By Koko Ita
For the Dr Rachel Dickson, wife of the Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, growing up was exciting and eventful, having all the love and the best a closely knit monogamous home could offer.
The importance of education being exemplified in her own life, Dr Rachel has been a strident voice for the education of the Ijaw girl, who by reason of her environmental circumstances become easy preys to oil workers and expatriates who flood into the state for oil exploration with the result being rising cases of teenage pregnancy, single parenthood, HIV/AIDS to mention just a few.
Understanding that this situation is augmented by lack of education, awareness and poverty, first lady made a strong resolve to ensure the total eradication of illiteracy amongst Ijaw girls which manifested in her pet project – Operation Rescue the Ijaw Girl.
Today, that lofty project has in more ways than can probably be described, positively transformed the lives of many Ijaw girls, giving them hope, voice and a future.
The seeds of compassion were sown early in the life of Her Excelency, having observed from her parents the meaning of generosity and care; virtues that anyone who comes in contact with her will find oozing richly from her
Consequently, helping the poor and a cultivated attitude of giving have become integral parts of Dr Rachel whose dream of total education for the girl child has found expression in her foundation, Pa Konyefas foundation for the Ijaw girl child, FRIKON.
The foundation is named FRIKON in honorof her beloved father who ensured she had the best education and life experiences as a young girl which all made her what she is today.
“My dad gave me the best education, and one of the ways to appreciate him is to stand up there and encourage young girls. No matter the mistakes you have made, no matter the circumstance you find yourself, if you are willing to overcome your challenges, I am ready to help and encourage you. I do not have a story to tell, but I am willing to stand behind any girl or woman who has been through a lot that has a story to tell and help her overcome her challenges in life.”She says.
FRIKON is anon profit, non governmental organization dedicated to promote sustainable peace and development in Bayelsa State while improving the lives of the people and guaranteeing a future for the Ijaw girl child.
“I am interested in the girl child because I am an Ijaw woman and I am not happy with the level of education of the Ijaw girl. It is appalling to see that majority of our girls are not educated, unskilled, drop-outs with no source of livelihood. If this trend continues, their offspring may become a source for concern in the future for us all. We have a duty to rescue them.” Rachel declares.
Before I leave office, I should be remembered for the Ijaw girl child education that would give them voice as educated professionals who would be able to compete favorably with their peers in the world.”
FRIKON also organizes an annual “Women Summit” for the empowerment of women and uniting them in their roles as wives, mothers and entrepreneurs.
The foundation is uplifting the lives of Bayelsa women by giving them several livelihood start-up packages/equipments, cash, grants and influencing government micro-financing institutions to give increased attention to female SME’s.
The foundation apart from these also has a place for pregnant women, widows as well as the physically challenged, HIV/AIDS victims, flood disaster victims and other less privileged people in the society.
“The Bayelsa Women’s Summit is a meeting point for those in need and experts who can help them. Girls coming out to speak about how possible it is to triumph over adversity. Already, we are preparing for the second edition of the summit. Our goal is to evaluate our programmes. For the first edition of the summit, we simply wanted our (Bayelsa women’s) voices to be heard and to kick-start some sort of renaissance, and we haven’t done badly. The Dickson administration has shot past the 30percent affirmative action target by 10percent with regards to female appointments. We have about 40 female councillors and five women council chairpersons. This year, our goal is to get more girls back into school. We have set up the right mechanisms through which women and girls who are serious about getting education are given scholarships. I must mention that the response we have got is overwhelming.” Rachel admits.
The first lady regrets the second fiddle role assigned to women in society and the challenges hindering the girl child from attaining proper education.
Harping on the many drawbacks that have impeded the girl child from attaining education, such as cultural bias, men’s ideologies, early marriages, poverty among others, Rachel says these dampen their chances of standing tall among their peers and has vowed to eradicate them all.
According to the first lady, “Ours is a traditional society in which a woman’s role is already cut out for her. So, you find lots of young girls in their 20s with families though they have little or no income. They have little or no education. Most of them still have to work on their confidence for them to believe that they can make it in life. To remedy the situation, we have organized seminars and workshops to enlighten girls that they can make it beyond their current circumstance. I am happy that girls are listening to our message that they can change their life stories if they return to school. It hasn’t been easy, but we are making progress.”
Apparently Dr Rachel has proven that a good upbringing, imbibing moral values early enough in children are what every girl child need, in the Bayelsa State particularly but generally throughout the country in order to stem negative tides and make life and society more meaningful. It is clear that the first lady has contributed a great deal to women and youth empowerment, thereby making Nigeria a better place.
She deserves to be appreciated. Her effort is a wake-up call to governments everywhere, corporate organizations and development agencies to all join hands in discouraging abuse of the girl child and providing educational opportunities for her to excel in life.
Indeed a true woman of courage and determination, an emodiment of compassion and .