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Islam teaches parents to give their children good names particularly from the beautiful attributes of Allah; the owner of beautiful names Asmaul Husina, For it is reported in Hadith, such names are the harbinger of goodness and success in life to such child. Certainly, the parents of  Hajiya Asma’u Inuwa Yahaya, the first lady of Gombe State must have heeded to that and named her Asma’u, at birth. No doubt, if going by her pedigree and passion as a caregiver, the name is apt, a beautiful personality in character and dispositions to life.

Her Excellency, Hajiya Asma’u Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya is a fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society (FNCS),  IT specialist, a teacher, a caregiver and an obedient servant of Allah, who is proud to be in her full Hijab all the times. She attended the prestigious Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi (ATBU), where she bagged a Bachelor Degree in Computer Science Education (B.Tech), Federal College of Education (Technical) Gombe obtained a Technical Teachers Certificate (TTC), a post-graduate diploma in Education (PGDE) from the National Teachers Institute Kaduna and attended, educational conferences and workshops in and outside Nigeria.

As an IT specialist, she participated in several pieces of training in network operations and database management with several IT firms at different times.  At a point, she was an Executive Officer (Billing Customer Unit Account), maintenance and administration of billing database, daily monitoring of IVR system as well as writing of SQL script of a firm she worked for.

Her passion for imparting knowledge to others, serving humanity and render selfless service to her immediate community made her an advocate of Girl-child education and a leaning shoulder for vulnerable women and children. Thus, since her assumption into office as Gombe State First Lady in May 2019, she has through her pet project, the Jewel Care Foundation (JCF), executed several humanitarian projects that impacted the lives of women and children. 

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In this interview with the PEACE Magazine, the humble Hajiya  Asma’u says: Gombe women are resourceful.

How important is a Girl-Child Education to you as a Mother?

Generally, education is key to any meaningful development. Every woman passes through this delicate stage of being a girl-child from zero to 18 years of age. This is a critical time and moments of nurturing from childhood to maturity. It is a period that a child learns the dos and don’ts of life at home conventional school and within one’s immediate community. The person that takes you through these processes is a woman whose education becomes paramount because she is an asset for national development. An educated and knowledgeable woman trains and guides her children and by extension the family towards the attainment of a better future. Therefore, girl-child education is very significant in all spheres of life considering her position as the backbone of the family and the bedrock of a nation.

How important is a Girl-Child Education to you as a Mother?

Growing up as a girl-child was a jolly ride. Just as the male child, we were given equal treatment in my family. The girls are sometimes given more preference due to their feminine nature. It was quite interesting studying in different parts of the country experiencing the nourishing variety of cultures and traditions that bring about Nigeria’s unity in diversity.

The Girl-child non-Formal Learning Scheme is an innovation of the Gombe State government. Why this scheme and do you think it is apt to address challenges in Girl- child education?

The alarming rate of out of school children in the state especially the girl-child necessitated the Government to launch the girl-child non-formal learning centres in all the 11 Local Government Areas. This is in collaboration with the federal government programme of Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) with the sole aim of increasing equitable access to education for all children, improve literacy and strengthen accountability for results through coordination and utilization of resources. I am optimistic that, the concerted and collaborative efforts of SUBEB and BESDA will surely change the narrative. 

Why do you choose to be a Caregiver?

“Caring is giving. When you want to develop a person, you support him/her morally, financially and spiritually. Inspirational and encouraging words guide a person to become productive and independent. Supporting those in financial difficulty by providing them with what to eat and teach them how to fend for themselves gives me joy when seeing the smile on these people’s faces. And Allah says “the hand that gives never lacks”. People need to stretch their hands and be generous because giving holds a magnificent power.

What fuel your interest in the personal hygiene of Gombe women and girls and the free distribution of sanitary pads?

Menstruation is part of a girl’s puberty stages that needs parental guidance and support. Most of these girls attain such age in secondary schools and many do not necessarily know about handling the situation. Worst of them are those out of school who due to traditional values or religious inclination will not open up to their mothers for guidance and vice versa. To me, such situations cannot be overlooked considering the number of girl-child opportune to be in school but are from a poor background. They need basic knowledge of personal hygiene and support to handle this delicate situation. As a Caregiver, providing them with free sanitary pads will ease their struggles to getting one, thereby allowing them to manage their monthly cycle healthily and maturely.

What is the vision and mission behind the Jewel Care Foundation and its mode of operations?

My foundation, the Jewel Care Foundation (JCF) has the vision; to support our women and youths in achieving their full potentials and the mission of providing service to humanity through education, empowerment and creativity. Jewel Care Foundation provides such services through partnering with local and international organizations with similar aims and objectives as well as work closely with government departments, Financial Institutions, Local and International donors agencies and Medical inclined institutes. Etc. To implement and achieve the desired objectives, JCF has been working with the State’s Ministry of Women Affairs, Human Right Activists, Civil Society Organizations and other key bodies, advocating for women and children’s rights.  By Allah’s permission, I expect in few years to come, the Jewel Care Foundation to become a  haven for orphans, widows and vulnerable individuals in the state, by always giving them a new lease of life as they come for our interventions.

So far, are you satisfied with the foundation operations?

