Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Monday re-affirmed that his administration would sustain the empowerment of women and the girl-child to engender the uplifting of families’ economies and peace in the state. The governor gave the assurance at the opening of a three-day Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (GEST) programme for 450 girls at the Indoor Sports Hall of Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba. He explained that girl-child empowerment was the process of uplifting the economic and social status of “traditionally under-privileged girls in a male-dominated social construct (patriarchy)’’ and assured that if the 450 set was successful, his administration would scale up the number in 2021.Okowa urged the beneficiaries to demonstrate willingness to learn and imbibe the virtues of diligence and honesty, saying that it would help them to realise their dreams.

“It is with great joy and pleasure that I welcome you all to the commencement of the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training Programme also known as PROJECT GEST.”

As many of you here may be aware, entrepreneurship development is at the core of our Stronger Delta agenda.”From the onset of our S.M.A.R.T, now Stronger Delta agenda, we set out to unlock and unleash youth entrepreneurship through skills acquisition programmes that will resource our youths with the vocational skills, attitudes and tools to become self-employed and employers of labour. “The design and implementation of the job creation programme is trainee-centred, service-oriented and results-based, hence the strategy is to turn unemployed youths into entrepreneurs, leaders and managers.“The training and mentoring process aim beyond raising entrepreneurs, to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and personal effectiveness.”Although a significant number of women have been trained and established through these programmes, it was necessary for us to design a special programme for the girl-child from ages 18 to 30 because the empowerment of girls is a major public policy issue in the 21st century,” he said. He noted that 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, the girl-child was still grappling with issues of gender discrimination, crushing poverty, early/forced marriage, identity crisis, social and parental pressure, poor life skills (communication, decision making, goal setting) and low self-esteem.According to the governor, all these pose a threat to the girl-child’s hopes of financial independence and quality of life, thereby preventing the girl child from maximizing her potential.He said, “the commencement of PROJECT GEST is, therefore, a step in the right direction and it is my earnest hope that those of you that scaled the hurdle into this programme will take it very seriously because it is an opportunity of a lifetime.“I expect you to take full advantage of it by diligently applying yourself to the training. You must demonstrate willingness to learn, capacity to grow and justify the trust and confidence of the government as it invests in your future. “As for runners of PROJECT GEST, I charge you to be good ambassadors. You must lead by example and imbibe the virtues of discipline, focus, punctuality, hardwork and accountability that constitute the ingredients for success in life.”Okowa commended the Girl-Child Empowerment Office for the hardwork it made in ensuring the kick-off of the programme and charged the personnel to stay focused on the goal.“Empowering the girl child is a task that must be accomplished,’’ he declared.In her remarks earlier, Wife of the Governor and Founder of 05 Initiative, Dame Edith Okowa, had urged participants at the training to see their selection as a privilege and not a right, reminding them that thousands of persons also applied for the programme.She urged them to have passion for the training, and have integrity and commitment to ensure that they succeeded in their ventures.In a goodwill message, Speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, congratulated the 450 girls for being selected and urged them to give the three days training deserved seriousness.He commended Gov. Okowa for creating a Girl-Child Empowerment Office which, according to him, is geared towards providing skills and empowerment for young girls.Earlier, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Girl-Child Empowerment, Mrs Marilyn Okowa-Daramola, while welcoming guests and participants to the event, said that Project GEST was aimed at providing Delta girls between the ages of 18 years and 30 years with training on various skills, including fashion, hairdressing, make-up and ICT.”Project GEST is geared towards creating a new empowered group of skilled young female entrepreneurs.”It took three months of rigorous interviews to arrive at the 450 pioneer beneficiaries. A total of 5,970 applications were received from both online and hard copy applications, comprising 4,474 from trainees and 1,496 from trainers,” she disclosed.She added that 873 persons were shortlisted and interviewed out of whom 450 successful ones were selected .On her part, Executive Assistant to the Governor on Girl-Child Empowerment, Bridget Anyafulu, thanked the governor for establishing the Office, and assured that she and her personnel would continue to create more opportunities for the girl-child in Delta.