International Girl Day: NGO educates, empowers 18,000 Nigerian girls

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By Ifeanyi Nwoko

Abuja, Oct. 9, 2020 Ahead of the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl, billed for Oct. 11, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO), Mercy Corps, on Friday rolled out its drums to celebrate its success stories at educating and empowering 18,000 girls in Nigeria.

Briefing newsmen shortly before the main event, the NGO said that through its initiative, tagged: “Educating Nigerian Girls in New Enterprises (ENGINE)”, it has reached out to the girls in four state – Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and Lagos.

Speaking on behalf of Mercy Corps, Programme Director ENGINE II, Joy Aderele, said that in view of its achievements, the corps and its partners were proud to join their voices in celebrating the 2020 Day of the Girl Child.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

The 2020 celebration has as its team: “My voice, our equal future”.

Speaking further, Aderele said that ENGINE II programme was funded by UK Aid through the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), adding that the programme had impacted over 190 communities in the four states in Nigeria.

“Implemented across four Nigerian States, ENGINE II has transformed the lives of over 18,000 marginalised girls and young women within the ages of 17 and 23 by addressing key barriers, norms and practices that promote inequalities.

“ENGINE’s work within key government and community structures seeks to give girls a voice, ensure their access to education and empower them with the skills and tools to get better work opportunities and the ability to negotiate decisions that affect their lives.

“Over 7.9 million girls are out of school in Nigeria and would not have access to basic education without assistance (UNICEF),” she said.

Itemising some of the success stories of the programme, the Director told the story of one of its beneficiaries, ‘Fatima’, one of the 1,362 marginalised girls supported to go back to school on the ENGINE programme.

She said that Fatima had dropped out of secondary school after she lost her father, but upon her enrollment into the ENGINE programme, was able to return to school and pursue her studies while also becoming an advocate promoting education in her community.

She told another story of ‘Salma’, a 17 year old participant who was able to delay her marriage to become a leader and promoter of girls’ education and life skills training among her peers.

“The intervention empowered young women not to be afraid to challenge the status quo. Results show girls delaying marriage to go to school, sharing life skill experiences with other girls as peer mentors, speaking up for their rights and leading to actions that promote gender equality.

“To facilitate girls’ access to continuous learning during school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ENGINE organised virtual learning sessions held on WhatsApp, radio and SMS.

“Data from girls tracking conducted in February and March 2020, prior to the pandemic, revealed that 58 per cent of the girls have access to mobile phones but about 23% have access to android phones that enables learning via WhatsApp.

“Most times, girls relied on the phones of parents or guardians to participate in lessons and others who do not have access to phones, were reached through their peers and trained facilitators. Hence, the programme deployed teaching through radio to reach more girls including non-programme participants. One of the beneficiary has this to say,” she said.

She expressed gratitude to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Nigerian Ministry of Education and Women Affairs and their state level Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) and Agency for Mass Education (AME).

“They provided funding and structures through which over 18,000 girls improved their learning in literacy, numeracy, life skills and financial education.

“Mercy Corps welcomes the partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank, National Identity Management Commission and numerous community-based Vocational Training Institutes who provided platforms for the girls, financial inclusion and skills building, which have contributed to the improvement of girls’ income.

“In light of this year’s International Day of the Girl commemoration, Mercy Corps charges all actors to see the importance of girls’ education and life skills interventions and “to re-imagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls – who are energized and recognized, counted and invested in.” (UNICEF, 2020),” she said.

Speaking during the main event to celebrate the achievement of Mercy Corps, Mrs Tayo Erenle, Executive Director, Tabitha Cumi Foundation, the programme implementation partner for the FCT, pointed out that many of the girls who had been engaged in the programme have advanced in their endeavors.

Also highlighting some of the success stories, she said that one of the beneficiaries was attached as an intern to a notable restaurant in the FCT, adding that the young girl could now make various continental dishes, while still learning more.

She said that the target was to break gender barriers and stereotypes by training girls who have the passion on certain skills like painting and plumbing which are hitherto assumed to be an exclusive preservation of men.

She added that part of efforts to break gender barriers was also in the area of educating boys on the special needs of the girls, particularly with respect to menstruation and its required hygiene.

For her, a major success for her was the story of a school in Mpape, FCT, where the boys understood the implication of menstruation and always offered assistance to the girls rather than mock them.

NAN reports that three highpoints of the event were: a playlet by two beneficiaries of the programme which educated participants on how to avoid sexual abuse by family members, relatives or friends and what to do in such situations.

Another highpoint was the anchoring of the programme by two beneficiaries of the ENGINE programme as well as the decoration of the hall by members of Creative Hub, one of the initiatives under the ENGINE programme.

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