Why we introduced ‘Woman of the Year’ - Omowole
In this interview with Ere-ebi AGEDAH, the National President of the National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Mrs Ifeyinwa Omowole, speaks on her achievements in office and the NAWOJ’s new project ‘Legend 101 Award’, among others. Excerpts:
What inspired Legend 101 Award that NAWOJ under your watch is planning?
What inspired us is the fact that every time you find ‘The Man of the Year Award’; and we have a lot of women doing so many things in their various fields, and nobody has deemed it fit to recognize them as women.
More importantly, the Legend 101 award is slated for next year in commemoration of the 30thanniversary of NAWOJ.
We instituted the award and we are planning to make it work in such a way that it will outlive our tenure. We are doing this because a lot of women out there are doing a lot of things and they deserve to be encouraged and honoured. The fact is; there are many of them but what we are after is the most outstanding ones among them. That was what informed the name ‘Legend 101’.
What category of women are we talking about here?
We are talking about any woman who is doing well. A woman who is frying Akara (Beans Cake) and she is able to use that to send five children to the university is our ‘Woman of the year. Any woman, who is doing anything, may be in her community, saving women who are pregnant from dying or a woman crusader doing some things differently, is our ‘Women of the Year’.
In short, it cuts across skills whether educated or uneducated, as long as you are touching lives, or have done something for the society. We are also recognizing women who are courageous in politics, female Ambassadors who are doing well.
Could you give an insight into how nominees would be selected?
Voting started in mid-November and it will last for sixty (60) days. What we are doing is that people will nominate via our website and as I speak to you the nomination is still on-going and it is mainly done by female journalists.
The bottomline is that it is Nigerians who will vote and you can even nominate your mother if you think she is qualified, just as you are also permitted to galvanize people to vote for her to emerge one of the one hundred and one (101) women.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, virtually all the political parties have held their primary elections. Do you think women have fared well?
Well, the truth is that women have been unfairly treated by their counterparts in the political sphere. Even those ones who fared well and got tickets at the primaries, it has been taken from them.
Some of the excuse adduced by the parties was that some of them would not be able to stand a general election; they even told some that the incumbents in certain positions were still interested.
In a certain state, some women bought forms and their money was refunded; they did not even allow them to run or try their luck whether they win or lose.
If they had allowed then, it would be on record that they have tried and at least they would be encouraged.
What in your opinion is the way forward?
The way forward actually would be when we start having women at the party structure as executives such as the vice chairman, treasurer or publicity secretary and what have you, but not as women leader. I think there would be an avenue for them to negotiate their ways through their numbers as against men deciding their fate at all times.
Cuts in… How?
These men will go at the back and settle themselves over beer and these women would not be there. But, if we have women at that party level, they would be able to stand for their fellow women.
How would you assess women contributions to politics and national development?
Let us start from the voters’ registration. Women take it upon themselves to even call out other women to come out to register through awareness and mobilization. When it comes to voting, women also turn out en-mass to vote.
In essence, I have seen woman who after giving birth to a child still came out to secure her children’s future by voting for a candidate of her choice.
Let me give you an instance, some years back, we had a Remi Oyo and when she came she turned this place (referring to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, where she works) around amidst meager budget.
Knowing fully well our challenges, she provided water here. Something that you would have been taken for granted.
That is a woman for you; because she knows that lack of water can kill. Not only that, she also built twenty six (26) State offices.
In short, there was significant change. So, you find out that for those few women in authority, they fair very well and perform distinctively.
So, sometimes, I wonder why people keep mentioning one example of a woman looter (I do not want to mention names), out of the many male looters.
In fact, there was an Okonjo Iweala that served two Presidents due to her sterling performance.
And these days you would discover that it is women that they put in charge of finance, just for their prudency. That says it all.
Would you say that as NAWOJ president, you have been able to protect enough the interest and the rights of female journalists in the country?
Truth is; there is no one who has done enough. But I make bold to say that we have fared well and are not where we used to be.
We have also been able to meet most of the mandate for which NAWOJ was established, and why we were elected into office.
More importantly, we have also given female journalists, women and even children voice in the larger society and we have been doing that over the years. Remember, we are 29 year this year.
Let’s talk about your achievements in office?
You see, when I was campaigning in my first time, the only thing I promised was training and capacity building.
And that was because when I became a journalist as a young reporter, NAWOJ helped me by giving me training at no cost.
I was three years old in journalism when I joined NAWOJ and I benefited immensely.
In reciprocating that, all I promised was training and I have been doing that even beyond the shores of Nigeria to get funding from outside to train our journalists.
As we speak, we shall be travelling to Kogi state for training. Some went to Kano, Enugu and we are still opening other space for more slots for our members across the country.
So, as far as I am concerned, if am going to write my memoir; that is my achievement.
We have also been able to build a platform for all Nawojians via social media in order to foster mutual relationships.
To tell you how that works, during my recent visit to Calabar, I was overwhelmed by the reception accorded to me by fellow Nawojians which was made possible by the connectivity we have created.
We have also noticed that there is nothing you give to human being that will not fade, but when you build his capacity, you have helped the person not just for today but for tomorrow.
What legacy would you like to leave behind when you leave office?
I will say something; a 30- year- old association needs its own secretariat. I pray that before I leave, we would have our own secretariat so that at least we will be able to keep our records and celebrate that feat.
NAWOJ has been in the forefront of campaign against rape lately, are you not worried that the scourge still persists?
We have always been involved. But let me say this; rape is everywhere. In fact, in most of the cases NAWOJ is involved and our Plateau state chapter is seriously synergizing with other stakeholders to expose perpetrators while equally being careful not to expose victims to stigmatization because most of the time it is not about us but the child.
The bottom-line, however, is the fact that we are Africans and we have taboos and we should not allow civilization to get the better part of us.
Mind you, boys get raped too, not just the girl child but every child must be protected and we are fully waging a war against that.