentlemen of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

 

I am delighted to welcome you to the LAPO Outstanding Women Leadership Award, 2017. This year’s event is a part of the various programmeslined up to celebratethe International Women’s Day (IWD), 2017. The global theme, Be Bold For Changechallenges us to build a more gender inclusive world.

 

LAPO has a rich history of challenging discrimination and inequality against women, championing their cause and forging their advancement in life. In 2013, the organization took a step further by instituting the LAPO Outstanding Women Leadership Award specifically dedicated to recognize, honour and celebrate Nigerian women who have distinguished themselves and recorded outstanding success in their Business, Professionaland Public Life. Today marks the 5th editionof the Award programme.

 

It is an incontrovertible fact that there can never be a meaningful socio-economic development in any society where women are excluded. Globally, the issues of women marginalisation and low participation in political leadership and decision making have been attracting a lot of attention. Although women constitute 49% of the total population and share common features with men in terms of educational qualifications, socio-economic status and occupation, etc, they are marginalised in virtually all spheres of life.  There still exists a huge gender gap between men and women, especially in political representation, economic management and leadership.

 

In many African countries including Nigeria, women are victims of obnoxious social norms, political exclusion and economic lopsidedness. The country has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 133rd in the world for female political representation. This is in spite of the international declarations affirming the rights and equality between men and women, with Nigeria as a signatory.

 

In spite of the obvious disadvantages, it is heartwarming to note that Nigerian women have recorded great milestones over the years to become leaders, money makers and innovators, breaking new ground in all spheres. Amongst the arrays of distinguished Nigerian women doing great exploits in their careers are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, our first female Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister in Nigeria,Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education and co-founder of Transparency International, and Chief Nike Oshinowo, an accomplished business woman and talk show host.

 

Today’s occasion provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the enormous contributions of women to the economic development and progress of Nigeria whether in businesses, in the farm, as entrepreneurs or employees or by doing unpaid care work at home. Particularly, we want to highlight and place on record what the 2017 LAPO Outstanding Women LeadershipAwardeesare doing to improve the quality of human life.

 

As an organization, LAPO is passionate about women and their overall development. It is pertinent to note that LAPO has made great progress in this direction. In 2016 alone, institutions in the LAPO system disbursed loans of N140.4 billion to owners of micro and small enterprises, especially women. Our customer base stands at 2.9 million in 30 states in addition to the Federal Capital Territory.

 

From inception, LAPO has been involved in community health improvement, playing a major role in addressing the challenges of malaria, maternal and child health issues. LAPO deployed innovative prevention, management and support approaches in the fight against HIV/AIDS particularly in rural communities across the country. In 2016, the organization reached over 1.2 million persons with health awareness programmes. Between October 2015 and December 2016, a total of 3,875 persons benefitted from our Community Health Outreach (CHO) programme in various communities in Edo State covering full medical compliments and surgery.  

 

The organization is currently implementing a massive cancer awareness programme tagged the LAPO Community Campaign for Cancer Control (LAPOC4) in Lagos, Rivers, Edo, Imo and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in partnership with 13 Community-Based Organizations. The focus is awareness creation, prevention and early detection.

 

We are all enjoined to take a bold and pragmatic step within our sphere of influence to accelerate gender parity. Together, we can build a better world where men and women live harmoniously, free of violence and discrimination.

 

Once again, I appreciate your presence and goodwill for LAPO.

 

Thank you and God Bless.

 

Godwin Ehigiamusoe Ph.D

Founder, LAPO Benin City                                         

March 8, 2017