We’ve gender equality in Kaduna state – Commissioner

Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed Baba is the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in Kaduna state.
In this interview with ENE OSANG, she speaks on women empowerment, effects of recent killings on women and children.
She also urges more efforts in tackling insecurity in the country.
How would you access women in Kaduna state? Women in Kaduna state are doing great because we have good support from the Governor Nasir El-Rufai administration.
He has involved women in his cabinet and women are occupying some key positions in the state which had never happened in the history of Kaduna state since the return of democracy.
I can say that the governor has ensured that there is absolute gender parity in the state.

What impact is having more women in key positions making on women in the state, especially those at the grassroots? Having women in positions have been very beneficial because the government developed the gender and social equality policy which everybody is happy with.
The Child Rights Acts (CRA) was recently passed in the state after the struggle of 18 years, the Disability bill and Disability Trust Fund is being reviewed and is taking shape including lots of other policies and reforms.
You saw what happened with our teachers; where most of them were tested to ensure we have quality education for our children and they fell short; healthcare is also under reforms including lots of other reforms and policies and these are changing the lives of citizens for the better.

What is your ministry doing to encourage more women to join politics? We are working on that and more women are showing interest in politics and coming out to contest election.
We are supporting them through campaigns and we are meeting stakeholders to give them the necessary trainings to ensure they win.
The ministry is collaborating with development partners to encourage and train women because this is a key area as a lot of women are shy and avoid talking to the media.
So, we are training them on how to present themselves to the media and the society as a whole.
Most importantly, we train women to understand that quality matters a lot if they want to vie for positions and not just declaring to run.
We also make them understand that in present day Nigeria what citizens want is good leaders and not necessarily about your gender.
So, to get positions women must be equipped with the necessary skills that can convince voters to vote them in.
Child Rights Act (CRA) has been passed in many states but implementation has remained a problem, would you say it’s being implemented in Kaduna state? We will soon start implementation in Kaduna state but we want to first ensure all who violate children, most especially those involved in rape cases, face the wrath of the law.
Recently somebody got a life jail term for child molestation as reflected in child rights law.
We have announced that by the Women in Kaduna state are doing great because we have support from the Governor Nasir El-Rufai administration… I can say that the governor has ensured that there is absolute gender parity in the state.
end of July 2018, we shall remove all children from the streets and stop them from hawking because they are mostly victims of rape and other violations.
Also, those from other states we will send them back to their states and that is why we are collaborating with all the state ministry of women affairs who will receive them and take them back to their parents.
We are also working with Local Government chairmen to ensure these children are enrolled in schools because education is free and there is no reason they shouldn’t be in school.

Federal government has pegged marriage age at 18, yet we still see child-brides from the North, what are you doing to ensure the law is adhered to? We have embarked on enlightenment programmes using our religious and cultural leaders because we know that this is always linked with religion and we are making progress on that.
Through the enlightenment programmes people are beginning to realise the negative effects of early marriage because we are involving all stakeholders and encouraging parents to enrol their children in school.
We believe that when they go to school they will be better citizens and be able to speak for themselves.

Women have accused the APC-led federal government of not operating an inclusive government, as a member of APC how would you react to this? This depends on how individuals view it.
Again, it also depends on the ability of women to rally round each other and ensure that they create enabling environment for all to interact and bring people closer.
For instance we were in legacy parties but we all came together to ensure that we have the Women in Politics Forum (WiPF), which is a strong body for mentoring younger women towards active politics.
APC women, especially the women leaders should know that there are women from legacy parties who came together to form APC.
So, it is important for the women leaders to leverage on their experiences to move women forward.
If you identify people that have the capability, you support them get to leadership position because we want women at every level.
At the end of the day, we will have more women representation if we work towards it but if we sit and expect positions to be given to us, it won’t come as expected because it is a struggle even among the men.

There is an increased advocacy for younger women to participate in politics, what is your take on this? This is very important and timely; we have realised that most young women do not understand that it is important they get involved in the politics either in school, community, others and this is where it starts.
It has become necessary we mentor the younger females to take over from the older women in politics, Bridging the inter-generational gap is important, even though not an easy task.
We are trying our best in enlightening women on political participation and they are showing interest.

Some people claim that the security situation in the country appears to be getting worse notwithstanding your parties campaign promise of tackling insecurity.
How would you react to this claim? Let me say first of all that ensuring security of lives and properties is the sole responsibility of the government but its high time Nigerians understand that security is everybody’s business and we should support government to end insecurity.
I also want to emphasise that when we came on board the security situation was worse because people could not go out of their houses to the market, places of worship and also could not go out at night, but we have tried our best to put a stop to this.
The challenge is that some people are making money out of this, for them it is business and a way of getting resources, so they have continued to aggravate the situation.
In everything, there is definitely the good and the bad side.
Yes, there are loopholes and we are doing everything to find solutions.
It is government’s responsibility and we are trying our best because it takes a lot of resources.
Unless we learn to live together, irrespective of our religion, cultural and social believes there cannot be any meaningful development.
The moment we put religious, ethnic and social biases aside and unite as one meaningful development will follow.
We need lots of dialogue and peace talks to achieve this.
In Kaduna state, the security situation is a huge challenge; in Birni Gwari for instance where there is a lot of kidnapping going on and there are lots of youth groups who need rehabilitation and reorientation.
We are working hard to ensure we put an end to this but we all need to join hands and work together, stop the trading of blames and bring the needed peace.
It is unfortunate that in Nigeria today we look at ourselves as different people, this must be discouraged.
I am part of government and women are at the receiving end of these crises, children have also been made victims of Boko Haram and are roaming the streets without hope.
These children, if not taken care of early enough are another breed of Boko Haram and I feel bad.
As a mother and an office holder, we must do more to tackle this problem.

The 2019 general elections is fast approaching, what is your advice to Nigerians especially women? Yes, the 2019 general elections is drawing near, a lot of people who have registered are yet to get their PVC’s.
We were on an advocacy visit to the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) recently and we were told some registered voters have not come to collect these cards.
So, I am calling on those who have not registered to do so, and those who have registered to endeavour to collect their PVC’s because your vote is your power and your right to good leadership

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