Rosalyn Essien and the Rebirth of UWA
The University of Uyo Women Association (UWA) is the umbrella organization for women of the University of Uyo community, made up of both senior female staff and wives of all male senior staff. Having as its motto: Unity, Strength and Progress, its core objectives are among other ideals to foster intellectual, social and economic advancement of women and girls within the university as well as stimulate the interest of university women in civil and public life.
More so, UWA is a non-profit organization geared towards fostering learning, peace and unity among the women with the aim of building up the girl child in the community for balanced upbringing and training. Admittedly, successive leaders of the association since its establishment had endeavoured to galvanize women of the university towards achieving the objectives of the association as adumbrated above.
However, the advent of Mrs. Rosalyn Essien as UWA President brought tremendous innovations to activities and programmes of the association which have made the University of Uyo Women Association to stand shoulder to shoulder with her counterparts across the country and beyond. For instance, the end of year children’s party which use to be a closed door event was transformed by Mrs. Rosalyn Essien to a carnival for all children of the University Community and beyond, with side attractions such as beauty pageantry introduced to the delight of the children.
Similarly, the celebration of the International Women’s Day also had additional activities introduced to it such as novelty football match, health check, and a thanksgiving service, all of which have added glamour to the yearly event. Perhaps, most commendable is the yearly solemn assembly initiated by Mrs. Rosalyn Essien which serves as a veritable platform for women of the University to collectively seek the face of God.
These and many other lofty innovations brought into the association by Mrs. Essien have not only re-written the story of UWA in glowing terms but have re-positioned the association as the foremost organization for the unification of women of the university for a common purpose and the advancement of the cause of women in the University.
In fact, as rightly observed, the University of Uyo Women Association today stands shoulder to shoulder with her counterparts in other parts of the country and beyond courtesy of the eventful and pragmatic leadership of Mrs. Rosalyn Enefiok Essien as President of the association from 2015 to 2020 which has taken the image of the association from the deep freeze to the position of fame and Eldorado.
Indeed, the Rosalyn Essien transformation and metamorphosis of UWA began in 2015 following the appointment of her husband, Professor Enefiok Essien, SAN, as the 7th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, and her subsequent emergence as the President of the University of Uyo Women Association (UWA).
Immediately, Mrs. Essien set the ball rolling by launching a number of lofty programmes geared towards repositioning the association to play the pivotal role of galvanizing the women for intellectual, social and economic progress as well as helping the university management to realize the mission and vision of the great citadel of learning.
First though, Mrs. Essien having recognized that her dream of taking Uwa to greater and enviable heights can only be achieved through the help of God had to first lead the women to God in a solemn assembly which she organized to seek God’s guidance in the conduct of the affairs of UWA in particular and that of the University as a whole.
This had long become a periodic event in the University. That done, Mrs. Essien was now fully armed to roll out other programmes she had initiated for UWA, such as Human Capacity Development.
Indeed, driven by the objectives of the University of Uyo Women Association (UWA) as well as the need to tailor the objectives and programmes of UWA towards meeting the overall vision of the University of Uyo which is “to be a center of academic excellence by utilizing the available human and technological resource for teaching, research, community service and sustainable development”, as well as the mission of the University which is “to diligently pursue scholarship and deploy its output for human capacity development and economic growth in the society…”,
Mrs. Essien felt the imperative to invest in the development of the human capacity of UWA members by facilitating the participation of members of the association in both national and international conferences. These include African Women Leadership Organization (AWLO) Conference in Abuja, the Association of Commonwealth Universities Conference in University of Nairobi, Kenya, International Conference on Zika Virus in Metropolitan University, London, as well as women in leadership conferences in Ghana, South African, Mauritius, Gambia and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Perhaps what will go down in the annals of UWA as the crown jewel in the human capital development drive of Mrs. Essien’s Presidency is the epochal National Conference hosted for the first time by the University of Uyo. The conference which drew participants from university women across the country had as its theme: University Women in Nation Building: From the Home Front to the Frontlines. Furthermore, the conference also had other sub-themes such as: Women as Mentors and Bridge Builders, Women in the frontlines of Democracy; Human Right Women’s Right and Traditional Practices; The role of Women in Conflict Resolution; Women Beyond the Kitchen and Women in Human Development.
