One of the biggest gains of the just-concluded Betsy Obaseki Women Football Tournament (BOWFT) was the demonstration of unity by the wives of the country’s states governors’ wives to the battle against gender-based violence.
Although the players, their officials and football fans were unanimous in their verdict that the competition won by Edo Queens Football Club, has brought to the fore the abundance of talents in the country’s women’s game, the ultimate winner was the fight against gender-based violence.
At the closing ceremony of the competition, Edo State First Lady, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki and other members of the Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF) made the case for grooming and empowerment of the girl-child, restating their commitment to ending the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.
Speaking during a seminar held alongside the tournament, Mrs. Obaseki said the Edo State government has over the past seven years prioritised policies to protect the girl-child and ensure their wellbeing.
She noted: “This is the third year of this tournament, as we set out from the beginning not only to play football but to fight and address social vices that affect women and girls.
We address issues that are prevalent in society.
“The issue around GBV is a fight for all of us as the governors’ wives. We came together to fight and will continue to fight until there is zero tolerance for this issue in Nigeria.
“During our first outing, we got recognition from FIFA as they gave us an award for the initiative and for using the platform to empower our girls. We are trying year after year to maintain the height of professionalism and maintain world-class standards to get more FIFA recognition.
“BOWFT has been referred to as the foremost women’s football tournament in Africa and we are proud. We aim to make Nigeria women’s football known around the world. This year, the theme is ‘Stop Gender-Based Violence,’ and this is a focus of Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum, as this issue is taken seriously.”
She added, “A lot of GBV happens in schools, communities and other places and children are afraid to speak out but we are enlightening them on the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Law, encouraging them to speak up, make them bold to join us in this fight, ensuring that we fight the scourge and reduce it to the barest minimum or completely eradicating it.”
The Chairman, Board of Trustees, NGWF and wife of former Ekiti State Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, commended Mrs. Betsy Obaseki’s efforts in the fight against gender-based violence, noting that the efforts by the governors’ wives have continued to yield positive results.
She stated: “The issues of gender-based violence are important to us as members of the NGWF and we set up a support group in 2020 to fight against gender-based violence and 13 States bought into it and passed the VAP Law. As of today, 35 states in Nigeria have already passed the VAP law, addressing GBV…Kano State is the only state yet to pass the VAP law.
“We would encourage Betsy Obaseki to continue her good fight against GBV. GBV is a fight for all of us in our schools, churches, and workplaces as we have dedicated our lives to the fight against the scourge and ensure it is no more in the country.”
Also speaking at the event, the United Nations (UN) Women’s Country Representative to Nigeria, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, said: “We also commend the NGWF and the NGF as their efforts have seen to the declaration of war against gender-based violence in Nigeria where 35 States as of today, have passed the VAP law. We need alliances to fight this scourge.”
The competition ended with Edo Queens defeating Bayelsa Queens by four goals to three via penalty shootout that decided the game following a 1-1 ending at regulation time at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City.