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WTO chief: ‘Safe Schools Initiative’ to stop abduction of students

WTO chief: ‘Safe Schools Initiative’ to stop abduction of students
FILE PHOTO - Incoming World Trade Organization President (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during an interview with Reuters in Potomac, Maryland, U.S., February 15, 2021. REUTERS-Joshua Roberts

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Wednesday expressed hope that the ‘Safe Schools Initiative’ will help stop the incessant abduction of students across Nigeria.

Nigerian women on Wednesday came out en masse to welcome Okonjo-Iweala in her first homecoming since she became the director-general of WTO, during a visit to the Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja.

Addressing the crowd which included Senators and members of the National Assembly, former Ministers, wives of former governors, women in the Armed Forces, women societies, female political aspirants, Civil Society Organisations, as well as students, Okonjo-Iweala expressed deep concern about the incessant abduction of girls and boys in schools.

The WTO boss who noted that it is shameful that these kinds of things are happening in Nigeria, said she has spoken with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, noting that they are trying to revive the “Safe Schools Initiative”.

She urged the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen to work in synergy with the President and the Finance Minister, to revive the initiative which was designed to ensure all schools in Nigeria are safe from attacks in the future.

She said, “I am concerned about the abduction of our girls and boys in schools. I have spoken out on this, it really makes my heart bleed and weep because when these abductions happen to the girls, the first instinct of the parents is to say they won’t send them back to school because nobody wants their child abducted whether boys or girls, but it is almost fatal for the girls.

“Solar lighting, a fence is necessary to keep the schools safe. If you walk into some of the schools even in villages close by where I have been, nothing! There is no barrier, anyone can walk in. So, let us make the schools a little bit safe.

“Those children are the ones we are going to train for the future, so we must take care of them. I am saying to all the women, whatever you can do to demonstrate to these people that our children are not for play, please do that”, she urged.

She appealed to the kidnappers and bandits to hold their peace and leave the children alone. “Leave our children alone. I am appealing to the bandits to hold your peace”.

Meanwhile, Okonjo-Iweala while speaking on the role of the WTO, said the Organization is about trade policy, trade rules and arbitration, trying to find the small holders, the women entrepreneurs and trying to help them penetrate markets.

In her words, “The WTO is involved in several other things, such as E-commerce. You know the Digital Economy is here to stay and the WTO is negotiating a round of E-commerce rules that can underpin trade on the internet so that it is fair and balanced.

“This is important because some of our female-owned enterprises are already trading on the internet, so this is another area we will be willing to work with you, to see how you can penetrate markets through the Internet,” she said.

While noting that WTO cares about the ordinary man and woman on the street and wants to help redress inequality through trade, she added that the Organization will take note of challenges facing Nigerian women, and try to figure out how the capacity building it has—’The Aid for Trade’, and the ‘She Trade Initiative’ can be expanded to encompass many more women.

In her opening remarks, the Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen, said the WTO DG has made women in Africa proud, adding that female students were invited to see their role model and to aspire to be like her.

She added that God brought Okonjo-Iweala to rescue Nigerian women who have been faced with several challenges in their businesses.

According to the Minister, “Nigerian women were praying during the first outing and even when America was playing funny. Donald Trump tried to steal our joy, but God proved him wrong. We thank the U.S President, Joe Biden for making your position possible.

“We thank God for your life. You have made us proud in various ways and when you were home, you made your marks. We just want to celebrate you and tell the world that we love you and we are praying that more women and our children will follow your footstep”, she said.

Several heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies were in attendance and at the end of the event, gifts from several women groups in different states were presented to the DG and her delegation.

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