Pauline Tallen: Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development

Mrs. Dame Pauline Tallen is minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, a position she believes has given her a great opportunity to defend the course of women for national development. She believes her appointment is divinely guided to find a meeting point between President Muhammadu Buhari’s recognition of the role that women have played in his political career and her personal interest as a defender of womanhood that has been her story as far back as childhood.

She therefore took her job in the ministry with a great determination to make a difference by empowering women as agents of change. “We must set out targets and work towards achieving it. We must make history and make indelible marks on the sands of history”, she said.

Her encouragement on the job has come from three dimensions: Buhari’s leadership with the interest of the people at heart, the readiness of women as tools that when encouraged, results will follow and her passion for addressing the conditions that make women vulnerable in society.

Tallen used to fight boys in her school days in defence of girls’ interests. And now as minister, she has made dealing with the issue of violence against women and girls one of her major areas of focus. She has led federal and state governments to a commitment to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the country.

According to her, the 36 state governors have adopted zero tolerance on issues of gender-based violence in Nigeria. This a big step ahead in her commitment to do everything possible to ensure women and girls are protected.

She has taken the issue to an unprecedented height by demanding the inclusion of gender-based indicators in data generation across the country. Her ministry has held gender-based violence data indicator harmonisation workshop for the National Strategic Knowledge Management Technical Working Group.

The purpose is to generate data that will support the effort of her ministry to end violence against women and girls in Nigeria. She has pressed strongly for the need to provide clear data that will help fight violence against women and girls in the country.

The minister wants all producers and users of statistics to mainstream gender when preparing statistical reports in order to have a clear picture for strategic planning and development. Such indicators are meant to provide a sense of direction that easily tells a story as to whether or not progress is being made in the effort to end gender-based violence.

Another issue top on the minister’s priority list is girl-child education. She said this is key because “when you empower the girl child, you have empowered the nation”. She insists on educating girls as a fundamental step to free them from being vulnerable.

“The key word I want to dwell with is the girl-child education because most of the vulnerable women are uneducated. If a girl is uneducated, there is nothing she can do. She becomes vulnerable in the hands of men.

“We will work with the ministry of education and information to sensitise Nigerians and to get everybody on board to ensure that the youth and our women are well engaged in order to change the economy”, she assured.

To Tallen, she is out on a national mission to touch the lives of the vulnerable. She understands that hers is a holistic ministry, since woman take care of the home, children and husbands.

“Women do not go without the children; neither can they go without the men. We have an uphill task to meet up with mandate of the ministry and demand of the President”, she said.

She places high premium on women in view of their crucial role in the economy. “Women are the engine of the economy and must be carried along to improve the economy. Once women are empowered, the economy changes,” she said.

Her strategy therefore is to go all out to improve the lives of vulnerable woman in order to make impact in the economy. She is fully convinced that by supporting the vulnerable with income generating activities, there will be peace and development in the country.

 “Most of the security problems is because we have out of school children. If we look for ways to engage these children meaningfully, the security situation will change. Then we will have peace”, she said.

Tallen has also heightened national attention to see gender inequality meted out to women and girls as gross human rights violation. She has therefore taken it upon her ministry to abolish all forms of violence and harmful traditional practices endangering the health and dignity of girls and womanhood in Nigeria.

She studied sociology at the University of Jos from where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982. She proceeded to Harvard University, USA for a programme in strategic public sector negotiations. She also attended John F. N. Kennedy School of Government, among others.

She served as commissioner of social development, youth, sports and culture and also commissioner of health both in Plateau State. She was appointed minister of state, federal ministry of science and technology in 1999 and in 2005, she served as chairman governing board, Raw Materials Research and Development Council.

She was deputy governor of Plateau State from 2007 to 2011 after which she became national adviser of the National Campaign Women Council of APC under the leadership of Mrs. Aisha Buhari. She has been chairman of governing board of National Agency for Control of AIDS since 2017.