Indeed, the significance of the conference cannot be over emphasized especially given the fact that it torchlight on some of the nagging challenges that confront women in their dogged determination to make to the fore-front of nation building in Nigeria. In this regard, Mrs. Essien in her welcome address remarked that despite the United Nations adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in 1967, women in most African countries still face various forms of discrimination in the process of moving from the home front to the frontlines of nation building.
She decried what according to her appears to be a prevailing ideology of biologically determined spheres of activity which assumes a superior public domain that is male and an inferior domestic domain that is female. She therefore posited that if women can build a home, they can also build a nation since a home is a microcosm of a nation.
Corroborating these views, the Chief Host at the event and Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. Enefiok Essien, SAN, noted that society needs the essential role of women of courage, ingenuity, vision and achievement to realize humanity’s noblest and vital projects of sustainable development.
According to him, there are women who are imbued with powerful voices and so from their stance and area of influence, they have shown that when women’s voice is heard, when she participates in decision making and when she exercises leadership, she most likely brings something unique, special and of high value and quality to key decision”.
Dignitaries at the conference included the wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Her Excellency, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel who was represented by the Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Women Affairs, Dr. Glory Edet; the former Head of Service of Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Ekereobong Akpan, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General of Akwa Ibom State, Lady Gloria Etekamba Umoren, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. Comfort Ekpo, among other eminent personalities.
On the whole, the conference aside from boosting the intellectual capacity of participants, especially that of members of the University of Uyo Women Association fulfilled some of the cardinal objectives of UWA which are to foster intellectual and socio-political advancement of women, and to stimulate the interest of university women in civil and public life.
Another way by which Mrs. Essien has invested in the productivity of UWA members and others within the University of Uyo Community is through skills acquisition and entrepreneurial development. In this regard, the UWA President, Mrs. Rosalyn Essien in collaboration with Prof. Stella Idiong’s Art Gallery undertook the development of the human capacity of Women of the University in a programme tagged: “Life Long Empowerment for Women”.
The programme which took place in December 2019 featured the training of women in diverse skills and trades such as tie and dye, weaving batik, printing and other vocations.
Before now, the University of Uyo Women Association had earlier collaborated with the Students Union Government of the University of Uyo to organize an entrepreneurial development summit in September 2019 to train students in entrepreneurship and to also showcase the collectivity of the indigenous creative and entrepreneurial spirit of students in the university.
In her address, the UWA President, Mrs. Rosalyn Essien charged the students to embrace craftsmanship and entrepreneurship noting that the post 2020 world will be driven significantly by advances in technological and entrepreneurial know how.
She noted further that entrepreneurial development entails the profitable utility of in-built and learned skills for societal development and as such urged the students to balance their academic and intellectual progress with creative and entrepreneurial advancement.
Citing Mack Zukerberg who together with his room-mates developed facebook while he was still a Harvard University student, Mrs. Essien encouraged the students to take advantage of the enabling environment provided by the management of the University, particularly the center for entrepreneurial development to extend their entrepreneurial skills and prowess. High point of the event was the inspection of products made by students of the University of Uyo which were on display as well as the disbursement of financial empowerment to the student entrepreneurs to enable them go into full scale business.
Indeed, as Oladayo Oyinlola, a human resource management consultant has asserted, “human capital development is the best investment anyone can make. Buildings become dilapidated, machines become obsolete but an investment in people will always appreciate and be appreciated.”
There is no gain saying that Mrs. Essien’s investment in human capacity development of members of the University of Uyo community is not only laudable given the fact that it will boost the productivity and marketability of the trainees. It is also instructive to note that Mrs. Essien’s human capacity drive as UWA President aligns with the mission of the University of Uyo which is to pursue scholarship and deploy its output for human capacity development and economic growth in the society.
Furthermore, in keeping with the global norm and the push for gender parity, Mrs. Essien had in the five years of her tenure as President of the University of Uyo Women Association (UWA) and matron of the center for Gender Studies led women of the University to celebrating the International Women’s Day.
Coupled with a lot of innovations that she brought to the event, the day has in the period under review been celebrated under various themes which include: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: step it up for Gender Equality” (2016), “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” (2017), “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives” (2018),
“Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” (2019), and “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” (2020).
