Gyang Bere, Jos
Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen has said that she will work with International organizations to mentor Nigerian women to participate in active politics and other spheres of life. She noted that violence against women is totally unacceptable and called on the menfolk to assist the women to grow up for a better and healthy society.
What will Nigeria women expect from you now that you have resumed office as Minister for Women Affairs?
The unity of women in Nigeria towards supporting developmental activities of the present administration is key. The Ministry of Women Affairs is a Ministry that relates and work closely with all the other ministries, it is an inter-ministerial Ministry because women are mothers of the nation, they are found everywhere. Women constitute over 51 percent of the total population of Nigeria, therefore, you will agree with me that it is the biggest ministry in Nigeria that deals with women and we all know the role of women in nation building. The world has turned over to women and children; everybody can give testimonies of what his/her mother did to bring him or her up. Your mother secured you for nine months, so the first security is securing the child for nine months and when she gives birth to you, she didn’t end there, she was your first teacher and everything; your first socialization was from the home and it was your mother. For government to deem it fit to create the Ministry for women affairs shows how important women are in building a healthy society but women can’t work without the men, it will surprise you to note that the population of men in the Ministry of Women Affairs are more than the women in that Ministry and those men are he for she. My payer for the youth and men generally in Nigeria is for them to appreciate their mothers, their wives, your sisters and your daughters and you will now be a he for she so that we can work together to help Nigeria. The wife of the President is the number one woman in Nigeria; she is the first lady and I am the minister that anchors the activities of women affairs. The wife of the President is a woman I highly respect; we respect her office because she is our mother, we equally respect the President who is our father.
As we speak, every woman in Nigeria is looking up to you for her welfare, how are you going to cope with the pressure?
It is not today I started handling women issues in this country; I have helped a lot of women since childhood, I have been fighting for the cause of women. In fact, during my primary school days, my party Chairman was my classmate, you can confirm that from him; I used to fight the boys in the class who beat the girls. I fought the boys to protect the girls. I love women and I see them as agents of change and a tool that if you encouraged them, you will get to the top. Like in the case of girl-child education, if you educate a woman, you are educating a nation and if you give a girl- child good education, you are equipping her for life, you are equipping her to be a good mother, you are equipping her to be a good wife, you are equipping her to be a good citizen because she will know her right, she will know the differences between good and bad for her to protect herself. The violence against women in some cases mostly affect women who are not educated and are vulnerable; they don’t know their right but if you educate your daughter and the girl-child, she will know her right and she will be equipped; She can protect and defend herself, therefore, girl-child education is key because once you educate the girl-child, you are equipping her for life, you are equipping her to know her right, to bring up good citizens and nurture good sons that are the future leaders; if our mothers did not nurture us, protect us, send us to school and support us to become what we are, it might have been very difficult. The child upbringing, lies with the mother, so how much does fathers do towards child upbringing. I want all Nigerian men to cast their minds back to the role mothers are playing right from conception; they protect and nurture the child for nine months and for over two years, taking care of the child, breast feeding the child at night, clothing and taking the child to school; how many men do that, how many will breastfeed the child, how many men will know when the child is hungry? Sometime when a child is crying, some men think the child is disturbing him; if a child cries, he might be hungry or something is disturbing him or he is sick; he can’t talk and the only way to relate it is to cry and the only person that understands that language is the mother, so women play a critical and significant role in nation building. If all men cast back their minds to the important role mothers play in the society, they will all be he for she; they will be clamouring for more strategic positions for women before the President, they will do better because they will protect the girl-child, they will protect all the children.
Women constitute about 50 per cent of the population of Nigeria but they are relegated when it comes to electoral matters, how will you use your office to encourage women in politics?
One of the key functions of the women affairs is advocacy; we are going to advocate for the rights of women, we will take statistics of where women are in Nigeria today, where are we going to and where are we going to be in the next four years; this is an issue that men should all understand and work with the women. I am not just going to work with women alone, I am going to work more with men to change the narratives; women have always been talking to themselves; they have been clamouring for the role of women in the country and the contribution of women always stands out. God has given women special gifts, what a woman sees, most men can’t see it. A woman sees a child even from behind especially when she is misbehaving and she responds immediately; these are the children that grow up to be adults, that grow up to be ministers, governors, President and so on and yet some don’t believe in supporting women. We are going to do more of advocacy in a soft way, we are going to work more with the men to get them on our side in other to advocate and work for the women. You are talking about women and political participation but we always start late; we must start very early, we are going to do more of mentoring and other key functions to give Nigeria women a better place in the society and in the political system. Mentoring is very important, we will mentor and prepare them for future offices. For instance, if a woman wants to contest election in 2023, you have to start now, you have to start identifying with your constituency, you must identify with their needs, you must share in the problem in the constituency and you should be able to solve the problem before you aspire. In your little way, what have you done to solve the problem in your community; either the problem of roads, light, water and other minor challenges; if you call on the constituted authorities to come and resolve the problems, then you are giving hope and by doing that, you are showing that if given the chance, you can be a good representative; you don’t wake up one month or three months to election and you go and buy form and say you are contesting election; you will be a stranger to your community, they will not know you but if you start now and identify with them, the better for you; these are some of the mentoring I will give to women. You must identify with the grassroots; every politics is local, you must start from the grassroots and a common man at the grassroots does not expect much; all they want is trust. Be honest with them, always be there with them, identify with their needs and help find solutions to that need. If the clinic within the community does not have drugs, what have you done; you should cry to the local government Chairman that your clinic does not have drugs; these are things that you need to do. You should call on traditional rulers and find out the immediate problem of the community; you might have schools but you need to find out whether the Children are sitting on the floor; some teachers sit on the window and as a good citizen, you need to approach the authorities as a patriotic son of that community and get the problems resolved. If you identify a problem within your community and you speak out, the community will now say this is a good leader; if you give her this office, she will do better; these are the kind of mentoring that I will give women that want to contest election; they should not just come at the last minutes as strangers; even if you have money, money is good but money is not everything, you must win the confidence of your people first. The next thing is funding, you can’t do politics without funding, moving from point A to point B entails money, mobilising people to address them is money, you need to give them water to drink or meal to eat; all that entails money, we will cry out and call for income generating activities to equip the women and support with credit facilities to prepare them for politics or either their business.
Plateau State has in the past produced Ministers that have always fought with the state governors, what should we expect in your time as minister?
By the Almighty grace of God, the loggerheads between the governor and the Ministers will be a thing of the past; it will never happen during my time by the grace of God; you know how I managed it very well during my first tenure as Minister, you knew my stand and you know how I worked with my then Governor; I never went out of my way to fight my Governor and I will never do that. The Governor is in charge of Plateau State, his functions are very clear; as a Minister, I will work in the interest of Plateau and Nigeria.