Women need to acquire knowledge, skills to succeed - Cook
Mrs. Cecilia Cook is the Executive Chairman, Kogi State Science, Technical Education and Teaching Service Commission, STETSCOM. She achieved the merger of the former Science Technical Education Board, STTEB, with the Teaching Service Commission, TSC, in Kogi State. In this interview with Laraba MUREY on the commemoration of the International Women's Day, she speaks on the importance of education for women, hard work and commitment in achieving success, self-belief and how it's vital for women to contribute to economic development. Excerpts:
You are clearly an accomplished individual, so what would you say to other female professionals who are just starting out in their careers tying it to mentorship?
There is always a starting point or a beginning for females trying to aspire to the level that other females have been able to get to, what I'll advise them is to first of all believe in themselves, they must be very serious in their chosen career. Put all efforts and work very hard to get to the level of whoever that is their mentor that they're trying to be like and, also be careful to surround themselves with mentors who can give you some practical insights or you can share opinions with according to their career paths. And they should keep those friends who are also like them.
Personally I have been proud of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala right from when she was the Minister for Finance. She is somebody that is very natural, she works very hard, she believes in herself and I'm not surprised she has attained this position today, meaning that the whole world has recognised what she can do. That is the attribute to working very hard that led to her selection. Now for ladies or women coming up, the secret to success is working very hard, they should learn to obey the rules of their careers and with time they will achieve the success that they set out to pursue.
As a female leader managing such high office, what are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?
Let me use myself as an example. As a woman, I have never been faced with any challenges. when I say challenges, I mean the challenges that come with the work. I will do the work. How to get there, how to move things forward as for Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello believes in women. He is a gender receptive governor. He also believes that when you give a woman a position, you will have the expected results. I am not saying that the men are not good, that is not my point.
But for the women they will always make sure that they achieve on the job. Maybe you have heard that wherever a woman is heading, they do not tolerate nonsense. Women are always too serious, they do not compromise, in most cases and, when I'm working with the male group I've never had any challenges because they respect me, they believe in me, they are always cooperating and, I've told you that my governor is a very passionate man when it comes to anything that concerns women, He is a gender positive governor, the Secretary to the State Government is a woman, Mrs Folashade Arike Ayoade, here in Kogi state, the Managing Director of the pension board, Mrs Abedo, is also a woman, Head of Service, Mrs Hanna Diyo, the Provost, College of Education, Technical ,Mrs Shola Jaboro and myself. In the 21 local governments in Kogi state, we have the 21 women as vice chairpersons. Women should try and work hard to achieve success. Is there anything that is hard for woman to do? My response is, No! If women work hard there won't be leadership challenges except the challenge to sit down and do the work and, get things right and, achieving results.
This month of March, we are celebrating the International Women’s Day. What do you think is causing the lack of diversity in top leadership? Why are women not progressive?
I think it has to do with education, how educated are they on these aspects. Lack of proper education is why they do not believe in women. They believe it has to do with upbringing and, education in the northern states for instance, they used to believe that women should not be literate. But most people now are celebrating the International Women's Day and most leaders are keying in women’s growth not just in the home but also in the public space. Women no longer want to stay in the kitchen, they want to be heard, they also want to contribute to the economy, they are equally as intelligent as their menfolk.
We have seen it here and there. We have had Margaret Thatcher of Britain, Imelda Marcos of the Philippines and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. These were great women and of course our own Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Women are refusing to stay in the kitchen. We are not saying we are not going to cook for the men, we are not saying the men should not eat but we want to be seen, we want to be heard and we want to be respected.
More women should come out especially in the Northern Nigeria, they need to be enlightened. They should not kill the passion of these women, these women are intelligent, they should not remain in the kitchen or probably in the bedroom. It will not bring about any immorality, you should come out and contribute your own quota that is the diversity they we are talking about.
With the increase of out of school children across the country, what is your office doing to ensure that Kogi children remain in school especially the girl-child?
Our girls in Kogi state go to school. We have always put the education of the girl-child on the front burner in our state. We do not have people falling out of school, honestly. Let me be frank with you, most people going around to take data sometimes they just write whatever results they want people to see. But here we have girls’ colleges here and there. And once you are of age, you have you go to school. My governor is passionate about education. Education is his first area of interest. As I speak to you, 20% of the annual budget in Kogi state to develop education, especially, education of secondary schools. The girl-child education in Kogi state is taken very seriously. Do you know that the Vice Chancellor, Kogi State University, Anyigba, is a female? That means the girl-child in Kogi state is said to have been going to school for the past 50 years. I am a retired woman. If I could go to university 45 years ago then you should know in Kogi state women go to school.
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