Mrs. Maryam Ibrahim Babangida

Mrs. Maryam Ibrahim Babangida

Highlights of the 1991 Africa Prize

Founder of the Better Life Program for the Rural Woman

Mrs. Babangida turned her traditionally ceremonial post as first lady into a potent force for women's rural development in Nigeria. She is the founder of the Better Life Programme for the Rural Woman (BLP). The BLP seeks to empower women's social, economic and political status, and has achieved dramatic results since its founding in 1987. During her leadership, the program launched 7,635 co-operatives, 997 cottage industries, 1,751 new farms and gardens, 487 new shops and markets, 419 women's centers and 163 social welfare programs. Under her leadership, Nigerian women were empowered to improve their lives through programs in adult education, primary health, agriculture, trade, crafts and food processing. These women are not only moving towards self-sufficiency, but in some instances, they are in the vanguard of agricultural production in their districts, making significant progress in increasing food production and reducing post-harvest waste. Through the BLP, an unprecedented political mobilization of women was achieved. Mrs. Babangida campaigned vigorously for women's participation in elections and government. Voter turnout in the December 1989 local government council elections showed greatly increased women's participation. Mrs. Babangida campaigned for and constructed an international center for women in development in Abuja. She also reached out to the first ladies of other African countries to emphasize the effective role they can play in improving the lives of their people.