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Dr Ini Adiakpan: Serving As Conveyer of Blessings To Akwa Ibom Women, Men And Children

When Dr. Ini Adiakpan was nominated and subsequently appointed into the State Executive Council as the commissioner in charge of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare by Governor Udom Emmanuel in August 2020, many received the news with great joy and expectation in the fact that a square peg had finally been placed in a square hole owing to Dr. Adiakpan's involvements in grassroots service, particularly in the areas of women and children development spanning over 30 years. These selfless efforts have endeared her to numerous admirers within and outside Akwa Ibom State. Moved by the desire to render impactful service in her new office, Dr. Adiakpan upon her assumption of duty scheduled a maiden meeting with management staff of the ministry at the Women Development Centre, IBB Way, Uyo, where she urged the staff to consider their duty as a call to service to humanity and opportunity to contribute their quota towards effective delivery of Governor Udom Emmanuel's completion agenda. The maiden meeting which coincided with the weekly prayer meeting of the ministry was to seek the face of God for the grace to deliver on the assigned mandate as enshrined in the development agenda of the present administration. The commissioner whose exhortation was titled: "Salt Of The Earth, with text drawn from Matthew 5:13, admonished the staff to consider themselves as the salt of the earth, having responsibilities to deliver on any assigned duty, pointing out that the ministry's mandate was a unique one which centred on caring for the less-privileged in the society, thereby touching lives positively. She, however, called for punctuality and hard work among the staff, maintaining, "I'll work with the relevant authorities to ensure that what is meant for you comes to you based on the availability of resources. True to her words, Dr Adiakpan since her assumption of office on August 8, 2020 has worked assiduously to ensure that the ministry delivers on its assigned responsibilities. Supported by hard-working and diligent staff in the various directorates, the ministry had within first 100 days of Dr Adiakpan touched the lives of the less-privileged, women and other vulnerable persons in the state positively. Soon after the maiden meeting came the zonal sensitization seminar on "Ending Violence Against Children and Promoting GirlChild Education in Nigeria, a programme organised by the Office of the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, in collaboration with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare to create continuous awareness among various stakeholders across the federation on the need to end violence against children and other vulnerable groups who suffer various forms of abuses, particularly during the period of Covid-19 and beyond. Declaring the seminar open, Dr Adiakpan observed that the theme, Ending Violence Against Children and Promoting Girl-Child Education in Nigeria, was apt considering the alarming rate of violence perpetrated against children and other vulnerable persons in the society. Adiakpan who lauded Governor Udom Emmanuel and wife, Dr Martha, for their demonstration of genuine love and interest in approving children's programmes in the state, expressed dismay over continuous abuses meted out to children by some undesirable persons in the society, recalling that a lot to children had suffered various forms of abuses such as rape, neglect, murder, child-labour, among others, pointing out that the abuses had skyrocketed during the period of the lockdown, occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic and called for a change of attitude. She further stated that her ministry had collaborated with other relevant agencies such as the Police, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Immigration Service and State Security Services, as well as the state judiciary to ensure full implementation of the Child's Rights Law in the state by prosecuting the offenders in both family and regular courts. Within the period in review, Dr Adiakpan had presided over the meeting of stakeholders involved in the Akwa Ibom State Technical Steering Committee (STSC) for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) which took place at the Women Development Centre, Uyo, where she urged members of STSC to identify gaps for full implementation of strategies targeted at the development of children in Akwa Ibom State, observing, "As the situation of orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers in the communities is highly deplorable, it is incumbent upon the forum to be simultaneously strengthened to identify gaps and implement strategies to provide enabling environment that will ensure maximum development of our children, adding that the meeting was organized by her ministry in collaboration with the Centre for Clinical Care and Clinical Research (CCCRN) as a platform to co-ordinate relevant stakeholders drawn from ministries, departments and agencies to provide a multi-sectoral response for orphans and vulnerable children in the state using the roles and responsibilities of participants. Another milestone recorded by the commissioner was the flagg-off of the evacuation of mentally ill persons across the three senatorial districts of the state shortly after