Exactly one year ago, we gathered here for the opening ceremony of the 16th Annual National Women Conference organized by COWLSO. I am delighted to join the Executive and Members of COWLSO, our distinguished guests and all participants for this 17th edition of this conference.
On behalf of COWLSO and the people of Lagos State, I say a warm welcome to Her Excellency, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I also welcome my dear brother and colleague, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Thank you for accepting the invitation to be the Special Guest of Honour at this opening ceremony. My sincere appreciation to all my brothers, Your Excellences’ for honouring our invitation.
Every year, I look forward to coming to this conference because of the interesting topics that form the themes of the conferences. In 2015, the theme was “Relevance in Economic Turbulence”. Last year the conference’s focus was “Strong Family, Strong Nation”. This year the conference is deliberating on another interesting theme, “She Creates, She Transforms.”
The trajectory of the conference themes is a pointer to the strategic thinking of the people behind this conference. In 2015, when the nation was faced with harsh economic recession, the conference deliberated on how our women could be relevant and support their families and the nation. Last year, the conference focused on the smallest unit of the society, the family and how we could strengthen the nation by strengthening the family.
This year, the focus is on the enterprising woman; the same woman who was relevant in economic turbulence; the woman who is the bond that holds the strong family and the nation; the woman who creates and transforms. She Creates; She Transforms paints the picture of our everyday hardworking Nigerian woman; whether the housewife, the artisan, corporate woman in the office or an entrepreneur. In their different spheres, our women are naturally gifted with skills and talents that make positive difference in the society.
Our women are constantly creative; making something out of nothing. Creativity has become very essential to succeed in today’s world because we face new challenges everyday – at home and at work. As the woman creates and transforms, she positively impacts the family, the workplace and the nation.
Asides celebrating the resilient and dynamic nature of our women under diverse situations, I have been told that there would be a lot of discussions around entrepreneurship, skills acquisition, agriculture and MSMEs. This conference will seek to unleash the creative and transformative energies of more women and I look forward to hearing the resolutions arrived at the end of this conference.
With the female population in our country today, it is clear that our women have the capacity to positively affect the Nigerian economy and are already doing so. What is required is a deliberate and articulated policy to support female entrepreneurs and MSMEs. And from my experience, female entrepreneurs are outstanding business people who are very creative and hardworking. If you want a job done properly and delivered on time, give it to a woman! (Most likely a COWLSO member).
We remain committed to supporting female entrepreneurs. We have, through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, funded many female run Medium and Small Scale businesses. I can tell you that as at September 2017, 2,613 female entrepreneurs have received a cumulative sum of N2.1billion, 42% of the total loans disbursed but our target is to ensure that at least 60% of the loans are given to women.
I encourage more women to approach our Employment Trust Fund and also take advantage of the many initiatives from our Ministries of Wealth Creation and Women and Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. Supporting women businesses should no longer be seen as a social support or empowerment but as a necessary step to revive and improve the economy.
I congratulate Sandra Aguebor, this year’s winner of the Inspirational Woman Award. She has dared to succeed in an area that everyone would regard as the sole reserve of men. She has created and transformed in an area where you would not usually find a woman. I salute your courage and resilience. You are a worthy role model. I urge all young women to emulate her and see no barriers to achieving their dreams and aspirations.
I want to personally commend the First lady, the Chairperson of COWLSO, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, for not only keeping the COWLSO vision alive but also improving the quality of the conference every year. I know how much efforts you have put into this and I am not surprised about the outcome every year.
On behalf of the government of Lagos State, I wish to thank all the Executives and members of COWLSO, all our distinguished speakers and participants and wish you all a very successful conference.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko, lo je wa logun!
Governor of Lagos State,
24th October, 2017.