The U.K Bello Arts Theatre Complex was filled to capacity when the Niger State Office of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) in partnership with Dean Initiatives recently organized a conference on Girl-Child Development titled, #SheLeads Conference, with the theme, “The Role of Culture in Girl-Child Development”.

 Chioma DuruIn his address, NICO’s Executive Secretary, Assoc. Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, represented by Deputy Director, Research and Documentation, Mrs. Chioma Duru, welcomed the invited guests, students, teachers and other stake holders that graced the occasion, saying the conference was timely, “especially now that the United Nations through the Global Goals for Sustainability (SDG) is advocating for gender equality and equal opportunity for all”.

Prof. Ayakoroma said: “As at today, we must agree to forge ahead together to create more level playing field for our women from any part of our land to dream, pursue their dream and attain them. As I look through your blazing faces of our daughters, today’s Girl-Child and our future women”.

He stated that, culture, as the totality of people’s way of life, which distinguishes them from their neighbours, plays a very critical role in the biological, psychological, social and emotional development of the child, adding that it is what shapes the child’s dispositions, experiences and governs his norms.

 MrsNduThe State Coordinator, National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Niger State Office, Minna, Mrs. Ndukwe Olufunke, said  in her  presentation that, our “culture cannot be our enemy”.

Her words: “We have long suffered in the hand of our own choice of life style. And according to all we have heard today, through all the presentations, time can help us unlearn and relearn old and new cultures. This is for the reason that our culture ordinarily should guide us into living a fulfilled life and not to be seen as a threat in which we have no choice to choose how we live”.

Mrs. Ndukwe said that all those socio-cultural vices were there but could not stop women like Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from becoming a global icon today; they could not stop late Prof. Dora Akunyili; they did not stop Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf from becoming the Liberian President; and they could not stop all the young women who put their resources together to make the conference a reality.

“They were there while I was growing up but couldn’t stop me from getting here in the midst of my male colleagues”, she averred, urging the girls not to allow any obstacle good enough to stand on their paths, so that they could fulfil their dreams.

Nana Sule, a final year student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, who also served as the “Face of #SheLeads Project” in the Conference, narrated the spirit of the conference to kick-start the business of the conference after which the speakers treated the conference theme with in-depth analyses.

With the whole process of the participants agreeing to the fact that Africa needs to fight on until all forms of cultural and social vices militating against the freedom of the girl child all become things of the past, the emphasis was on the need for every girl-child to find a mentor and fight her way to the very top of her chosen career.

 MincroThe First Lady of Niger State, Hajiya Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, who was the Special Guest of Honour on the Ocassion, represented by the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Niger State, Hajiya Fatima Madugu, commended the organizers of the conference for bringing the very important subject to the fore; and hoped that they will reach out to every part of the country.

Hajiya Dr. Bello assured that the state government had programmes to support female entrepreneurs exclusively in forms of financial support, capacity building, advisory services, and many more.

Another major highpoint of the conference was the Decoration of the Hajia Dr. Amina Sani Abukakar Bello, the First Lady of Niger State as the 1st #SheLeads Global Ambassador; and the First Lady, who joyfully received the award, promised to uphold and promote the spirit of #SheLeads everywhere she goes.

#SheLeads is a social project seeking to raise quality voices in support of the Girl-Child; the project is not particular about gender promotion but a sincere effort targeted at ] strengthening the right of every child, irrespective of gender, to live and fulfil a worthy cause in life.

The girl-child should face no barrier whatsoever at daring to dream and fulfil her dream; #SheLeads is a project of DEAN Initiative, Abuja, Nigeria, just as the #SheLeads Conference, Minna 2016, with the theme: “The Role of Culture in Girl-Child Development”, had  more than 300 secondary school girls participating.

Gabriel Kubaks & Saidu Ibrahim Musa

Corporate Affairs

NICO, Minna