I Met A Girl at a Bus Station

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While waiting to board the bus en route to my destination (Calabar) on an official assignment this young lady, Amara(not real name) who sat beside me suddenly sighed out loud. Unknowingly she voiced out her thoughts, “How long will I continue to do this”, she mumbled. I was sited beside her and since we had been chatting earlier on about life in general, I took the liberty to ask her what the matter was in a concerned tone. Amara said she wish a man would come and whisk her off in marriage. She was tired of selling in a shop at the bus station. Enquiring further about how long she had been there, Amara said 7 years.

It has been 7 long years for her working at her uncle’s wife’s shop without getting paid. Amara was simply tired of this life that made her future look bleak. In her mind’s eye, the ticket to her freedom was getting married. Her hope is to have a man set her up for a business. I listened to her talk about her life and frustration then I gently told her that marriage is not the answer to the kind of freedom she dreamed of.

I shared with her the importance of having a job or some kind of trade of her own. Something to empower and give her financial freedom. Our discussions further revealed that she had finished her secondary school education and also has acquired skills in fashion designing(sewing clothes). I then encouraged her to pursue this business while waiting for the right man to come. It seemed to me that she had no choice but to live with her uncle’ wife who by the way had died. The widow housing her is probably doing her best to feed and cloth Amara including her own children.

After my attempt to inspire Amara to pursue her dreams she had this to say”Some girls are lucky; they get married and their husband sets them up in a business. Why can’t my own be like that?”. I kept quiet and thought to myself … “you may never understand the reality of her world”. Soon Amara stood up trying to chat with some men and bus drivers who work at the station. As I boarded my bus on the way to my destination, I hoped that things will turn out well for Amara; I hoped that she will not fall into the hands of men who will take advantage of her.

I wished that I lived in her town to possibly still keep in touch and help link her to opportunities and resources but all I had were my few words of counsel. Many young girls are out there just hoping for a brighter future like Amara. Perhaps if she had a higher education maybe her life might be easier in getting a paying job.

A lot of girls out there who come from a humble and economically struggling background as I have observed believe that finding a husband who will provide for them is the answer to their financial troubles. Maybe a few girls get lucky but often these girls find themselves in tougher situations when the man cannot provide as they had hoped.

We need to educate our girls/women; we need to empower them. It starts with each family, don’t just allow your girl/daughter to only sell for you in your shop, ensure that she is truly empowered for the future. Marrying her off is not the answer to your economic and financial problems. You may soon have to care for her and her babies if the man is irresponsible. This will become a big burden. You can also share this wisdom with people who think like this as they come your way in the marketplace, bus station, taxi or wherever.

Educate a Girl, Give her a better future
To empower a woman is to empower a family and nation.

Adebisi Adetunji (C)

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CIRDDOC : Advocacy and Behavior Change Messages Development Workshop to Accelerate Abandonment of FGMC – Understanding Why FGMC is still in Practice.

The campaign to end female genital mutilation and cutting (FGMC) has been on for many years, yet it is still been practiced by many people and communities across the world. Statistics show that FGMC is practiced in about 28 countries across the world. It is said that 3million girls are at risk of being cut per year. This then is a serious problem.

Why all the hulabulah about ending FGMC or female circumcision as some people say, after all boys are also circumcised? It is different in the sense that this practice is a violation of the human/sexual rights of the girl child and women on many levels.

A girl is primarily cut in the vagina because society does not want her to be promiscuous; it is a right of passage to womanhood; a guarantee to be able to get married in the community. Cutting her clitoris or other parts of her vagina is meant to deaden any sexual urge that could make her look for a man to sleep with. No wonder then that after she gets married, she cannot achieve sexual satisfaction. This becomes a problem in the relationship as the man becomes also dissatisfied and looks for sexual enjoyment from other women.

A story in point: A man got married to a woman, not from his tribe where girls are circumcised. At first, this wasn’t an issue for him as he simply loved her and wanted to marry her. Many years later after they have both had children he suddenly wakes up one day to say that he wanted her to get circumcised. What changed? His family put pressure on him that it was their custom to cut their girls and women therefore since she is married to their son, she had to go through it. In order to save her marriage, this woman went ahead to be circumcised. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through at such an adult age. Soon afterward the couple began to have issues with their sex life. As I write this the marriage collapsed as the man went in search of sexual satisfaction elsewhere. This woman was whole why cut her and create problems?

