In the last three decades, Nigerians have seen about 200 first ladies, both at the federal and state government levels. But the immediate past First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, has set the bar higher in the state and in the country.
As a First Lady, she initiated several welfare schemes, which didn’t only reveal her passion and commitment to the welfare of citizens in the state, but also the synergy existing between her and her husband, former Governor Kayode Fayemi- popularly called JFK – on providing the best living conditions for the people.
The Soup Kitchen Initiative is one of the schemes established by the former Ekiti State first lady. Another one is the Food Bank concept. According to her, the idea behind the Food Bank was “for us to be able to provide nutritional support to those who were unable to feed or fend for themselves.”
The Food Bank gave out raw food to the elderly, indigent widows, orphans and vulnerable children and those living with HIV, who were unable to work. And it was the experience garnered in the course of the Food Bank project that led to the setting up of the Soup kitchen.
FOOD BANK, SOUP KITCHEN
“In the process of running the Food Bank, we found out that there were some people, who were unable to cook for themselves even if you gave them the raw food, like the elderly; so we established the Soup Kitchen. We had at least 16 soup kitchens in six local government areas across Ekiti State, and we dished out hot meal, at least three times a week, to them, free of charge.”
The Food Bank and Soup Kitchen are just two of the pet projects, which the wife of the Minister of Solid Minerals was known for. From October 2010, when her husband assumed duty as governor of the state, after a protracted legal battle, till October 2014, when he left the office, Erelu was a constant factor in the life of the administration.
“As a woman, I am proud of my husband’s achievements in Ekiti, which include the Ekiti State Gender Policy that was signed into law when he was in office, among others. The Gender Policy Law criminalised acts of violence against women in the state,” she says.
The Master’s degree holder in Gender and Society from Middlesex University, United Kingdom, was able to render support to women, youth and children in the state, through series of initiatives such as the granting of micro-credit to women’s cooperatives and coordinating school acquisition training programmes for women in the different local government areas of the state.
In this regard, no fewer than 200 women benefited from an initiative, in collaboration with Globacom, called the Glo Communications kiosk businesses. Also, the Ekiti Development Foundation embarked on advocacy campaigns that led to the building of new model markets in the state’s local government areas.
HOW WOMEN’S VOICES BECAME LOUDER IN EKITI
Campaign for political empowerment for women is another project, which Bisi has passion for. By the end of the Fayemis’ tenure in the state, Ekiti had more women in government, either as commissioners or special advisers than previously seen. During the period too, a woman was deputy governor, and when, unfortunately, she died of cancer, her successor was also a woman.
Such inroads generally have no doubt positively impacted on the state government’s rat
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