In the same vein, as a strong advocate of gender parity and rights of the girl child, Mrs. Rosalyn Essien did not only celebrate the girl child on every October 11, she also instituted a prize for the best graduating female student in all faculties of the University. This she did consistently throughout the five years of her tenure as UWA President. Furthermore, in addition to the annual celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, the UWA President on a regular basis organized intellectual programmes geared toward boosting their academic endeavours.
Added to this is the yearly pageantry event sponsored by Mrs. Essien for female students through which Miss Uniuyo emerges.
More so, in furtherance of her push for gender parity and the repositioning of the Girl Child to take her place in the society, Mrs. Rosalyn Essien rolled out diverse support packages and schemes for female students of the University through the various programmes put together by successive Vice Presidents of the student Union Government from 2015 to 2020. All these have gone a long way in empowering the Girl Child to rise above socio-cultural stereotypes and barriers to harness her capabilities and potentialities to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions.
In the final analysis, the significance of Mrs. Essien’s celebration of the International Women’s Day and the International Day of the Girl Child is not merely about the euphoria that accompanies these events.
Rather, the significance of Mrs. Essien’s commitment to the commemoration of these days every year and the cause of womanhood as a whole stems from the fact that she has during these celebrations lent her voice to the global call for gender parity by leaders at all levels creating the enabling environment for girls and women to harness their potentialities, their capabilities and their strengths to fulfill their aspirations and solve the myriads of society’s problems begging for remedies.
Indeed, as G. D. Anderson corroborates, “feminism is not about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It is about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” This is the ideal that Mrs. Essien’s feminist struggle seeks to achieve. There is no gain saying that the many programmes and schemes she initiated and executed for the advancement of the welfare of girls and women within and beyond the University of Uyo community has gone a long way in changing the narrative about women and girls in Akwa Ibom State.
On the other hand, as President of the University of Uyo Women Association, Mrs. Rosalyn Essien demonstrated immense concern for the well-being of women and girls in the University. Consequently, she had throughout the duration of her Presidency of UWA facilitated numerous health programmes which were all geared towards fostering better health for UWA members as well as all women and girls in the University. One of such programmes is the quarterly jogging and aerobic exercise tagged “Jogging for Better Service”.
The jogging and aerobic exercise which is the brain-child of Mrs. Essien made its debut on 3rd December, 2016 heralding the new era of UWA under Mrs. Essien as its President. High-point of the three-hour occasion is usually the enlightenment sessions and health talk on issues ranging from certain core women issues to men issues and general health disorders like cervical cancer, fitness and menopause, breast cancer, diabetes, lassa fever, prostate cancer, monkey pox, sickle cell anemia, drugs and substance abuse, etc.
From the foregoing, it is therefore evident that the quarterly jogging for better service programme which also featured aerobic exercise, initiated by Mrs Rosalyn Essien was a well thought-out programme that had significantly helped in fostering the well-being of women and girls in the University.
However, in addition to the “Jogging for Better Service” programme, Mrs. Essien also facilitated several health seminars all of which were geared towards ensuring that women and girls in the university live a healthy life thereby enhancing their optimal productivity whether as workers or as students.
Above all, as part of her end of year celebration, Mrs. Essien on a yearly basis embarked on visitation to the University of Uyo medical center to empathize with patients as well as identify with women in the maternity ward. Given her humanitarian and philanthropic disposition, Mrs. Essien at each of such visits did not only pray for the sick, she also foots the medical bills of patients undergoing treatment for severe ailments as well as those in the surgical ward.
The same gesture was also extended to women at the maternity ward who in addition to having their hospital bills paid by Mrs. Rosalyn Essien were also presented with diverse maternity and baby gifts to enable then give their babies optimal care.
Indeed, like the visitation of Jesus Christ to the man at the pool of Bethesda whom Jesus told to “Rise, take up your bed and walk”, every end of year visitation by Mrs. Essien to the University of Uyo Medical Center was a re-enactment of that biblical story as patients who for lack of funds to clear their hospital bills were held back in their hospital beds waiting for God’s visitation had cause to “park their loads” and return home joyfully having been relieved of their financial burden courtesy of Mrs. Essien’s philanthropic gestures.
Another crucial feature of Ms. Rosalyn Essien’s leadership of UWA is the institution of the Students Support Programme to support the educational pursuit of poor students whose dreams of a good life were at the verge of extinction due to lack of funds to fund their University Education. In this regard, it is gratifying to state that the advent of Mrs. Rosalyn Essien as the President of the University of Uyo Women Association (UWA) brought to an end the rising tide of school drop-out in the University courtesy of her students’ education support initiative.
