The Girl Child, An Endangered Specie in the 21st Century Nigeria: Public Lecture & Book Launch by Fill in the Gaps Outreach

The utmost responsibility of any nation is to provide security for her citizens – Prof. Stella Odebode.

As the world marked another “Day of the Girl Child” on 11th October 2018, there were many activities organized by individuals, organizations, and groups to draw attention to the challenges beguiling and preventing girls from achieving their potentials. It was also to bring to fore practices that harm the girl child’s physical and psychological well-being and to seek solutions to ending these inhuman treatments such as rape, sexual violence, abduction and kidnap, sex slavery, early marriage, lack of equal rights to education and opportunities, domestic abuse, child slavery and Female Genital Mutilation(FGM).

One of such organization, “The Fill in the Gap Outreach(NGO)”, brought together various stakeholders; students, parents and guardians, policy makers, Community leaders, development partners, and the media to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child through a public lecture. The CEO, Princess Aderonke Olajide in her opening remarks said that one of the organization’s goal is premised on filling the gaps created by unexpected pregnancy which occurs in the life of some girls for whatever reason. Fill in the Gaps provide support for such girls through ensuring safe delivery of their babies and ensuring they go back to school/learn a skill.
An interesting, informative and eye-opening lecture titled, “The Girl Child as an Endangered Species in the 21st Century Nigeria was delivered by Prof. Stella Odebode, Director Gender Mainstreaming office, University of Ibadan.

A cross of school girls present at the Fill in the Gap Outreach Public lecture

A few take away points from the lecture:

  • Globally 60% of girls are denied education as opposed to boys who are 40%.
  • Rape and sexual violence is a global phenomenon that needs to be continually addressed. Students are sexually molested by teachers, headmasters and other people who are supposed to be carers.
  • Perpetrators are hardly prosecuted which promotes the culture of silence.
  •  Parents need to be very sensitive and conscious of any signs that anyone is attempting to abuse their wards particularly extended family members living with them.
  • Prevalence of Child marriage and young mothers: According to a study carried out by Prof. Stella Odebode in Igbo Ora, Oyo state there is a prevalence of young mothers ages 11, 12 and above.
  • There is an increased incidence of school dropout and unwanted pregnancy in girls.
  • 1 in 4 children is reported as having an incidence of sexual violence.
  •  In some parts of Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before age 18. In some other parts, 15% are married off before age 15.
  • Key ailments of girls exposed to early marriage are VVF, Anemia, High Blood pressure, premature births and even death in some cases.

Solutions

The Chairman of the occasion – Dr. Mike Omotosho , PDG, D9125, AKS Rotary International, dressed in his Ghanian royal title in a pix pose with the convener & CEO, Fill in the Gaps Outreach – Princess Aderonke Olajide
  • All maternity and orphanage homes should be dully registered to nib in the board criminal activities that expose children particularly girls to any form of sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Speak up and do something about that your neighbor who is abusing his/her housemaid or child. If you notice something isn’t right and a life is endangered, do not mind your business. Remember that it could be you or your child.

You are standing under the shade of a tree because someone planted it – Warren Buffet

Dignitaries at the Lecture

Dr. Mike Omotosho, PDG, D9125, AKS Rotary International – Chairman.
Her Excellency, Omolewa Yetunde Ahmed- First Lady of Kwara State – Special guest of Honour
Prof. Stella Odebode – Guest Lecturer
Mr. Oluwarotimi O. Martins – MD/CEO Midway Airlines – Chief Launcher
Chief Mrs. Ranti Koiki – CEO, Fawzy Hotels, Nigeria – Guest of Honour
Alh. Mohammed Bello – Zonal Director, FRCN Ibadan Zonal station – Guest of Honor
Asiwaju Abdlrazaq Shittu – President/Chairman, Skysite Offshore Access (WA)Ltd – Father of the Day
Princess Olabisi Sangodoyin

Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – bisimodupe1975@gmail.com

Pay Attention To Her #PATH

When you go shopping for your sanitary towel do you insist that the shop owner put it in a black polythene bag all in the bid to keep your purchase a secret? If you’ve ever done this raise your hands 🙌 no one will see you 😊. Yours sincerely is guilty as charged too! Now that I think about this as I begin to type this post I realize that there is this general feeling of embarrassment or shame when it comes to menstruation. In fact, if a guy stumbles on your sanitary pad while ransacking your bag by mistake; he will apologize profusely for invading your privacy.

