I'm Encouraged By The PSR Awards —Stella Obasanjo

Late Mrs Stella Obasanjo

Text of address by Her Excellency, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (of Blessed Memory) at the First PSR Woman of Merit Gold Awards which held at the National Centre for Women Development in Abuja on July 14, 2001.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this evening, and to share in the joy of this celebration of womanhood. I will like to thank the publishers of People State and Resource Magazine, not only for instituting these awards in honour of women, but also for nominating me for the PSR Woman of Merit Gold Award.

I thank you for your thoughtfulness and courage, even in the face of relentless denial of the contribution of women to national development. I am encouraged that a specialized publication like the PSR has come out to make this bold statement. The role of women in development can no longer be considered as marginal or supplementary.

Women constitute slightly more than half of the population of our country. This automatically means that more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s potential workforce is made up of women. I, therefore, will like to affirm that it would amount to foolishness of a rather high degree, to ignore this enormous resource base. In a developing economy such as ours, every national development plan or programme ought to be anchored on the improvement of the productive capacity of the workforce.

It then follows that policies which undermine the role and contribution of women, or which refuse to assign the necessary priority to this role, are by nature, counter-productive and misconceived. At the micro-level, it is very evident today that one-income families are faring much worse than families in which both husband and wife are engaged in productive economic activities. Indeed, the harsh realities of objective economic circumstances have forced many to reconsider that infamous cliché that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. A great many men have become sufficiently humble, enough to ask their wives to come to their rescue so that the kitchen can remain functional.

The questions to ask, however, are why it is so difficult for our society to recognize the glaring benefits of empowering women in a way as to optimize their productivity. Why are we still so squirmish about acknowledging those women who, against all odds, have proven themselves and made their marks in the professions, in industry and commerce, and the academia. Why do some men cringe at the very thought of a woman being at the helm of affairs. The answer to my mind lies in the absence of a functional, objective and liberal analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of enfranchising and empowering women for development. Any such analysis will draw the inevitable conclusion that society will be the loser wherever and whenever women are under-valued, repressed and marginalized.

This is why we all must continue to support PSR and other public or private sector organs which seek to celebrate the achievements of women. The honour you bestow on those you have aptly described, as “Women of Merit” is certain to spur and encourage others, especially younger women. Many will be made to realize that the struggle though mean and harrowing is worth a try. And that honour will come to those who persevere and do not give up.

Finally, I want to congratulate all the award recipients, and to encourage you to continue to be shining examples, especially now that heroes and heroines are in rather short supply.