Barrister (Mrs) Felicia Nwankpuma, is the Ebonyi state Commissioner For Women Affairs and Social Development and in this exclusive interview with our Reporter, Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy enumerated the ministry’s readiness to protect women and children and assured that they will not fail Ebonyians.
The Women Affairs Commissioner appealed to parents to support government policies in eradicating street hawking, child abuse and sundry social vices affecting girl and boy child.
Q:May we meet you Ma?
A: I am Barr (Mrs) Felicia Nwankpuma, Ebonyi state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development.
I thank His Excellency the governor, Chief Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru for giving me the opportunity to work in his government and want to assure him that we are going to deliver. He has directed that we should hit the ground running.
Q: What has been the experience so far in the office?
A: Just like you know, the Ministry of Women Affairs is a humanitarian service office, and we rendered service to make sure that women and children are protected.
When we started, we did alot of research and tried to find out quiet alot of things that have been done before and what to do now and I want to tell the public out there that there are alot of vulnerable children that need to be assisted like the recent case of Ohaukwu LGA that was brought to our attention by the wife of the governor, Her Excellency, Chief (Mrs) Maudline Uzoamaka Ogbonna Nwifuru alerted me and asked us to investigate it and confirmed that the story is true that the woman was beaten because her goat grazed in somebody’s cassava farm. That matter is still on investigation and Police are on it while the women is in the hospital.
Her Excellency has given her palliative, beverages and some undisclosed amount of money to cushion the effects until Police concluded their investigation, hence, wish to assure the public that my ministry would do everything within the law to protect the woman and her children.
Q: Before your assumption of office,there are many programmes on ground, how do you intend to sustain them?
A: Yes, The ministry of Women Affairs will in collaboration with Her Excellency’s office has rolled out community sensitization and awareness programme on the area of child trafficking, gender based violence, Female Genital Mutilation, street hawking and child abuse which we’ll ensure that Local Government Chairpersons are all carried along including religious leaders, traditional rulers, and different NGOs are going to be part of it before taking it to the grassroot which is our villages. This is necessary knowing that ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
So, we are embarking on the sensitization inorder to educate perpetrators who may likely engaged in this child trafficking and other sundry societal vices to know the consequences of their actions and how prepared my Ministry and Her Excellency are in putting an end to these vices in the state.
Q: Ma, does your office has any plan for single ladies who are mostly major victims of GBV once they got married?
A: There are alot of packages for ladies. We have a package for skill acquisition, a package for discouraging mass migration. Some time, our people think that there’s greener pastures outside Ebonyi state, but testimonies have proven that many end up being trapped in bad condition worst than they see themselves before traveling out of the state.
Q: What do you think is the way out of reducing the way our women leave the state for menial jobs in other states?
A: Ebonyians are known for agriculture and I can say that average person in the state know how to farm. Agriculture is a decent job that one can comfortably do in their comfort homes but these people leave the state with flowery promises by traffickers who end up using them for sex exploitation and child begging.
If you go to some states, you see healthy children used by their mothers who sits by the road side to send their 12-13 year old children to go beg for money. Some of them left Ebonyi thinking that Anambra, Enugu, Sokoto and so forth is better than Ebonyi state, but end up being trapped and exploited. But, my office has skill acquisition which will soon be unveiled and selection of prospective participants will span round the 13-LGA and we are appealing to parents to allow their children to finish atleast secondary school. We are begging parents to allow our children both their girl and boy child to go to school even if it is finishing secondary school because many will stop and push their boy child to go and sell at the go slow in Lagos state.
So, we are appealing that they should believe in themselves, and take that part of advise by engaging in one skill so that they will be able to survive in the society.
Q: The issue of implementation of beautiful policies has always been problem with ministries; What’s the assurance that same will not repeat under your care?
A: In the Divine Mandate Continuity, Chatter of peoples’ Needs manifesto of His Excellency, he has given the imprint on what the administration tends to achieve in paper form and now left for us to take necessary action. So, it is left for us to make sure those beautiful ideas are achieved, like in my ministry now talking about skills acquisition, it is left for us to know how many people that government want to enroll in achieving that skill outside the one parents will help us to do and gradually we are going to succeed.
His Excellency has directed that our programs should be graded quarterly, and that’s at the end of every four months each ministry will come up to explain what they have been able to do outside the grammar on paper. I believe that in six months or a year time come back and ask what we have been able to achieve and I assure the public that we wouldn’t fail them.
Q: The issue of Family Planning, what do you have to tell parents?
A: The issue of family planning has naturally taken care of itself with the current society challenges. Like in the family of educated ones, they hardly hearken to the message, but considering the cost of running family this days including paying fees, health care and lot of various needs it has become a way of life even among the low income earners.
So, for those who have embraced family planning, they problems are solve but for those who are yet to do so, we are calling on them to see the need for that so that these bad stories we hear everyday will reduce, like child abuse, and rest. Because if one has about ten children and nothing to take care of them, that’s where you hear some selling some and some will engage them into street begging.