The ROWEAD conference 2017, held in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre took place at UNI Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos on the 3rd of October, with the First Lady of Edo State, Her Excellency Mrs. Betsy Obaseki as the Special Guest of Honour and Professor Gloria Elemo, Director General of Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) as the Keynote Speaker.
The First Lady gave an impassioned speech on the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery, particularly in Edo State, with Edo women constituting 50% of Nigerian women trafficked. She highlighted the adversity faced by these women, including signing agreements that bind them into perpetual slavery and being forced to sleep with as many as 20-100 men a day.
She encouraged women to be a part of the solution by making it widely known that human trafficking and modern slavery have assumed epidemic proportions in Nigeria. Everyone must do what they can to put an end to this scourge. The present Edo State administration is committed to the cause to end human trafficking. Youths in the country need to be empowered with jobs. If youths are gainfully employed, most of them will think twice before risking their lives to travel across the desert and Mediterranean Sea or getting themselves into prostitution. The first lady herself, who works at the Bank of Industry (BOI), intends to use her position at the Bank to facilitate loans to qualified youths from Edo State to help them set up businesses and become successful entrepreneurs. The Edo State government has also taken steps to help rescued persons acquire skills in tailoring, carpentry, mechanics and in being cobblers, to mention a few. There is also a mentorship scheme, whereby successful, established women mentor and train younger women in their area of business.
Professor Gloria Elemo of FIIRO encouraged women to march to beat of their own drums, and have their self-worth and personalities depend on what they do and give back to society, and not on how they look. She also encouraged women to support one another, be concerned about the welfare of other women and uplift others if they can do so.
Professor Elemo emphasised that once a woman is economically empowered, her overall well-being and that of her family is greatly enhanced. She encouraged the women to find out their interests and pursue them. They can engage with government agencies such as FIIRO. Founded in 1956, FIIRO has developed many products from locally available raw materials to encourage small, medium and large-scale enterprises in Nigeria. Successes include the production of the popular “dudu osun” (black soap), the substitution of sorghum malt for barley in the brewery industry that significantly reduced barley imports, and microbial fortified (potentised) garri that can supply 30% of an individual’s dietary requirements.