It is the plan and purpose of the Federal Government that no Nigerian child is denied access to basic education, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this today in Abuja where he was guest of honour at the National Dialogue Forum on the Girl-Child in Nigeria, themed “Towards A Girl-Friendly Nigeria” organized by the Women Arise for Change Initiative in collaboration with the African Child Policy Forum, Ethiopia.
Highlighting the efforts of the Buhari administration in the area of improving access to education for the girl child in Nigeria, the VP stated that the Federal Government has “committed in word and deed to education so as to ensure that no child is denied access to free basic education.”
“We believe that free and compulsory education of girls is game-changing in many respects, as it has been empirically shown to positively impact age of marriage, and even maternal and infant mortality,” he said.
The VP added, “In 2020 the Federal Executive Council approved a World Bank credit facility in the sum of $500 million to finance the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment Project, to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted areas of participating States, which are Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Plateau.
“The project is aimed at creating safe and accessible learning spaces, advancing an enabling environment for girls, and strengthening the institutional capacity of the Federal and State governments to support girls’ education and empowerment.”
According to the Vice President, the project, which targets girls between the ages of 10 to 20 years with a strong focus on disadvantaged adolescent girls, has so far benefitted over 6 million girls and boys.
Prof Osinbajo explained that the Buhari administration will continue to put the needs of the girl-child in Nigeria at the forefront of laws, policies and practices to ensure their safety, education and health.
The VP highlighted ongoing efforts of the Buhari administration to improve the welfare of the girl child in Nigeria, including the enactment of the Child’s Right Act of 2003, and more recently, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015.
While he urged for more action from State Governments to ensure the domestication of these Acts in the States, Prof. Osinbajo said the National Economic Council (NEC) – which the VP chairs – is working with the States to ensure their adoption.
“We have made a point of working with the States to ensure that they adopt these Acts in their States. This led to the creation of the Human Capital Development (HCD) unit as a special NEC project headed by a special adviser to track implementation of relevant policies,” he said.
Prof. Osinbajo also urged State Governments to be more proactive in addressing issues related to the girl-child.
“While the Federal Government must remain focused and committed to advancing effective approaches to keeping girls safe, most of the efforts will occur at the State and local government levels.
“Gender-responsive measures that will transform education systems and address the barriers inhibiting girl child education must be introduced in States. And we are committed to ensuring that these initiatives happen,” the VP assured.
He then noted the impactful steps taken by the Rule of Law Advisory Team in the Presidency towards achieving a strong justice response system in supporting women and girls.
“Since 2016, the Rule of Law Advisory Team in the Presidency has been taking a range of steps. We have formed strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders, local and international, including the European Union Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, The Cans Foundation and Ford Foundation, all of whose commitments have proven valuable in supporting our efforts to succeed.
“To ensure effective coordination of responses to cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), the Rule of law Team supported the establishment of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Response Teams across the country.”
Continuing Prof. Osinbajo explained that in 2019, the President directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a special panel to investigate cases of unlawful arrests, assault and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Federal Capital Territory following complaints of raids of night clubs and arrests of women by the Police.
In the same vein, the VP emphasized the importance the Buhari administration places on ensuring that women have significant representation in government programmes, including the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) and Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).
“From 2015 we have ensured that Government’s social and entrepreneurial programmes have an affirmative component for women. Of the 2.4 million beneficiaries of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), 1.2 million were women; that is 56.4% of beneficiaries. A total of N38B in loans has been disbursed over the last four years.
“Of the 1.1 million beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT), about 1m are women – over 98% of beneficiaries. For our youth employment programme N-Power, of the 526, 000 employed, 40.4% are female,” he disclosed.
Prof. Osinbajo added that under the Federal Government’s ESP Survival Fund’s Payroll Support Scheme, out of the 307,173 employees that have benefited; 130,880 or 43% of beneficiaries are female-owned businesses.
He further said that “of the 94,318 Artisan beneficiaries of the scheme, 40,386 are female artisans – over 41% of beneficiaries, while 35% of FG grants to MSMEs have so far gone to female MSME owners.”
Although he noted that there is a lot more to be done, considering the country’s huge population, limited resources and deep discriminatory social, cultural practices and attitudes, Prof. Osinbajo emphasized that the Federal Government remains committed to advancing the cause of the girl child.
The Vice President commended Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin and her Women Arise for Change Initiative team for being at the forefront of ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
“We must continue to focus on the deep, systemic dysfunction of cultures and social norms that not only enable discriminatory actions against the girl-child but also allow it to fester,” the VP said.
He further urged that the National Dialogue Forum should consider all of the critical issues related to the development of the girl child in Nigeria.
Present at the event were the Women Affairs Minister Dame Pauline Tallen, Dr Okei-Odumakin and Dr Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director of African Child Policy Forum, representatives of diplomatic missions and development partners.