✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

‘FOMWAN not an elite organisation’

Amira Maryam Othman: One thing that is worth knowing is that FOMWAN is an umbrella body of Muslim women groups. Apart from having branches in…

Amira Maryam Othman: One thing that is worth knowing is that FOMWAN is an umbrella body of Muslim women groups. Apart from having branches in all the states of the federation, we have local government area chapters and then we have other Muslim women groups affiliated to it. Some of the activities are not fully reported but generally we are doing a lot in this respect. I know there was a case in Kano which the FOMWAN took up. A malam raped a small girl and the case was taken to court. There was another case in Jigawa which FOMWAN took up. There are so many cases and FOMWAN is doing a lot on that as we do not condone irresponsible behaviour in the society.

WT: Some Ulama are uncomfortable with the press exposing rape cases. What is FOMWAN’s take on this?

Othman: I think to fight any vice, you have to expose it. If you do not expose it and you leave it like that, it will just continue forever. I do not know why some Ulama are not comfortable with that.

WT: FOMWAN is celebrating 25 years, yet there is no standard edifice to house it. What would you say is stopping its completion?

Othman: I wouldn’t say that because right now if you look at it, we are in a three-storey building that is the FOMWAN national headquarters here in Abuja.  We are trying to put up a hostel at a very cheap rate for women who do not have accommodation when they come into Abuja. We have already finished one floor and are trying to put up two more floors. We have plans to build a conference centre and we also have a plan to build a mosque.

WT: Recently FOMWAN led a demonstration to protest the frequent crisis in Plateau State. In your own opinion what do you think is the lasting solution to the frequent crisis in the state?

Othman: I led the rally and it was like a general call because we felt as women we should lend our voices out. This is because whenever there is a crisis, it is women and children that suffer the most and when the women are not saying anything, the people will say “okay, they don’t really care” so they continue to trample on their rights. I think the Jos crisis is something the government is not really looking into the right way because after the first crisis with the commission of enquiry that came with it, the government should have done something. I believe that if the government can really take action and bring the perpetrators to justice, I think it will forestall future occurrences.

WT: Reproductive health issues have always been a controversial area in Islam. Now condoms seem to be major component of reproductive health being advertised. What is FOMWAN’s take on that?

Othman: Not in Islam. In Islam, there is no controversy on reproductive health right issues. Maybe the controversy will be in the use of condoms because FOMWAN as an association does not distribute condoms at all for whatever reason. If you say reproductive health rights it entails a lot if issues like access to good healthcare for women especially ante-natal care and post-natal care. That is where FOMWAN is found to be very strong. Our health committee is doing a lot in that field but condom distribution FOMWAN does not do. Except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, there is an Islamic limit on abortion and we follow that to the letter.

WT: throughout the controversy on Yarima’s marriage to a minor, FOMWAN was silent. What would be the reason?

Othman: FOMWAN was silent because even the people that took up the case were not sure of the age of the girl and they were not sure about most of the details. Even when they seemed like they were sure, we felt that this is not an issue that FOMWAN should take up because we are an umbrella body of Muslim women groups and of course we have our own values and so on to protect.

WT: What are the challenges you have been facing since you became Amira?

Othman: Alhamdulillah. I think I have the support of my people, that is the members of FOMWAN and it has been great. I think one of the major challenges is that we still have states that are not as active as we would have wished them to be and we are still trying to really bring them into the fold especially states in the east like Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Cross River. These ones are not so active despite the fact that we have branches there.

WT: Twenty five years on, FOMWAN appears not to have made enough impact on its target audience. This is said because other groups get involved in talks on good governance and things like that but FOMWAN seems to be silent…

Othman: I wouldn’t say that because FOMWAN has almost become a household name especially in the Western and Northern parts of the country. Maybe FOMWAN is not in the press as it should be.

Ten years from now, we hope that FOMWAN will be in every house and we would have completed our hostel, the conference hall, the mosque and everything.

WT: What is FOMWAN’ view on girl-child education?

Othman: FOMWAN is a forefront flag-bearer on girl-child education. We have so many programs and we have had this program for over five years, it is called the Ambassadors Girls Scholarship Programme where girls are given scholarships to continue their education through the first nine compulsory years. FOMWAN has been giving scholarships on its own to many girls to ensure that they continue their education.

WT: Finally, what is your view of the way forward for the country especially as we are about celebrating our 50th anniversary?

Othman: I have a view that there is nothing much to celebrate in the country 50 years on. You might have a different opinion but look at our educational system. The early stages of education cannot be compared to now. I went to primary school in a village and by the time I was in class four I could write letters and could read a lot of books. Now you can find someone that has finished from the university and cannot really read anything.

Then look at our health facilities medical attention cannot reach into the villages; a woman is pregnant and she cannot access any healthcare facility. She has to be brought down from the village on a bicycle. So what are we celebrating?

There are so many issues that the government really needs to look at. Unless we have a free and fair election, it will be the same thing again. Unless the right people are there, it will be the same thing. It is high time our government started privatising issues and give the right issues the much needed attention. Personally, I do not think we have much to celebrate.

Join Daily Trust WhatsApp Community For Quick Access To News and Happenings Around You.

UPDATE: Nigerians in Nigeria and those in diaspora can now be paid in US Dollars. Premium domains can earn you as much as $17,000 (₦27 million).

Click here to start earning.