By Sola OGUNDIPE
ONE of the greatest desires of Lovette Emezu is to be a footballer. The dexterity with which the stocky 15-year-old handles a football leaves no one in doubt that she has all the makings of a budding star. Lovette, a JSS III student of High Achievers College, Ajegunle, could be said to be on the way towards realisation of this dream by virtue of the fact that she is currently one of the star players of her school’s female football team.
The only female child of her parents, Lovette who hails from Akwa Ibom State and also loves to play table tennis dreams of becoming a musician. But it is clear Lovette’s first love is football. She is convinced that being a female should not be reason not to excel in a vocation as demanding as football.
“I love football, I love playing in the attacking position. I want to be a professional footballer and play for my country Nigeria. My parents are happy with the idea of me playing football and they are supporting me,” she noted during a chat withVanguard Features, VF recently.
Lovette who says she has learned to be a team player and a leader, notes: “If girls are interested in playing football, they should go ahead and follow their mind. We were chosen from each class and I was among the five picked.
It’s also thanks to the GOAL project, that 13-year-old Dorcas Etete, also a JSS III student of the same school hopes to become another striker in the national female football team. Dorcas, who hopes to study Veterinary Medicine in the higher institution of learning, confessed she loves to play football with a passion.
“I was in my class one day when my teacher called me and told me about this GOAL project. He asked if I liked to be a participant. Of course I said yes and I have had no regrets.” The first of five children, Dorcas notes that apart from being groomed into becoming a good footballer, she has learned what it takes to become a good leader and to be empowered in virtually every aspect of life.
Lovette and Dorcas are not alone in this journey towards stardom. They are only two of the 230 or so girls in Lagos and Abuja currently enrolled into the training and skills guidance tutelage provided by the life skills project called GOAL – an initiative of Youth Empowerment foundation (YEF) and Standard Chartered Bank, Nigeria Ltd.
GOAL is exclusively focusing on building the life and survival skills of young Nigerian girls. At the moment, 30 students from High Achievers College, Ajegunle, and 30 students each from Santa Maria College, Mushin; Royal Kriston College, Mushin, and Itolo Grammar School, Surulere, all in Lagos, are actively enrolled on the initiative.
An estimated 120 pupils from four other schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are also engaged on the GOAL project. Sponsored by Standard Chartered, the project is aimed at educating the girl child about sexual related issues experienced by females using vocational activities to build their skills.
Mrs. Iwalola Akin-Jimoh, Executive Director, YEF, described the initiative as a life skills project focusing on in-school young girls exclusively aged 11-15. “It includes training them on communication, negotiation and basic skills needed for day-to-day living and there is a component that focuses on sports empowerment.
“Currently, we have enrolled a total of 232 girls in four Local Government Areas each in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In turn, these girls have reached out to no less than 3,000 of their peers. They have been able to step-down the training and application of the skills they have learned.”
The essence is not strictly football, Akin-Jimoh remarked: “But because Nigerians love football, we picked football as the tool for sports empowerment of these girls. We are aiming to enhance their capacity to play at the local and international levels and if we are able to see some with potential, we form linkages for them to explore at the international level.”
She mentioned the financial literacy component of the initiative which focuses on building the skills of the beneficiaries in terms of using public facilities and at the end of the day giving them skills by which they can establish linkages with SMEs’ funders such as Standard Chartered Bank. “What I’m saying is that if they are able to go into vocational training and need linkages in order to get funding, the programme has such capacity since it is funded by Standard Chartered. Then there is the literacy educational training aspect which is something we found. Many of them could not read or write so the idea is also to build their capacity to read and write so they can stand up for themselves in public.”
The GOAL project which has been running for over six months has had its trying times. “We have come a long way. When we started, we were not sure if it would work out because most projects that focus on life skills do not combine the three components we are focusing on. We were worried if we would be able to combine the three, but it is actually better because it gives a holistic perspective to working with adolescents. So the level of enthusiasm in Lagos and Abuja is so overwhelming we are looking towards expanding into other states so as to sustain the programme and implement it at a higher level.
Time is a major challenge, Akin-Jimoh noted. “We need schools to give us the time to spend with the girls. Now we work once a week with the girls, this is inadequate. Life skills is done as a peer education training, so they also have to go into the community to impart on girls like themselves information on life skills. It is very intense for us and for them. The impact is tremendous. These girls can now work as a team and have learnt that it is only as a good team player that they can become good leaders. They know those qualities they want to see in a leader and we are projecting and working with them towards acquiring some of these qualities. The projection is that this initiative has come to stay.”
Mr. Diran Olojo, Head of Corporate Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited, said as the major partner with YEF in implementing the GOAL project in Nigeria, the bank is committed towards ensuring young adolescent girls get the much desired lease of life by being trained on different skills set using sports as a vehicle.
The project is being implemented in selected schools in Lagos and Abuja as a pilot scheme, it aims to reach at least 100, 000 young women by using life skills, education and sports as in-roads.