Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo Thursday, said in Benin that the achievement of the desired economic and political growth by governments at all levels would be difficult if the challenges facing women in the country are not addressed.

Obasanjo made this declaration while delivering the first Dr. Abel Guobadia Memorial lecture, with the title “The Role of Women in Safe Guiding the Nation’s Health,” organized by the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC).

He said affirmative action must be designed and implemented to give women an opportunity to acquire and exercise their knowledge not just in national health issues but also in many national issues. They must be part of decision making body, adding that contribution to our national life by women cannot be over emphasized.

“If they are shut out, national development in health and other sectors will be hard to realize. Majority of Nigerians particularly women are poor and they are susceptible to diseases and that is bad for any nation,” Obasanjo said.

He lamented that women have continued to be marginalised in the country despite their numerous contributions to the growth of the nation.

“If about 50 per cent of our population are women, any thing that affects the bulk of that population affects the nation directly and this is in addition to the issue of direct effect on women’s health and children and the family. The issue of women’s health must be treated within the other issue of power, control and decision making.

“It must be clearly understood that in the extent that women are disadvantaged in essential political and economic roles, to that extent will all affect the women’s life living her health inadequately addressed. What ever statistics we may choose to use, maternal mortality, infant mortality, what is generally revealed is problem for the female population and which reflects on the national health situation.

“The issue is not only that of access to medical care and facilities but the issue is also political and economic. We have 36 governors and not one of them is a woman. We have at the national level 109 senators but only 8 are women. And we have only 360 members in the House of Representatives only 24 of them are women. I am taking the issue of women health further, we are taking it beyond the medical, the political and the economic. And until we are able to eliminate and abate this problem, we will not find solution to women problem,” he stated.

Obasanjo who described the late Dr Guobadia, as “an intelligent man who helped in the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria,” added that the former INEC Chairman’s role in finding solution to women’s health is exemplary, which he said was reason why he served as chairman Board of WHARC until his death.

Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, stressed the need for girl-child education, declaring that “in Edo, the girl-child has access to free education, though there are difficulties.”

“For us to fasten the pace of development and make the right level of investment that will deliver not only on the girl child education, but also to create opportunities for those who have been so educated, then we do need to revisit the way in which our natural income is being distributed and managed,” Oshiomhole stated.

He however regretted that women are being marginalized despite the fact that “they vote more than men during elections. I think the challenge is basically for INEC and the Federal Government to create a truly woman friendly environment where politics cannot be a hindrance so that intelligent women can afford on the basis of a well refined platform against the male to find out who has better idea about the development option that are available.”