Why Behavioral Change is difficult: Points of discussion in the Workshop

  • Behavioral or attitudinal change takes time because it has to do with a belief system which would probably have been in practice for a long time. People do not change easily but with continuous dialogue and sensitization then a change is possible.
  • There is need to also understand why people or communities practice FGMC. Contrary to beliefs it is not intended to harm the girl but to celebrate her womanhood in many communities. Unfortunately, the adverse effects on the life of women, girls, and families are enormous. This include birth complications.
  • Engaging in dialogue and continuous intervention programs with practitioners will help to convince and change stereotype minds.
  • Medicalization of the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting : it has been discovered that some health workers in some communities encourage this practice. This is because they also come from such background and believe in upholding this culture. Messages targeted at making it clear it is unethical was designed to reach this group.
  • To achieve Behavioral change on any issue or practice there is need to create effective messages in appropriate formats in order to reach the target audience.
  • It is necessary to make an assessment from time to time the progress made in bringing about the attitudinal change.

 At the workshop on Advocacy & behavioral Change messages to accelerate the abandonment of FGMC participants’ drawn from various groups, professions from different parts of Nigeria assessed old messages to know whether they are appropriate and effective as new ones were developed.

If the practice of killing of twins and tribal marks could be abandoned then it is possible to end FGMC

 Facilitators :
Benjamin C. Mbakwem,
FGM/C Consultant for Ebonyi & Imo State
UNICEF Enugu Field Office
Phone: +(234)-803-3330586
Toyin Afachung,  Communication for Development Consultant
Adebisi Adetunji (C)

She Needed A Chance to Believe Part 2

Catch up on the first part of the story: She Needed A Chance to Believe Part 1.

Alexandra is the second born of her siblings. She saw her older sister, Esther get enrolled in the university while her closest younger siblings were getting ready to also get into college. She felt left out and a bleak future stared her in the face. She badly wanted to continue her education but this WAEC mountain refuses to give way to her dreams. To challenge her father’s plan to enroll her in learning a trade was out of the question. Her father was revered and his authority was not to be challenged. He wanted so badly that his children succeeded and Alexandra’s case left him feeling like all his hard work to provide was wasted.

If only I would be allowed to attempt the exams again”, Alexandra thought to herself but even she didn’t believe that she could pass any more than her parents.

Days, weeks and months pass by and then one day her father announced that she would be sent to her grandma’s place in the village to enroll in something. Alexandra’s heart was torn in a different directions.  To her it felt like a plan to abandon her far away from home. She was not ready to leave her siblings and all that was familiar to her. Her self-esteem took a deeper downturn.

One day in the midst of all this her older sister who was in the university shared a hopeful news with Alexandra. There was an opportunity at the university where her sister was enrolled in to do certificate courses that did not require scoring up to 7credits in WAEC. Alexandra had a few passes and probably one credit, she wondered if she would be admitted to do the course. Her sister insisted that it was possible but they had one hurdle to cross, convincing their father who by then had lost hope of Alexandra getting into the university.

Her sister, Esther summoned the courage to speak with their father but the meeting took place at his office. Convincing their father was not easy as he argued that Alexandra was terribly weak in learning and so it would amount to a waste of money. Her older sister, Esther pressed harder and had to promise that she will ensure that Alexandra pays attention in school. Esther had to agree to be held responsible if Alexandra fails again.

When Alexandra got the news that her father was willing to give the certificate course in Library science a try, she was ecstatic! Her siblings celebrated this news in their room. The next step was to actually get her admitted into the course. For some reason, the university didn’t give her any hassles as she was admitted. It was a lifeline for Alexandra, she gave the course her best shot, studying so hard and getting her brilliant course mates to teach her. Many nights she will sleep in the class studying and learning as far as she was concerned she was now a university/college student. Never mind that people wondered what good could come out of such a not so “prestigious course” of the times. It wasn’t even a degree or diploma just a certificate course. Alexandra did not care she kept at it and when her one year course was over, she scored 4points, she was an A student. Alexandra wept as she looked at her result, it was unbelievable.

She never believed that she had what it takes in her to succeed as a student talk more of coming out with an A grade. Her parents and siblings celebrated this victory and all voices and ideas that said,  she wouldn’t make it through school were debunked.

Alexandra went on to study nursing, midwifery and became the only medical person in the family. None of her brilliant science-oriented siblings ended up in the medical field and there were high hopes for at least one doctor…hahaha; although there were engineers, biochemistry who ended up as bankers and more.

