Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Three Nigerian women: Felicia Babalola, Christiana Ebitimi and Joke Adesina have received N0.9 million from Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO), a development-specific organization geared towards eradicating poverty among those at the lower wrung of the society, for their outstanding contributions to bettering professional, agriculture and business sectors in the country. The gesture was part of activities to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day.
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The three women therefore, went down into the annals of LAPO’s outstanding leadership award for the 2021 Women’s Day with the theme: “Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.”
Felicia Babalola was rewarded for her exceptional contribution in the professional women category, Christiana Ebitimi, in the business women, and Joke Adesina was recognized for her role in farming for a better society. They were each given N300,000 cash prize.
Godwin Ehigiamusoe, the chief executive officer of LAPO, said, the outstanding women leadership award was introduced to acknowledge and reward women who demonstrated great commitment in making the world better for all.
“As a development organization, LAPO is passionate about women, as well as committed to their overall development. For more than two decades, LAPO has been at the forefront of bringing gender issues to wider attention, recognizing and promoting women’s contributions to the advancement of Nigeria,” he said.
Ehigiamusoe said, from inception, LAPO had been involved in community health improvement, and playing a major role in addressing the challenges limiting the progress of women, including their economic powerlessness, social exclusion and ill-health.
He said, in spite of the challenges of 2020, the development-specific organization, which also runs a microfinance bank, was still able to reach substantial number of vulnerable communities with health intervention services.
In 2020, LAPO improved national food security with the disbursement of N12.2 billion to 152,446 rural farmers under its LAPO Rural Development Initiative (LARDI). In 2019, it had disbursed N10.9 billion. The 2020 figure is 12 per cent above the 2019’s.
“These women have surmounted enormous challenges in our environment to make huge impact,” Ehigiamusoe said.
For Osarenren Emokpae, chairman of LAPO’s board of directors, he is predicting that in no distant time more Nigeria women will be represented in public life and parliament than it is presently in the country. For example, today, only 6 per cent of Nigeria’s women are members of the country’s legislature. But in countries like: Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia, there are more women in public life and the parliament than the men.
However, Emokpae is ambitiously optimistic that in the nearest future, women in Nigeria will have more representation in public life and in the parliament than men.
He explained that the LAPO women leadership award provides an opportunity to appreciate the enormous contributions of women to the economic development and progress of Nigeria whether in business, agriculture, as entrepreneurs or employees or by doing unpaid care work at home.
“In spite of the various cultural and traditional beliefs that have impinged on women’s human rights over the years, they have proven over time that they possess the quality, talent and character required not only for the growth of the nation, but for the enhancement of the progress and wellbeing of the human society at large,” Emokpae said.
LAPO has over the years set a pace as a development organization advancing the cause of women, and eliminating the barriers hindering their social-economic progress and ending violence against the womenfolk.
In 2013, the organization instituted the LAPO outstanding women leadership award, specifically dedicated to recognize, honour and celebrate Nigerian women who have distinguished themselves, and recorded outstanding success in business, farming and professional life. The 2021 award provided an opportunity to appreciate the womenfolk’s enormous contributions to economic development and progress of the country in business, agriculture, entrepreneurship, employment, some unpaid care work at home.