Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunset for Nigerian Feminist - Hajiya Laila Dogonyaro, OON by Sola Fagorusi

Sadly, it was twilight for Hajiya Laila Dongonyaro on the 28th of April, 2011; a foremost women rights advocate and politician. Born 67 years ago, Hajiya Laila, the Garkuwar Garki of Jigawa State was a known vanguard of women political emancipation in regionally in northern Nigeria and Nationally. She died after a brief illness and years of protracted battle with diabetics and hypertension.

The recipient of several awards including the Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON in 2001 was largely involved in the activities of the Jam’iyar Matan Arewa (JMA), the first collective Northern women organisation which was founded in 1963 and was the President of the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) 1993 -1915. She will be fondly remembered by several who have benefitted from her proactive efforts at pushing for child education, women socio-economic and political development and her active engagement in politics. It was Hajia Laila who famously described the role of women in the politics of the first republic as that of a ‘flower vase’. She opined that she felt so because ’some women then were active participants in politics but with no franchise to vote and be vote for.’

In an interview last year with the Daily Trust Newspaper, she recounted how she and a few others including the late Simbiat Abiola worked together and ensured that women had a voice in politics. ‘After the elections, we went and a transition committee was set up and I think there were 12 to 13 committees. There were about four or five women at the meeting and none of us was included. There was Anne Obi, Mrs Kezia Agundu, Mrs. Adenike Ebun-Oyegbola was there, Alhaja Simbiat Abiola and I. I couldn’t bear it so I asked to be allowed to speak. I expressed my disappointment at the composition of the committees. I pointed out that barely a week ago, we had queued in the sun to vote you as president and we are now being forgotten seven days after the election. That was in 1979. Alhaji Shehu Shagari said I was right and he directed that women should be included in the committees. Although our names were put down but we were never invited to attend the committee meetings. That was how the struggle started.’

She attended only primary school (was also married off early at 12) and was an advocate for girl-child education. One of her last projects was a girl’s secondary school in Garki, Jigawa State which she slated to be opened in September.

Hajiya Dogonyaro is survived by four children Mohammed Ahmed (the Sarkin Yakin Garki), Mairo Hassan Hussein, Binta and Isa Dogonyaro. The First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan in a national broadcast acknowledged her huge contribution to the cause of womanhood and said ’she will be missed by several people.’ Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State through a press release recalled her initiating the Women Opinion Leadership Forum, “which became a training ground for younger women, who eventually found their feet in politics”, her pioneering contributions towards the development of the Women’s empowerment movement and championing “greater involvement of women in politics and governance”.

May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Sola Fagorusi writes for Free2run and original Article can also be found on Free2run website.

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