Yes! Particularly if measured with the levels of our activities and achievements so far.  The foundation has conducted many medical outreaches for women and children and the vulnerable in the state. Through these outreaches, we conducted amongst other areas, free breast and cervical cancer screening for women, treatment and provision of medical eyeglasses to beneficiaries, free tests and treatment for malaria, blood pressure and diabetes. Also, the foundation executed numerous empowerment programmes for women, youths and those with special needs, as well as provisions of hand pump, boreholes and maternal health care for women across the state.  We also distributed hygiene packs for women and young girls across the state and food items in the three senatorial zones of the state. These and many other efforts of the Jewel Care Foundation are impacting the people of the state. 

How fruitful are your efforts in combating Gender-based Violence in the state?

Well, you know how complicated gender-based violence cases are, not only in Gombe state or Nigeria but globally. In Gombe State, we are agitating for the domestication of the child’s right act bill, hoping for its passage into law soon. JCF, not too long ago in collaboration with women and civil society organizations etc celebrated the international day against gender-based violence in Gombe state with an awareness campaign walk from Pantami Stadium to Gombe State House of Assembly, calling for appropriate laws to prevent gender-based violence cases.  Similarly, in collaboration with Gombe State Agency for Community and Social Development champions the girl-child rights and supported the launch of the policy against child marriage in Gombe. 

How much of politics would you encourage women of Gombe to do?

Already the Women in Gombe State are very active, and ever ready to take politics to the next level. This is evident in the number of women occupying key positions in the government. This cuts across Ministries, Agencies and parastatals etc. We have three female commissioners, one Chairperson of Local Government and one female legislature at the State House of Assembly, eleven Female Councilors, many females Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and other aides in the cabinet of his Excellency. This is possible with the support of the government that saw the potential and political will in women. I will only urge women to work as a team and join forces in their quest for more inclusion of women in governance. Insha Allah, the sky is the beginning of the horizon.

Do you have cause to influence your husband decisions on a matter affecting Gombe women?

No. It is the other way round. My husband knows the large percentage of women who voted him into power and he is ever ready to work with them. He has a searchlight that fished out women, both politicians and non-politicians of great repute in all fields and put them at the helm of affairs.  His government and by extension; himself appreciates the women of Gombe and is very passionate about developing the womenfolk.  I and other women had supported him during his 2019 gubernatorial political struggle through a door to door campaign to canvas for women votes and this significantly turned around the narrative of women participation in Gombe politics.

What are the challenges therein in your office as the First Lady of Gombe State?

The office is playing a role just like a mother in a family. It is a buffer, where we listen to societal complaints and demands concerning females, the youths and channelling their requests to appropriate government offices for action and positive results. It also serves as an advisory capacity as well as in matters between the public and government.  The biggest challenge for the office is that everyone in the state wants his or her requests, needs and interest to be met by the government at once and for the Government to get he or she involved in the running of the States Affairs or carried along at the same time and this is not possible. But thanks to the APC Government in Gombe State under the leadership of my dear husband; His Excellency,  Alhaji, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, the challenges are made easier for me. His government principles and programmes strategically have a direct bearing on the common man. The Government is executing projects which made lives easier for the good people of Gombe thus taking away from me the pressure and burden to ensure the dividends of democracy are delivered to the people. It leaves no stone unturned in this regard.

How easy is it for you to cope at the home front as a mother and wife?

One has gone through different stages of life to date. It is not by one’s effort but Allah’s will. He designs the kind of life a person will live from birth to death. But once one can plan her daily schedules accordingly;  particularly outlining home/family work demands separately from the office stuff, things do work out well.  In addition, if one dedicates herself towards the specific tasks each sector demands and prays for Allah’s guidance towards achieving them, it also makes things easy. All these I do in managing the home and the office bearing in mind that in between the two, patience and courage are the key to success.

What stand Gombe women out from the rest of Nigerian women and what are their roles in the peaceful dispositions of the state?

It is their patience, perseverance, resourcefulness and hospitality. Of course yes! Gombe is a peaceful and hospitable state experiencing relative peace in the northeast of the country even during the covid-19 pandemic and insurgency. There is no doubt that our women are vanguards of peace and tremendously contribute to the peacefulness of the state.

What would be your advice for women of Gombe, and by extension Nigeria women?

My advice to women generally is that they should be active in politics and play the game of politics by the rules. Patience and steadfastness should be their watchwords while they put all trust in the Almighty Allah. And they should be role models to their children, especially in these challenging times.

Which are your best moments as the First Lady so far?

As a wife and a mother who wears the crown of the first lady of the state, there is no better moment for me than when I can put smiles on the faces of orphans and less privileged in society by providing succour to them.

How comfortable are you in your full Hijab?

Very comfortable! The hijab is a part of me. As the First Lady of Gombe State, on no occasion had I ever been harassed or shy of wearing my full hijab either in official and non-official capacities. Wearing the  Hijab in line with Allah’s revelation in the Qur’an earns me more respect and recognition in society and I believe that wearing it should be the pride of every Muslim woman, especially that it is a command from Almighty Allah.   

Ma, if we may ask, how special is His Excellency as a husband, father and a family man?

My husband, His Excellency, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya is a strong and unshakeable pillar that holds and binds us together as one indivisible family. As a husband, he is a rare gem and as a father, he is a hero that stands by us through thick and thin. I love him for always telling the truth at all times and standing by it.

Which is your best chapter in the Glorious Quran or a particular verse or Hadith you cherish?

My best verse in the glorious Qur’an is” Wa many yattaqil laaha yaj’al lahoo makhrajaa Wa yarzuqhu min haisu laa yahtasib’’ Whoever fears Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out and He provides for him from (sources)he never could imagine…Suratul Talaq 2-3).

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