By Bukola Nwonah
It’s about that time of the year again when women in Lagos State converge under the auspices of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) for the annual National Women’s Conference.
For the past 19 years, COWLSO, which is a community-based gender organisation established principally to complement the effort of the Lagos State Government in bringing about exponential development and growth at the grassroots, has been consistent in hosting the conference each year.
This year edition has its unique features. One, it is the first outing of the new Chairman of COWLSO, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, who assumed the leadership of the Committee, following the swearing-in of her husband, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as the 15th Governor of Lagos State. It is a common knowledge that Lagos is a major commercial hub not just in Nigeria, but in Africa.
The theme of the conference: “Unlearn, Learn And Relearn: 21st Century Women’s T.H.E.M.E.S Perspectives/Approach”, was said to have been chosen after several brainstorming sessions on how to ensure that women in Lagos and indeed in the country key into the emerging opportunities being provided by the present administration in the State.
According to plans, the conference is projected to feature 3,000 participants, and as such one can come to terms with the fact that any programme designed to impact such huge number of participants, will eventually make positive impacts across the nooks and crannies of the State.
Speaking at the pre-conference press briefing at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa, Dr. Sanwo-Olu said outstanding professionals had been specifically lined up to discuss the main topic and sub-themes of the conference, which is scheduled to hold between October 22 and 24, 2019 at the Eko Hotels Convention Centre, Victoria Island.
She said: “As it is the tradition of the Conference to strategically empower women to contribute positively to the development of the State and Nigeria at large, this year’s theme was carefully selected in line with the vision and aspiration of the present administration in Lagos State to bring about greater Lagos of our dreams.
“We have lined up very eminent Nigerians and outstanding professionals to help our women come to terms with how best they can key into the emerging opportunities being provided by the government of the day in Lagos State.”
Justifying the theme, the First Lady said several brainstorming sessions came to play before the members eventually settled for the theme.
She added: “A lot of brainstorming had gone among the COWLSO, especially NWC members and some of the things we did considered when we were trying to agree on the topics was to have a feeler and do a survey of what is happening in our system. We sent out questionnaires and asked questions orally and we found out that there was a knowledge gap; there’s the need for massive reorientation in our State, and in the nation as a whole.
“The theme of the event is to trying to re-orientate our people that we have learnt some things before that we need to unlearn those things and learn the right way of doing things. A simple example is, a patient goes to a hospital and while she’s waiting at the reception watching television and eating a snack, she litters the floor with paper of the snack. Someone comes and ask Madam why are you throwing this on the floor, and she responded I thought there is a cleaner being paid to clean the floor and so if I don’t throw it on the floor, how would she get paid? You can see that she has learnt something before she needs to unlearn.
“The same thing applies to traffic. A lot of people are impatient and once there is traffic, they start driving on lanes dedicated to BRT buses and then if every road user decides to pass the BRT corridor, there will be congestion and nobody will go anywhere. That is what some people have learnt and so there is a need to unlearn those things and everyone of us has to be the ambassadors so that we can learn good things, and it is a total overhauling of our values.
“So, I think that topic is apt when COWLSO decided to take that topic to unlearn some things that have been learnt; learn new things and keep on relearning,” she said.
While emphasising that learning is a continuous process, the First Lady said: “You see, a lot of people have entered the plane and no matter the class you are – first class, middle class, economy class, each time you enter the plane, they will tell you to please put on your seat belt; they will tell you the emergency exit, among other things. They will not say because you have entered the plane five times you don’t need the information and so it shows that learning is continuous even if you know it.”
Giving further details, Dr. Sanwo-Olu said the First Lady of Nigeria, Dr. Aisha Buhari would declare the Conference Open, alongside Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State, while his counterpart from Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule would serve as Special Guest of Honour at the closing ceremony.
She said aside the main theme, other sub-themes include: “The 21st Century Woman – Build Not Born To Influence The Society; Entertainment And Tourism: Prism Of Possibilities – Tourism and Entertainment; The Total Woman; Entrepreneurship: Making Money And More Money – Agric Entrepreneurship, Financing and General Trading; Mould A Child And Build A Greater Generation; Healthy Woman – A Healthier Nation: Maternal & Child Mortality; Development And A Healthy City – Creating A Balance – Waste To Wealth, and Obey Traffic Laws,” among others.
With the array of interesting topics lined up for the 2019 conference, one can only commend COWLSO and look forward to interesting times ahead as participants positively put the experience to practice to engender a better society for all, particularly in Lagos State and in the nation at large.
*Nwonah is the Head of Public Affairs, Office of the First Lady of Lagos State