It has often been said that when women intervene in any process, they add not only colour but stir emotions which, in turn trigger results. Chief Mrs. Marie Enegwea, Chairperson of League of Women Voters of Nigeria (NILOWV) FCT is an example of women in leadership seeking for equal rights and opportunity for women.
In this interview, the gender advocate talks about leaving a good structure on ground that will support the welfare of girls and women in FCT and Nigeria.
As chairperson of the League of Women Voters of Nigeria (NILOWV), in your state, how important is the concept of women supporting women to you?
The concept of “women supporting women” is very paramount and highly important to me and we have started working on it and I believe we will achieve great results soon.
What is the League’s mission and vision?
The league’s mission is to educate and mobilize women to enable them play a greater role in politics and governance in order to defend and strengthen Nigeria’s democracy while her vision is to become Nigeria’s leading network for women empowerment, leadership and advancement, to perfect and defend democracy in Nigeria.
What services does the organization provide?
The League services include training/educating girls and women, empowerment/sensitization of girls and women; lastly we encourage and support girls and women to attain leadership and political positions.
What major challenges did you face starting up in your state and what do you put your success down to?
Membership issues, it was a bit difficult to put up a good number of members. In order to achieve success in this, we visited all the area council’s/wards in FCT sensitizing them about what the league’s stands for.
What is the membership strength now in your state and what are the criteria for being a member?
Presently, we have almost 2000 members in FCT. Criteria for joining the League include the followings:
i. must be a female of 18 years and above
ii. Must have a voter’s card
iii. Get a membership form, which is N200
iv. Pay monthly dues of N200 i.e N2400 per annum
v. the League’s Identity Card (FCT Chapter)
They say women are difficult to lead, how do you ensure that members keep to the League’s code of conduct?
I ensured that with love, respect and politeness. And I made them know that every member is very important to us.
What has been the most rewarding part of your role with this initiative?
Every bit of it, being pragmatic and working with a tact team of like-minded women who understands the vision and mission of NILOWV and are ready to run with me. I am so glad being a blessing to humanity.
Many women struggle to balance starting a family and trying to build their portfolio/career, how will you suggest a better balance?
My advice for such women is to be focused and determined, this will always keep them abreast of any situation they found themselves.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work and what would be your legacy?
My ultimate goal is to impact many lives of girls and women positively (economically, politically, socially etc.). My legacy would be having a good structure on ground that supports the welfare of girls and women in FCT and Nigeria as a whole
To ensure that the 35% affirmative action is not only on paper, what is Nigeria League of Women Voters message to the Executive, Members of the Senate, National/State Houses of Assembly, INEC and Political Parties?
We will embark on more advocacies till we get positive impacts. The message we have for them is that they should allow women both in leadership, governance, decision making and political positions and they will notice a good difference.
60 years after independence women are still under-represented; what do you think women can do to increase their numbers in government?
According to Michelle Obama “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potentials of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” Women and girls in our society need to be more empowered and trained.
We have very qualified women but the system does not permit them to emerge, what should be done to put more women in leadership roles, especially in running our country?
We need more support and encouragement from government, traditional rulers, religious leaders, men and women too need to support women. We will continue to advocate and sensitize everyone in decision making category to see the need for women inclusion.
The UN theme for this year’s International Women Day was, “Women in leadership: Advancing an equal future in a COVID-19 world” can you explain your understanding of the theme and how it will impact women because COVID-19 has impacted women and girls in profound ways, amplifying the inequalities they face every day?
On the 1st March, this year, Dr Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Yes, it simply means advocating for equalities, seeing more women in leadership positions. Women should also be part of those who make decisions
The IWD theme, #Choose to Challenge campaign encourages men and women to challenge and call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping, What do you think are the most effective ways to address gender issues within a society?
Effective ways to address gender issues include; advocacy, empowerment, training, awareness, sensitization and help from both men and women.
How did NILOWV celebrate International Women Day in your state?
We had different programmes outlined in almost all the states in Nigeria.
A mother, they say is the person who has done more for you than anyone else in the world’ what was the most important lesson you learnt from your mother?
I learnt love, patience and giving back to humanity from my mother, also to hold on to God firmly, be confident and honest.
Mothers have been called the glue that holds the family together (March 14th is Mothering Sunday while May 9th is mother’s Day) do you agree that mothers should be celebrated, why and how should they be celebrated?
I totally agree that mother’s should be celebrated around the world because without mother life won’t be easy at all. I want to suggest that a public holiday be declared to honour women in Nigeria and some honourary activities should be organized by government in honour of women, presently in Nigeria, women are mostly celebrated and honoured by religious bodies.
Who are the women in your life that has shaped and defined you in ways both large and small?
My mother has really impacted my life in so many ways just like the Founder of this noble initiative and my sisters in the organization.