By Anino Aganbi
Nigeria’s adolescent girls hold the key to the well being of their families, neighbourhoods and the nation .If given quality basic education and skills the confidence and opportunity to grow and prosper, their contributions to the society will be multiplied many folds.
A movie show on empowering out-of-school girls, held in Yaba, Lagos . The event was graced with prominent men and women some of whom were partnering with Action Health Incorporation.
Following an in depth research held by “Action Health Incorporated” (AHI), to understand the needs of adolescent girls in Lagos, a multi dimensional empowerment project was launched in Iwaya, one of the slum areas in Lagos. About 75 out of school girls were registered to benefit from the pilot phase of the scheme of which 48 of them just graduated.
The stories told by these young ladies in Iwaya spoke of abject poverty and deprivation. A lot of them who wanted to have a formal education could not in as much as education was made free by the government. Their parents and guardians just could not afford to pay any added costs for books and miscellaneous.
Instead, they prefer to give these girls out in marriage. By doing this, these young women became prey to unhealthy sexual relationships. In most cases, they were raped by these older men who came to their parents for their hands in marriage. Some of these girls who became mothers lost their infants to death.
The empowerment scheme for out of school girls has given them a reason to smile again. They now have a beacon of hope where before there was none. A lot of them had resigned their fates to hawking as petty traders in their locality. The scheme has made them become better girls and mothers because they now have a focus. They no longer have to be forced to marry men old enough to be their father.
During the discussion of the films that were shown on ‘Empowering out of school girls’ Dr Paul Onu of Ford Foundation commended Action Health Incorporated for the work well done and said that ford foundation is solidly behind them.
He applauded the media for bringing these things to the public’s notice since not everybody can get across to Iwaya. He also made comment about the increase of slums in Lagos because it is a mega city. He said if we let these young people fall through the cracks, we wonder what Nigeria will look like in future.
Mrs Antoinette Falomo said she is happy that others are joining hands with them to push sustainable drive to the society. For the media, it’s a too prompt thing. Getting information out often needs a sponsorship. Besides, even female children from rich urban areas are exposed to these issues as well because they are being left to the whims of those surrounding them even at home.
Nigerians do not feel responsible for the plight of these girls because it does not affect them directly, so they ignore these happenings around them. We all need to take greater care because even children from well to do homes could also fall victim to such happenings.
The question being asked is where the boys are in all of this? The boys should also be considered because they would grow into men.
When it comes to issues of children in the society, it has been discovered that Nigerians are preventive and not curative. If the root of the problem is not checked, the whole cycle continues. If these are not checked now, these boys would grow up to became these same abusive men we have there today.
Mr. Uwem Esiet, one of the co founders and director of action health incorporated concluded that out of school girl’s scheme started in 2010; the organization has been involved in such young women right from its inception. He stated that they have been working hand in hand with other organizations in different parts of Nigeria.
“In as much as the government has a role to play in such matters we cannot leave this for them to do alone. There are different departments which handle girl child welfare and they are working together to see that these children get the best of care. Young people can shape their tomorrow and this can only happen if they invest in themselves and are willing to make sacrifices”.