By Anino Aganbi
AMINAT Yusf (real name withheld) is a 16 years old girl who resides in Iwaya, Lagos. Having been denied of having any basic form of education by her parents, she ran away from her home and came to live in Lagos. She was fortunate enough to meet some girls while hawking who helped her get a place to stay in. She was a victim of rape a few years later. As a result of shame, she never spoke about this ordeal to anybody. All she wants from the government and able bodied parastatals is for them to bring aid to these communities.
Like every other young girl living in the Iwaya community, they want what every other young girl who has been deprived of her basic needs wants, stability, formal education, water, empowerment and a safe haven to call home.
As part of efforts to address these problems faced by out-of-school adolescent girls, Action Health Incorporated in partnership with Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA) is working on the “Enable Girls Project” to advance evidence for advocacy and mobilize actions to scale-up programs for vulnerable adolescent girls in Lagos.
A high level dialogue meeting will be held on September 8, 2015 with members of Lagos State House of Assembly, the State’s Executive Management Team as well as Private sectors and Civil Society stakeholders.
The meeting will avail the opportunity to present a multi- stakeholder Strategic Action Plan that will provide a harmonized approach to addressing these challenges to guide policymaking, programming planning/implementation and resource allocation in Lagos state.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are currently over five million girls out of school in Nigeria. Many of these girls live in slum areas within a city that are squalid, lacking essential amenities and usually inhabited by the poorest of the poor.
Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial capital continues to attract its fair share of immigrants with 42 designated slum areas. Living in slum areas with its lack of basic amenities and access to services remain a challenge for all concerned. Adolescent girls are by far the worst affected. Although there are no specific data on out of school adolescent girls; research has shown that these groups do exist.
In a research carried out by Action Health Incorporation in Iwaya (2011); a densely populated slum in Lagos, findings from 480 out of school adolescent girls surveyed showed that almost 45.2% of girls aged 10-14 had never attended school while none of the girls reached beyond secondary school level.
These girls have no say in their dropping out of school. Some reasons for this gap include the hidden costs associated with going to schools; especially schools outside their immediate community. In most cases, domestic responsibilities enables them hawk or trade just to provide support for their families. More importantly the threat of violence comes from men and boys in the area.
So many of the out of school girls living in the slums today, continue to experience a lot of challenges that deny them their basic rights to education as well as health related information in sexuality and reproductive health. There is need for all to Invest in programmes for out-of-school girls’ education, health and livelihood.
Out-of-school adolescent girls need Formal or non-formal education, Sexual and reproductive health information and services, Vocational skills and business-related training and Protection from sexual abuse and violence as these will help reduce their vulnerability/protect and improve their own well being and that of their communities.