Welcome Address By Otunba Dr Basirat Nahibi – Niasse, Founder /President Women Advancement For Economic And Leadership Empowerment (WAELE/ARCELFA) On The Occasion Of The Opening Ceremony Of A 3 Day WAELE/ARCELFA Conference On The Theme: “The African Women In A Contemporary World: Issues On Political And Economic Development” Held At The Ecowas Secretariat Abuja , On July 11th 2005

It is with great honour and pleasure that I welcome you all to Abuja, capital of Nigeria, centre of unity, for this historic conference with the theme: “The African Women in a Contemporary World: Issues on Political and Economic Development’’ as a follow up to our West African WAELE/ARCELFA Network three-day conference in Bamako-Mali March 15th -17th 2005.

The goals of this conference are:

  • To strengthen the capacity of women in the WAELE/ARCELFA Network on Transformational Leadership focusing on Political and Economic Development.
  • To strengthen women in WAELE/ARCELFA Network to develop a common understanding on women roles in economic and political development of the continent and to develop an agenda that will promote the empowerment of African women within our respective countries.

Empirical data show that, throughout Africa, women are experiencing unprecedented crises from health, economic, social and political issues that stem from cultural and institutional barriers. There are fewer women than men in decision-making positions. At the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women (1995), the international community of states and NGOs identified inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making as a critical area of concern. Many factors, including social attitudes, discriminatory laws, gender-based inequalities in education, and control of incomes, contribute to the limited number of women in positions of authority and power.

Studies also show that as the number of women in Parliament increases, legislative and policy agenda change significantly to include issues such as maternity, girl-child education and equal opportunity. Efforts to galvanize women to take political and economic leadership positions have shown very limited results. WAELE/ARCELFA’s three-day conference is focused to address the valuable opportunities available for African women to develop a common understanding of the issues facing the African Woman, as well as develop an agenda that will promote the empowerment of women, and equip ourselves in order to effectively participate in decision making process in our countries. The absence of women’s voices in leadership poses a critical developmental challenge for countries in Africa, as women constitute over 50% of Africa’s population and are uniquely affected by lack of or limited access to opportunities, resources, and an equal platform for their personal development.

The struggle for the achievement of these laudable goals that will bring women into economic independence has already started in earnest in Nigeria.

Within the short period of the Organization’s existence, we have been able to offer various support and assistance towards the emancipation of our women folk in fulfillment of WAELE/ARCELFA global objective and mission. In this regard, we were able to provide relief materials to women and children that suffered from ethno-religious crisis in Plateau State in the Northern part of Nigeria in July 2004.

We have also been able to empower our women who are into farming by providing them essential equipment to boost their productions in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. Indeed, those that are into Cassava processing could only produce two bags of cassava manually with hard labour in a week, but after giving them the equipment, they can now produce twenty (20) bags daily. Similarly, the women that are into Palm oil processing could only produce 20 litres in a week. It is my pleasure to bring to your knowledge, that with the assistance of WAELE/ARCELFA, they can now produce 400 litres daily.

The women of Borno State in Nigeria were also presented with economic empowerment equipments which include:- Milling Machines, Knitting Machines, Sewing Machines, Embroidery and Over-locking machines. Similarly, 60 milling machines have also been given to Ondo State women on 18th June, 2005, while Enugu State received a complete set of cassava processing machine, 15 sewing machines, 3 embroidery machines, 6 over locking machines and 10 milling machines..

We are confident that the group of women who are beneficiaries of our programmes will now be economically strong and they would be able to cater for the needs of their families and the community at large

Presently, we are also working on empowering other African countries. We hope to begin this exercise as soon as we conclude this conference.

We are planning to expand WAELE/ARCELFA Network in all the African countries. We shall work assiduously to make sure that we have more women in Parliament in African countries. In addition, we will work tirelessly to make sure that the economic empowerment of the African women becomes a reality.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me end this address by thanking all the members of the Nigeria Executive Council and the FCT chapter of WAELE/ARCELFA for the tremendous support and commitment they have been exhibiting in promoting the good ideals of the vision of the WAELE/ARCELFA. They have worked day and night to ensure the success of this conference. I appeal to the entire executive not to rest on their oars.

Great women of Africa, at the end of this conference let us leave Abuja feeling more challenged and focused on the goals and objectives of our great organization and the zeal to work towards making our continent a better place for women.

Finally, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of WAELE/ARCELFA, I warmly welcome all of you to this epoch-making occasion.

THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS US ALL.

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