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Tallen @65: An amazon’s amazing political odyssey and passion for the womenfolk



Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Kedem Tallen
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Former Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Kedem Tallen, for many reasons, and justifiably so, is widely regarded as a woman of many parts. She’s often described, and rightly so, as one in a million among the womenfolk.

Many call her the elegant stallion, the mentor of mentors and champion of women empowerment. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Yet, many others prefer to view her from the prism of her nicknames like ‘Mama Plateau’ or ‘Mama For The Girls’.

Without a doubt, Tallen is currently Nigeria’s most vociferous and resolutely resilient advocate for gender equality and women involvement in politics under the auspices of the 35 per cent affirmative action. Her passion for women emancipation is indeed second to none across the country.

Dame Tallen often leverages her strong network with development partners to lobby, influence and render unwavering support for women and young girls, serving as their mentor, while implementing sustainable projects across the nation.

This was manifestly taken to an unprecedented highest level when she was women affairs minister under President Muhammadu Buhari.

For instance, she effectively influenced policies and worked seamlessly with civil society organizations to combat gender-based violence, reduce child marriage, and achieve significant milestones in ways that were never witnessed in the ministry’s history.

It is to her credit that within the four years that she served as women affairs minister, she consciously took bold and deliberate steps towards ensuring that many states across the country domesticated various gender equality laws, which prohibit certain archaic discriminatory customary practices that inhibit the rights of the girl-child and women.

Endowed with a rare combined embodiment of natural beauty, brain, sharp wits and humbling humility, Tallen is a down to earth amazon and trailblazer, who as a serving minister, unprecedentedly openly joined protests in support of Nigerian women and also convinced a sitting First Lady to go to the National Assembly and address lawmakers on issues that border on women.

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Dame Tallen’s strongest conviction and deepest passion is her belief that empowering vulnerable women and girls with multiple skills, starter packs and other forms of women and young girls’ empowerment, is key to achieving national economic development.

She is also of the political view that women inclusion and participation in governance at all levels, is critical to boosting the nation’s democracy and overall national development, while concomitantly noting that the low number of women in politics and leadership positions sets the nation back developmentally by decades.

Based on her personal conviction and interest as a defender of womanhood, which she says she imbibed from childhood, Tallen considers the inadequate number of women in decision-making as being responsible for the low investment and slow progress in some of the nation’s crucial sectors of human development.

She says: “Gender inequality meted out to women and girls is a gross human rights violation, hence the urgent need to abolish all forms of violence and harmful traditional practices endangering the health and dignity of girls and womanhood in Nigeria.

“We must therefore set out targets and work towards achieving them. We must make history and make indelible marks on the sands of history.

“Women are the engine of the economy and must be carried along to improve the economy. Once women are empowered, the economy changes.

“Most of the security problems are because we have out of school children. If we look for ways to engage these children meaningfully, the security situation will change, and then we will have peace.”

Imbued by such an incredibly strong passion and conviction for a strategic place for women in the nation’s body politic, Tallen, as women affairs minister and APC chieftain, while reacting to the judgment of a Court in Adamawa, which had just nullified the election of Sen Aisha Dahiru Binani, the state’s only female governorship aspirant of the the APC, allegedly described it as a ‘Kangaroo judgment,’ which aim she claimed was the marginalisation of women in Nigerian politics.

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She allegedly said that many women, like Binani, who was the sole female aspirant in the Adamawa APC governorship primary, were not fairly treated during the primaries for the 2023 general elections.

It is noteworthy that her having the audacity to take the bullets for the womenfolk by such comments did not go down well with some vested political interests and their acolytes in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which culminated in a pending suit instituted by the NBA demanding an apology from her or seeking to bar her from holding public office henceforth.

Born on 8 January, 1959 in Shendam, Plateau State, Dame Tallen is a devout Catholic and Papal Dame, mother of 5, and member, board of trustees of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.

Tallen bagged a first degree in Sociology from the University of Jos in 1982 and later proceeded to Harvard University, USA, for a programme in strategic public sector negotiations, as well as the John F. N. Kennedy School of Government, among others.

She also attended various Seminars and Conferences, both at National and International levels in the fields of Education, Health, Politics, Science and Technology and Business Administration, across numerous countries like Britain, Canada, Singapore, Italy, U.S.A., Indonesia, Rome, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, France, Ethiopia, South Africa, Israel, Japan, China, South Korea, Mozambique and Egypt.

Her first major political appointment was when she served as the Commissioner for Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture and later Commissioner for Health in Plateau State, between 1994 to 1999, where she distinguished herself as an astute and shrewd politician cum administrator, which paved the way for her to be considered for higher appointments thereafter.

At the age of 40, she was appointed as the Minister of State for Science and Technology from 1999 to 2005, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, becoming the first woman to be appointed as a minister in that capacity and later served as Chairman Governing Board, Raw Materials Research and Development Council.

In 2007, Dame Tallen was elected Deputy Governor of Plateau State under former Gov Jonah Jang on the platform of the PDP, the first woman to become a deputy governor in Northern Nigeria. However, she later decamped to the Labour Party in 2011 and contested the governorship election of that year against her principal, but was allegedly rigged out.

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In 2017, she was named a Nigerian Ambassador by former President Muhammadu Buhari but she rejected it, citing personal reasons. However, two years later at the age of 60 in 2019, the President again appointed her as the Minister of Women Affairs during his second tenure and she accepted and served till the end of his tenure in May, 2023.

Tallen is a recipient of multiple national and international awards and honours. For instance, in 2005, she was decorated with the National Honor of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), by President Olusegun Obasanjo, an official national recognition of her invaluable contribution to national development.

She was also honoured as Woman Of The Year for her contribution to Nigeria at the 10th African Icon of Our Generation Awards. She has been chairman of the Governing Board of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS since 2017, as well as World Ambassador of Peace, Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace, since 2000.

In 2023, Tallen also bagged the United Nations Global Women Foundation Advocacy For Change Award, which was conferred on her at the UN headquarters in New York, U.S. for her lifelong commitment toward building strong reach of service throughout the world.

As she clocks the relatively young milestone age of 65 today, with many more decades of service to the nation and humanity still expected from her, Dame Tallen can be said to have lived an accomplished and fulfilled life and career.

Given her avalanche of pacesetting achievements in virtually every facet of life in the past 30 years, it is not far-fetched to say that she represents everything that the Nigerian girl-child would want to emulate and dream to become in life.

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