By Aaron Ossai
Since assumption of office, barely a year ago the humane and urbane wife of the Executive Governor of Kogi state Mrs. Rashida Bello has been an ardent and passionate advocate of women, children and the vulnerable in Kogi state.
Her commitment to her core beliefs in lifting the life of the less privilege, women, youths and children gave birth to her pet project, “Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation” (KOWYAF) just two months into the life of the administration. KOWYAF, is an interventionist programme designed to capture all that the wife of the executive governor of the state stands for: pro-poor activism, women, children and youth development, health and social issues.
Mrs Rashida Bello is a strong believer in the ability of women and youths to transform society and address development issues. She also holds tenaciously to the belief that if you empower just one woman you have empowered the whole society. “women are goal getters all they need is a little push, like they say if you want something said ask a man but if you want something done ask a woman” she equally captures the essence of the youths as follows: “the greatest force of any society is its youths and don’t forget that my husband happens to be the youngest governor in the present dispensation. Women and youths are the key to the future of Kogi state” In her views women and youths should be empowered to serve as catalysts for the social and economic regeneration of the society. KOWYAF is focused on mobilising Kogi women and youths for active participation in the process of governance.
Since the inauguration of KOWYAF, it has achieved remarkable progress in the actualisation of its core objectives. Mrs. Rashida Bello has through her pet project seen to the renovation of abandoned borehole across the state to ensure that rural dwellers have access to clean and portable water. She has also provided medical equipment, drugs, power generating sets, and refrigerators to primary health care centres across the three senatorial zones in the state. Speaking during the presentation of medical facilities to the three senatorial zones and commissioning of an ultra-modern primary health care centre at Agassa in Okene Local Government Area, she restated the commitment of the Alhaji Yahaya Bello led administration to the health and social welfare of the people of the state “the government of his Excellency is committed to the health and social welfare of the people of the state in line with the APC change agenda KOWYAF will continue to partner and complement the government of the state to ensure that the people of Kogi state enjoy the dividend of democracy in all its ramifications” she noted that the gesture by her NGO, the Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation, KOWYAF was complementary to government efforts and in no way meant to take over the function and duties of the state government “my focus is on health and education as these are sectors women and youth are mostly affected. With well-equipped primary health care centres, rural people would not have to travel long distances before accessing qualitative health care”. To drive home her point she stated that: “every society around the world depends on the productivity of healthy women. If women are not healthy, the society is not healthy. It has become indisputable that no nation can develop without first developing the girl child to blossom into a responsible, empowered and resourceful woman”
Youth empowerment and capacity building are also high on the agenda of the wife of the Kogi state governor. “the youths are our future we must prepare them for that future by equipping them with the tools they need to be able to engage productively, and contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. We cannot go on saying the youths are the leaders of tomorrow without preparing them for the future, to me and my husband we believe the future is now” To date about 500 indigenes of the state have benefited from specially designed training programmes put together by KOWYAF. The trainings are meant to equip participants with entrepreneurial and managerial skills to be able to establish and run their own businesses. KOWYAF has also been instrumental in setting up personal businesses for 42 skilled women spread across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state. The mandate of the project is to train, retrain and assist women and youths who have acquired skills, but could not start their own businesses because of lack of funds. The empowerment programme involved the provision and distribution of working tools to identified beneficiaries. Apart from the distribution of working materials like generators, sewing machines dryers among others beneficiaries also receive grants to enable them start their own businesses. In the maiden edition of the programme the sum of N100, 000.00 was given to 42 beneficiaries drawn from all the Local Government Areas of the state to enable them kick start their businesses. Mrs. Bello in her remark during the presentation of working items and cash donation, assured that the programme was not a flash in the pan but one that would be sustained throughout the life span of the administration of her husband, his Excellency Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Her commitment is not in doubt and is best explained by the readiness of many likeminded bodies and institutions to work with KOWYAF to reach the less privilege in the state. Only recently, KOWYAF became the choice partner for the distribution of relief materials to the less privileged in the state by the wife of the president, her Excellency, Aisha Buhari who used the vehicle in partnership with her “Future Assured” and “Get Involved” Initiatives to reach countless individuals in the state. Many other bodies like the Nigerian Sickle Cell Foundation, Mobile Medics, NMA have similarly partnered with KOWYAF to address the peculiar needs of citizens of the state.
Her commitment to the plight of the less privilege and down trodden in society also gave birth to, “The Direct Reach Out Project” (DROP). DROP is one project Mrs Rashida Bello is very passionate about. It is aimed at reaching the unreached at the grassroots, and taking the dividends of democracy to the poorest of the poor in every nooks and crannies of the state. The programme is designed specially to cushion the effects of the current economic challenges and foster good rapport with citizens of the state on a one on one interface with her Excellency. DROP has presence in each of the 3 senatorial districts of the state. DROP teams in the different districts go from house to house to “DROP” relief items to the needy. Over 10,000 people have so far benefitted from the project. “we are committed to pro-poor projects, our goals is to reach the poor and lift them out of poverty, this is my life’s commitment this is what I think about when I wake up every morning, when the almighty has been good to you the best way to say thank you is to give back to society”
Mrs Bello has affected the lives of women, youths, children, and the vulnerable persons in such unique ways and has equally played a very crucial and supportive role in the Administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s New Direction Agenda.
In the last one year Mrs. Rashida Bello has used her exalted position as wife of the executive governor of the state, to touch lives and bring succour to women, children, youths and the less privilege in the state. The years ahead promises to be better as she has laid out programmes and projects in line with the vision of her pet project, the Kogi Women and Youths Advancement Foundation, KOWYAF. “Our goal is to bring real change to the people Kogi state, this is not populism, but a commitment to serve. The welfare of the citizens of Kogi state and the development of the state especially it teeming youths and women is paramount. We are committed to bringing about positive changes on a sustainable basis in line with the New Direction Agenda of the current administration”
Mrs Rashida Bello has been honoured with numerous awards in recognition of her live changing activities. She is a recipient of the, Kogi Woman of Inspiration 2016, and Amazon First Lady of the Year 2016.
Mrs. Rashida Bello’s Rural Development Exploits in Kogi
By Aaron Ossai