SPEECH BY MRS FOLORUNSHO ALAKIJA
Recipient of an award for diligently contributing towards achieving the objective of article 13 of the African union protocol to the charter on human and people’s rights on the rights of women in Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Gentlemen of the press
All protocol observed.
Her Excellency, Dr. Joyce Banda, in her respected wisdom, has found me worthy of being described as one who has diligently contributed towards achieving the objective of Article 13 of the African Union protocol. – A protocol to the charter on human and peoples right on the rights of women in Africa. For this reason, it is with profound humility and gratitude that I accept this award today.
This award not only highlights my journey so far to encourage and promote the economic and social welfare of women in Africa but it will spare and encourage me to do more.
Sadly, the African woman still remains deeply oppressed, down trodden, and abused in the context of economic and social welfare. This, distinguished ladies and gentlemen is not the path of progress and development of the African continent. The path of progress and development of the African continent must recognize and embrace the elevation of the economic and social status of the African woman. Other developed and progressive continents have long recognized and embraced the need for women to enjoy economic and social welfare. Europe and North America are excellent examples of continents that have done so. Therefore, why should the African continent be different or left behind?
Although, the African Union Protocol is yet to be signed and ratified by all member countries, I take solace in the fact that my home country Nigeria, and host country Malawi have indeed both signed and ratified the African Union Protocol thereby giving the Protocol force of law in both our countries. This is indeed very encouraging and I commend them for doing so.
Madam President, this acceptance speech would be incomplete without me acknowledging your significant contribution to the economic and social welfare of African women.
As one woman to another, I am extremely proud of you; Africans are proud of you and women worldwide are proud of you.
It is said that charity begins at home and you have remained true to that saying. This beautiful land, blessed with a warm and friendly people, called Malawi or as I prefer- “the warm heart of Africa” is a beneficiary of your charity. I hold in deep admiration your philanthropic and development initiatives to strengthen and empower the women, orphans and youths of Malawi and thereby forcing a change in policy, particularly education, and alleviating poverty.
The values and ideals you hold dear and the encouragement you give the womenfolk are inspirational. These and the many other initiatives you have spearheaded undoubtedly elevate you to the status of a shining star, a beacon to be followed, attributes which all the more make me appreciate this award.
I have noticed several similarities in our past and present, which further endears us to one another. The care of women and orphans is one of them. God called me to look after widows and orphans through the book of James 1:27 in the Bible. My family and friends who joined me as members of the Board of Trustees have been working tirelessly to bring about change in their lives through empowerments and scholarships.
Many of these widows experience discrimination degradation, deprivation and depression. Some are stigmatized, abused and even falsely accused of killing their husbands. Some are made to drink the water the dead bodies of their late husbands were bathed in.
Oftentimes, they are forced to marry relatives of late husbands, relinquish inheritance, land, personal possessions and sometimes even their children are taken from them.
Orphans also experience difficult ordeals. The education of most comes to an abrupt end and, they get kicked out of their parents’ abode and become street-wise; street trading and prostitution seem like the easy way out to them. Some even get lured into child labour, drugs and theft which sometimes get them into trouble or jail.
Therefore, God in His infinite mercies calls on individuals and organizations to help make a difference in their lives. One of such is our Rose of Sharon Foundation; the work for which I believe this award has been given.
It is for the same purpose that I wrote a book on their plight titled “The Cry of Widow and Orphans.” We are using the book to call for world-wide changes in Legislation and enforcements for existing ones towards their fundamental human rights and freedoms, to dignity, physical integrity, and all acts against them that cause economic, psychological, sexual and physical harm.
I, therefore dedicate this award by which I am humbled, to every widow or orphan that has ever had to shed a tear in Nigeria, Malawi, the African Continent and the world over. I also dedicate it to the members of our Foundation for their dedication and commitment, to my family for their moral and financial support and lastly but most importantly, to God, my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who called me into this Ministry.
To my fellow award recipients, it has been a pleasure meeting you and my motto for our African Women is, borrowing from President Obama’s slogan: “YES WE CAN!
May the Lord bless you all for this great honour.