Well, this story is not about her siblings but about Alexandra, a girl whom many thought couldn’t make it through school and she started to believe it herself too until she faced her mountain squarely in the face. Interestingly years later Alexandra would write her WAEC and scored credits and As in science subjects that she never did while in secondary school. She wanted to make her papers in one sitting and she did it.

Believe in yourself; Believe the best of your children and others. Never give up.

This is my immediate younger sister’s story and I am the older sister who had to face my father to get her to continue her education. I look at her today and marvel at the great woman she had become. Never give up on anyone, keep believing the best.

Adebisi Adetunji (C)

She Needed A Chance to Believe – Part 1

via Daily Prompt: Believe

What you believe today matters as it brings the life you wish for tomorrow.

Often we hear the phrase “believe in yourself” but still we are unsure. Nothing can stop you except you so you’ve got to believe in yourself. But we also need others to believe in us so we can believe as well. That was the case in Alexandra’s story:(A True Life’s story)

Alexandra was born into a family of eight of royal descent. Her father and mother worked so hard to ensure that their children got a good education. The expectations for Alexandra and her five siblings were very high. Their parents wanted them to be graduates of prestigious professions like medical doctor, Lawyer, Accountant. In those days everyone wanted their children to become medical doctors so they can be called, “Baba Doctor”, “Mama Lawyer”.

Each child had their strength but most were brilliant and others very brilliant, the A students except for Alexandra who struggled with her academics. It was tough through primary and secondary school. Finally, she graduated but failed her WAEC woefully. Alexandra wept bitterly as her father was really disappointed and felt let down. Lesson teachers were hired to prepare her to rewrite the exams for without this there was no moving on to the university. Alexandra sat for the external secondary school leaving certificate (GCE) again and hopes were high that she would make it this time.

When the results were released it was no better than what Alexandra had score previously. She rode the horse of GCE again to see if she could break its back but it threw her off again. Alexandra became withdrawn and felt that of all her siblings she might not be caught out for school after all. And soon extended family members and friends started to sell the idea that, “not all children are meant to go to school” to her parents. Suggestions were made to enroll her in learning a trade, Alexandra fell deeper into despair and self-esteem began to ebb away. Her father gave up in a way as he began to consider this option.

There was tension between her parents and her siblings discussed in hush tones about the plan to enroll Alexandra in a trade. They were not happy and none of them wanted a future where only Alexandra will be the one who didn’t finish school. Her mother was worried sick but was also helpless in the matter. Who would face their father to challenge this plan to stop her from furthering her education?

Find out what happens next in Part two of this story.

Adebisi Adetunji (C)

YOU ARE A PRINCESS…NEVER BELIEVE LESS …IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW BATTERED YOU ARE

royal-princessI dressed like this to the office on Friday not really thinking about the picture my appearance painted. I got a lot of delightful greetings like these:

“You look so gorgeous”, “You look like a princess”! “You look like royalty”.
A guest in the studios thought that I must be an important personality…O yes I am Important!!
Perhaps my royal roots have something to do with this aura and dressing…

Yes, my grandfather was a king for 40years in our village- Ago Iwoye- hosting the first university in Ogun State.

grandfatherOBA D.M OSIYEMI, THE EBUMAWE OF AGO IWOYE

ENOUGH ABOUT MY LINEAGE – THIS POST IS ACTUALLY ABOUT YOU:

I want to let you know girl, woman, and lady that you are special, important and unique.
Never let anyone put you down
Never let your past put you down
Don’t allow your present circumstance or situation put you down.
YOU ARE A PRINCESS; YOU ARE ROYAL AND BEAUTIFUL

And Girl God is got a big and beautiful plan for your life!!

Adebisi Adetunji (C)

Building Confidence in your Girl/Child

Tell her you love her
Hug her/him often
Don’t shut her up when she asks so many questions

Tell her she is beautiful, gorgeous and unique
Celebrate her uniqueness     ololade
Spend time together doing silly things
Be her friend and listen to her stories

Never make fun of what is important to her even when it sounds silly.
Believe in her , you can never over do it telling her how special she is

Let her know that it is ok to sometimes fail
Let her know that life can sometimes be tough but she has what it takes to conquer

Let her know that she is not less special just because others say or think so
Tell her she can do anything she sets her heart to do
Let her know that she can be anything she dreams of being.

mum-daughter

Tell her often that the world is waiting for her to make a difference.
Let her know that she is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Adebisi Adetunji(C)