But really in your opinion should girls and women be embarrassed about menstruation or sanitary pads? Should boys and men know about the menstrual circle of women so that no one will feel the need for embarrassment? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

As a mother, I am already talking to my 11year old daughter about her body and menstruation. She has seen me use sanitary pads and I have shown her how to even stick it on her underwear. Already we are talking about hygiene while menstruating. Incidentally, also my son gets to ask questions about this. At least he knows what a sanitary pad looks like and what it is meant for 😉.  Now, some girls are not that privileged to have someone talk to them early enough about their menstrual circle and how to go about being comfortable with this normal occurrence in the female gender. Many adults/parents even emphasize the “embarrassing” attitude of a girl’s menstruation. Where I come from mothers will warn their girls seriously about not leaving their sanitary pads lying around even the unused one.

The other issue to menstruation challenges is lack of access to affordable and hygienic sanitary pads for some girls who come from a background with low means. My very first post Why Femininematerz?   which inspired this blog takes a look at how some girls in communities skip school whenever they are menstruating basically because they cannot afford sanitary pads. In one community in Uganda girls use corn husks… Really breaks my heart.

It is, therefore, a delight to meet another person who alongside her team is demystifying menstruation and promoting hygiene and access to free sanitary pads for school girls. Dr. Kelechi Okoro founder of Heal For Africa Initiative and her group of volunteers have recently taken this message to school girls.

Below is an excerpt sharing information about the launch of a project advocating for the need to Pay Attention to Girls, as put together by Charles Osagie, The Project Manager HFAI. It was an interesting read for me.

HEAL FOR AFRICA INITIATIVE donates free pads and school materials to 300 girls, advocates for the empowerment of The Girl Child.

 

HEAL For Africa Initiative, a Nongovernmental organization known for their advocacy in the area of health, quality livelihood, empowerment and education especially for the girl child has successfully flagged off another project called Pay Attention To Her (PATH).

According to the Founder, Dr. Kelechi Okoro, she said this project will focus on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of girls and women, reorienting and enlightening them about all female health issues. The PATH project has taken off with menstrual hygiene education and distribution of free sanitary pads and hygiene products for secondary schools.

Dr. Okoro, speaking at the launch with over 300 girls at Al Ansar Secondary School, New Layout in Lokoja, the medical expert espoused on the ills of seeing menstruation by young girls as disgraceful, shameful and dirty.

She acknowledged that young school girls are having limited access to affordable sanitary materials thereby making them use unhygienic options that increases their risk of having infections that may affect their reproduction in future. She thoroughly educated them on self-confidence and self-awareness too.

“We need to let our girls know that whatever sanitary method they use while menstruating, must be hygienic, and that they should not feel ashamed during their Period,” Okoro said.

She also recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture look into production of reusable biodegradable eco sanitary pads made from agricultural materials, saying it would be more hygienic, safer and affordable than the disposable ones.

“This sensitization and training are going to be a continuous program that will cut across schools in Kogi, Nigeria, and Africa. We are positive that the PATH project is going to be a huge success.

“Period is a thing of pride, you don’t have to be ashamed of it, it is everybody’s business. We need everybody to show support for it because it is important for health and nation-building.

Several top government functionaries and seasoned keynote speakers were on ground to impact on the program. Amongst them was the Chairman Board of Trustees of HEAL For Africa who doubles as the Executive Director of Tiny Beating Hearts Initiative. Mrs. Petra Akinti Onyegbule inspired the participants to become self-confident and dissuaded them from being sober and sad when they find themselves menstruating especially for the first time especially when mistakes of being stained occurs during this period. She spoke extensively on “Empowering the Girl Child and its Role in Nation Building”.

In attendance were some policymakers: the Secretary to the Kogi State Government, Mrs. Ayoade Folashade Arike(Ph.D.), Dr. Attah Ahmed, the Special Adviser on Health to Kogi State Governor and Mrs. Musa Mimi Sandra, the Senior Special Assistant for Women and Children Development to Kogi State Governor.

The program was wrapped up with goodwill messages from Queen Sarah Yusuf, the Publisher Xera Magazine, Miss Aliyu Rufia, the Teen Ambassador of the PATH Project and Principal of the host school, Alhaji Gimba Ibrahim.

The Coordinator of the Not Too Young To Run Bill, Umar DanAssabe Mohammed also lends his support to this movement.

Let’s help girls get comfortable with their menstrual circle days. No shame in menstruation! Support girls in your community by giving or advocating for free sanitary Pad donations /access to affordable ones. – Adebisi 

Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer
Catch me on Twitter @DebisiBusybee
Facebook & email – bisimodupe1975@gmail.com