ANAYO EZUGWU writes that the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, has continued with her passion for the girl-child and women through the inaugural Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Football Tournament
S ince the emergence of her husband as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari has never hidden her passion and love for women and girl-child rights. She is a vocal advocate of women’s rights and children’s rights, and this was a focal point during her campaign in 2015.
On several occasions, the First Lady emphasized the need for young girls to get primary and secondary school education before getting married, saying that she believes no girl should get married before the age of 17. She has also criticized child marriage and homosexuality.
The President’s wife has taken her campaign to empower the girl-child to the sports sector by organizing the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Football Tournament. Six of the continent’s powerhouses in women’s football – Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Mali, and Morocco are competing for honours at the event that commenced on September 15 in Lagos.
She said the objective of the invitational women’s football tournament is to promote football among women and the girl-child for greater opportunities ahead.
“Our objective for this tournament is to use the event to promote women football and highlight its critical linkage to women development and the challenges facing women and girlchild, not only in Nigeria but on the African continent,” she said.
She added that the aim is to draw the attention of policy-makers on the urgency and the need to address the facing growth and development of the girl-child on the African continent.
The wife of the president, therefore, called on stakeholders to support women’s football and girl-child education. ”Being a strong advocate for girl-child education, I insist that the girl-child must have good opportunity to play the game of football not only for passion but to get opportunities for economic emancipation,” she said.
The organisers’ of the football show are confident that the tournament will help improve the quality of women football in Africa.
The Director of Organisation, Aisha Falode said plans are on top gear to ensure a successful hosting of the event. She added that the committee will cash in on the opportunity provided by the football showpiece to boldly underscore Nigeria’s competence in organising a major event. World football governing body, FIFA has endorsed the maiden edition of the competition as a ranking tournament.
The disclosure was contained in a letter sent to the Director of Organization of the tournament, Ms Aisha Falode and signed by Sara Booth (MBE), FIFA’s Head of Competitions (Women’s Football Division).
The football competition initiative is among the several interventions of the First Lady aimed at uplifting women and girls. In May 2015, on the sidelines of the Global Women Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mrs. Buhari stressed the need for Nigerian laws that will protect the women from forced early marriages, sex trafficking and other issues Nigerian girls and women contend with.
She raised concerns on child sexual abuse in Nigeria, sex trafficking and the need for legislation against early marriage. On June 12, 2015, she met with some mothers of the abducted Chibok Girls on 14 April 2016, and donated proceeds from her book to parents of the Chibok girls, the Buni Yadi boys murdered in 2014, and children suffering from malnutrition. In October 2016, she said that she would not back her husband in the next election unless he got a grip on his government.
He responded that she belonged in his kitchen, saying “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”
The First Lady also setup a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Future Assured, an initiative to continue her advocacy work for the health and well-being of women and children through community mobilization and health promotion.
She was prompted by the need to improve the current poor health outcomes of women, children and other vulnerable groups of the Nigerian population, and affirmed her commitment to this work at a stakeholders meeting held at the presidential villa and a public launch of Future Assured programs at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York on September 29, 2015.
The First lady has worked with the Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria which is as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency that has plagued the country since 2009. She set up a committee to deal with the distribution of relief materials after a visit to an IDP camp in Borno North-East Nigeria.
In 2019, she empowered 2000 women in Yola, Adamawa State at the event organized by Aisha Buhari’s Foundation with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). She also launched a Green School Agricultural Initiative at Aliyu Mustafa College, Yola. Buhari also encouraged young people to embrace Agriculture.