taking over as the new head of the ministry. During the exercise, Dr Adiakpan said the evacuation programme was part of the activities of her ministry with the three- fold mandate to evacuate, treat and re-integrate mentally challenged persons in the state. Worried by the increasing number of children found on the streets across the state and the various forms of abuses faced by this set of children, the ministry in partnership with an NGO called Beautiful Imaginations, organized a dance drama tagged "Off The Streets at Ibom Plaza to draw the attention of the public on the dangers involved in having children roam the streets. Speaking at the occasion, the commissioner lauded Governor Udom Emmanuel and wife, Dr Martha, for their compassionate disposition towards what she termed, "all-round growth and development of Akwa Ibom children, expressing optimism that with the help of God and the able leadership of the governor, the issue of streets children in the state would be a thing of the past, reiterating, "We will not relent to arrest, prosecute and sentence rapists and other culprits who abuse children in the state, so that our children will be free to grow up properly and no longer roam the streets, she affirmed. In furtherance of the collaborative effort between the state government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in tackling the menace of child abuse in the state, Adiakpan had played host to the executive and members of Child Protection Network (CPN), a non-governmental organization established for the purpose of sensitizing the grassroots on the need to ensure protection of the child's rights as stated by the Akwa Ibom Chapter chairperson of the body, Mrs Uduak Umoh. At the meeting, the commissioner urged CPN to partner her ministry in sensitizing the society on the provisions of the Child's Rights Act (CRA), especially at the grassroots level, to ensure effective dissemination of the information gathered, pointing out that once the society was fully sensitized on the harmful effects of child abuse, there would be drastic reduction in the number of cases. She equally advised the body to liaise with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) when confronted with issues that require legal actions, pointing out that such collaborative effort was seriously needed by all stakeholders involved in the fight against child abuse in the state. In order to strengthen the capacity of women in line with the economic realities of the time, Adiakpan, while meeting with heads of women groups in the state, as part of her familiarization activities in the ministry, stressed the need for women to embrace entrepreneurial ventures as a means of improving the economic circumstances of their families in particular, and the society at large. The women affairs boss who praised the governor and his wife for creating space for women in the governance of the state at all levels, particularly in her appointment as the commissioner in charge of women affairs and social welfare, said the essence of the meeting was to enlighten the women on their responsibilities towards effective governance and mode of conduct while in public places. She frowned at incessant cases of rape, harassment and other forms of abuses meted out to women in the society and urged the women leaders to mobilize other women in fighting the scourge. While appreciating the women for their support towards the success of Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration in the state, the commissioner assured them of more benefits from the administration. Within her first 100 days in office, Dr Adiakpan had equally embarked on the following activities: empowerment of the girlchild on entrepreneurial skills; provision of empowerment and financial aids to 15 widows, physically challenged persons and lessprivileged women; organized capacity building on financial inclusion for 22 women groups in the state; assisted 500 women to access grant/loans from SMEDAN to improve their businesses. Other activities performed by the women affairs boss within the period were: provision of needed assistance to 100 young women for the registration of their businesses with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), facilitation of Federal Government's financial grant for 1000 youths in each of the local government areas of the state; assistance for registration of businesses with SMEDAN for 20,000 women to access Federal Government's soft loan; strengthening of "Adopt-a-Street-Child campaign for the adoption of streets children by NGOs, CBOs, individuals and corporate organizations in the state. The list is endless. Of all her activities within her first 100 days in office, one particular activity that endeared Dr Adiakpan to people is her adoption of three streets children personally, to give them hope for a brighter future. She did not just talk about it, but went all out to demonstrate that aspect of biblical injunction of being our brother's keeper. As if that was not enough, Dr Adiakpan in her address to formally close the year 2020 16 Days Activism, pledged to focus on the adoption of streets children during next year's commemoration of the event. Truly, she has demonstrated utmost good faith and great passion as the conveyer of Governor Udom Emmanuel's blessings to women, children, and even the men in Akwa Ibom State.

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