From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Worried about the relegation and under appreciation of women in the country, especially in politics, Ohanaeze Igbo Women Organization worldwide under the leadership of Chief Calista Nkiru Adimachukwu in collaboration with Ezumezu Ndigbo Women Organization Worldwide organised a one-day international Igbo women conference in Nnewi, Anambra State to address some of the challenges faced by the womenfolk.
To show how serious the conference was, women of substance who had made various contributions towards the development of the country were also given awards of Osodieme Ndigbo (women who work with their husbands), although some of them came in representative capacity to the event.
The awardees were Prof. Uche Azikiwe, Dr. Victoria Aguiyi Ironsi, Lady Oliaku Ada Nwafor Orizu, Mrs. Adanma Okpara, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu and daughter of the first governor of Eastern Nigeria, Princess Alu Ibiam, who was given Ojinnaka Ndigbo.
Others were Mrs Victoria Ahuikpe Mbakwe, Senator Margery Okadigbo, Senator Princess Stella Odua, who was given the award of Ada Dioke Onu Ahia Ndigbo; while posthumous recognitions were given to Mrs. Maryam Babangida, Ada Ejirikwaa Uzo Ndigbo; former Minister of Information and Communication, the late Professor Dora Akunyili, Ada Igbo Ji Eme Onu and wife of the first president of Igbo State Union, the late Princess Victoria Uduego Obi.
The conference, according to the organisers, was meant to interface and discuss the various issues bordering on women development and empowerment, which they believed would help reduce social vices, as well as promote economic activities in the South East and Nigeria at large.
It was generally fashioned to educate and sensitise the Igbo women on their role in nation-building.
Quoting the late Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Mrs Adimachukwu noted that to educate the mind was to liberate it from darkness.
In that connection, she said she agreed with the political guru and added that people perished because of lack of knowledge.
She said it was based on that premise that the awareness conference was organised.
Some of the vexed issues, she said, were refusal by the Senate of the proposal to provide women with the 35 per cent of all appointments at all levels of government, refusal of married women to use their husband’s state of origin for elective and appointive positions, that women should no longer be treated as second class citizens in the society as they are capable of undertaking any task, including participation in governance like their male counterparts given the same condition, among other gender related issues.
The women at the conference vowed that if such injustice and maltreatment as replicated in the deliberate move to stop the 35 per cent affirmative action by the National Assembly should continue, they would not hesitate to rise again in protest, this time, in much more organised manner than the Aba Women Riot of 1929.
The Ohanaeze woman leader later pin-pointed reasons for recognising efforts of Igbo daughters who she said had long been neglected.
“Firstly, if we are to make progress and set the pace, we must first appreciate those daughters of ours who in one way or the other contributed towards the upliftment of the Igbo nation,” she said.
She also announced plans of the organisation to build skill acquisition centre where women would be given free training and subsequently empowered even as she called on all well-meaning Igbo, both at home and in the Diaspora, to financially assist the organization towards achieving the goal.
One of the awardees who was physically present, Prof. Azikiwe, called on women to stop shying away from politics.
She said women should no longer be afraid to contest side by side with men, adding that the women should exploit their numerical strength to achieve their political goal in Nigeria.
Many resource persons who presented papers included, Dr. Rose Nkechi Nwankwo of the Department of Public Administration, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, who talked on women and nation building and Dr. Leo Nnoli of the Department of History and International Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, whose paper was entitled: “Women: Agents in the nature and development of modern nation-states.”