Under this scheme, Mrs. Essien has on semester basis paid school fees for less privileged students who were on the verge of terminating their studies abruptly due to their parents’ inability to fund their education. In addition, she also keeps track of the academic, progress of these students to ensure that they pursue their studies to a logical conclusion and thereby guaranteeing the actualization of the lofty dreams and aspirations of these students.
In the same vein, Mrs. Essien has also extended the same gesture to physically challenged students who in addition to having their educational pursuit bank rolled by the UWA President have also been given laptops and other learning aids such as Braille for the visually impaired as well as supportive tools such as white cane, crutches, wheel chairs, etc, to enhance their studies and livelihood. As a loving mother, Mrs. Essien’s watchword has been to ensure that students of the University of Uyo excel in their academic pursuit.
Another lofty programme that Mrs. Essien has passionately pursued in the five years of her tenure as UWA President is the development of children and the enhancement of their welfare. To this end, Mrs. Essien has in her five year tenure as UWA President committed huge resources to the execution of several lofty projects and programmes for the sole aim of achieving the noble objective of child development.
One of such programmes is the annual end of year children party for children within the University Community. The significance of this annual event can best be appreciated when viewed from the psychological stand point of human development. Similarly, still in her determination to bequeath a bright future to children by laying a solid educational foundation for their intellectual development, Mrs. Essien constructed and donated a crèche to the University of uyo.
The breadth-taking project which can be formed the crown jewel in her administration as UWA President was commissioned on by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. Enefiok Essien, SAN and as at November 2020, has about fifty children in its tutelage.
Furthermore, what perhaps will go down in history as Mrs. Essien’s most humane gesture to humanity during her tenure as UWA President is her street kids campaign programme. Touched by the plight of street children who roam about helplessly with nobody to turn to, Mrs Essien in May 2017 launched the street kids campaign programme where over 100 street children, were picked from the streets of Uyo and reunited with their families in doing this, Mrs. Essien also empowered parents of each of the children with cash, food items and other life perquisites to enable them cater for kids.
More so, each of the kids were re-registered in school with school uniforms, exercise books, pens, textbooks, school bags and other educational materials were given to them to ensure that they forge ahead with their academic pursuit. As lady Bird Johnson has asserted “Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.” Incidentally, while some people may think that the children that roam about on the streets on daily basis are wayward and will never amount to something good, Mrs. Essien sees a whole lot of potentialities in them.
She believes like David Vitter does that” if children are given the necessary tools to succeed, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.” With this conviction, Mrs. Essien therefore refuses to give up on the so called wayward street children. Rather she decided to pick them up, dust them off and equip them with the requisite tool they need to succeed in life which is education. On the whole, Mrs. Essien’s investment in the development and wellbeing of children can be adjudged the best legacy anyone can bequeath to humanity.
Thus, as Nelson Mandela rightly averred, “history will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” Indeed, there is no doubt that posterity will write her name in gold and continue to celebrate her for her disinterested and passionate investment in the development and welfare of children.
Courtesy of Mrs. Essien’s sterling leadership, UWA today has the UWA choir, the UWA Dance Troup, the UWA Wrapper, UWA Farm and the UWA canteen. Expectedly, her philanthropic and humanitarian gestures has earned her several accolades and nick names such as: Mother- General of Uniuyo, Eka Ndito Uniuyo, Distinguished Mother of Uniuyo, Mother of Peace and Virtue, Quintessential Amazon of Peace Award, Award of Excellence in Leadership Phenomenal Woman of Worth, etc.
Mrs. Essien is not yet done in her philanthropic and humanitarian call. Hence, on 21st September, 2019, she launched two (2) Foundations namely; Amathy Peace Pheromones Foundation and Pay orphan Foundation, where she paid school fees for over 25 students and also empowered women and physically challenged persons in several ways.
These landmark feats have been largely driven by her philosophy and belief that “the best life is the one lived for humanity”. Mrs. Rosalyn Enefiok Essien is indeed a fulfilled woman of worth, the epitome of beauty and virtue not for the name or fame she has garnered for herself but for the lives she has touched. Her legacies as president of UWA will indeed remain indelible on the sands of time.