16 YEAR OLD GIRL MENTORING OTHER GIRLS – LAUNCHES AN “ALL GIRLS MUST GO TO SCHOOL PROJECT ”

In Nigeria, it is estimated that 23% of women aged 15-19years have begun childbearing and 32% of teenagers in rural areas have become young mothers, according to the Demographic Health Survey of 2013. One of the focal points of discussion at the just concluded family planning conference in Nigeria which took place on the 3rd – 6th of December, 2018 in Nigeria is the prevention of teenage pregnancy and promotion of adolescent reproductive health rights.

Youth and Adolescents were given the opportunity to speak up about their health needs so policymakers can put in place services to meet these needs. As part of efforts to make visible the works of young people making an impact in their communities, 5 young people shared their innovative work as it relates to reproductive health needs of adolescents and young persons. The youngest of them, to give a pitch about her work was 16 years old, Peace Ayo Adegbola. It was heartwarming seeing this young determined girl doing something to make the lives of others better.

Peace giving a pitch about her work with girls in her community.

Peace Adegbola is a role model to other adolescent girls in her community. She equips girls with life skills and information necessary to curb teenage pregnancy. She shared the story of her journey into becoming girls advocate in this interview with me.

A.A: Tell us your name

Peace: My name is Peace Ayo Adegbola

A.A: So are you a student?

Peace: Yes I’m a student. I just wrote my WAEC, waiting for admission into the university. I am a girl advocate and I’m 16 years old.

A.A: What steered you up in that direction?

Peace & Her Dad

Peace: My daddy works with Society for family health and so he goes to rural communities to educate these young girls about the importance of family planning. Sometimes he normally takes me along. When I go to these communities I find that the majority of these adolescent girls are not in school. Boys are going to school and a majority of the girls are at home. I was just 10 years old so I started asking questions, became anxious and wanted to do something about this. I felt like if a 10year old girl Like me is outspoken, I wanted other girls to be too and I decided to be an advocate. And my dad inspired me, the communities I have been to and what the girls are passing through.

A.A: That was how you started the girls club?

Peace sharing her story in a quick interview with Adebisi

Peace: The girls club actually started as a self-esteem session with the girls. I launched a project on “All Girls must go to School” which targeted girls that are not in school to ensure that these girls go to school. We have about 200 girls are now in school as a result and come this September more girls will be enrolled. I needed a sustainability plan to keep these girls in school. I found out that something so simple as self-esteem makes them drop out of school. So I created a small group where I talk to these young girls. At first, it was just the girls we were sponsoring to school.

A.A: How are you funding this sponsorship?

Peace: Strong Enough Girls are my key partners, Youth Hub Africa, and so many partners and some individuals that buy into the idea.

A.A: Going forward where do you see this? Are you intending to fully make a career of development work?

Peace: Yes! Because my partner, who happens to be my dad, and I currently jointly own an organization. It is something I want to do for life; it’s something that even though I do other things, this is one thing I will never leave. This is service to humanity and girls like me. I believe so much in their potentials.

A.A: Your advice for girls, adults and especially parents.

Peace: My advice to young girls is that there is time for everything; take it one step at a time. And if you have made some mistakes don’t use it to judge yourself or pull yourself back. The thing about making mistakes or falling down is for you to know the right way to take. My advice to parents is that they should have a close relationship with their kids and to actually open up. Tell them about sexual reproductive issues. Talk to your child about hygiene, menstrual hygiene. Do not code things and give wrong information, for example, say that “if a boy touches you, you will get pregnant, No! Tell them that it is sex that gets a girl pregnant. Prepare them so they will make the right choices.

Adolescent and youth health needs is a must attend to.

Someone mentored Peace Aydegbola right and now she, in turn, has become a mentor and role model to other girls in her community, nipping teenage pregnancy in the bud and inspiring girls to go to and finish school.

One person can make a huge difference

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

My Candid Opinion about Queens College Girls Protest

QUEENS COLLEGE GIRLS

In the news a few days ago girls from Queens college Yaba Lagos protested an alleged sexual assault against one of their teacher Mr Olaseni Oshifala. A report alleged that Oshifala had molested a JSS 2 pupil while in a drunken state when she left her hostel to use the toilet.

A number of reactions has continued to pour in since this protest. There are those who are in support of what these girls did while another group believe that the protest was needless and an abuse of the students whose parent’s permission were not sought before embarking on the said protest. Some others believe that it is an attack on Mr Oshifala’s “good reputation”. While the matter is still been investigated to get the details of what is true and what is not true, i say there is no smoke without fire.

In my own opinion something must have been happening and no one had been listening. Whether it is a Mr Oshifala or another teacher who might have been sexually molesting some girls in the school, certainly proper attention had not been paid to protect girls from this kind of abuse. Most times when a teacher whom a girl look up to start making sexual advances, the question of who to tell is a big issue.

I remember while in secondary school we had a very brilliant and supposedly disciplinarian teacher whom every student feared and respected. He had this seemingly untainted image but unknowingly to the school authority he had eyes for some of us girls. A close friend of mine was molested by this “Mr nice and disciplined teacher”. He would summon her every now and then to his office and blab about nothing tangible. My friend started to talk to us about her concern and we all became worried. We didn’t know who to tell; none of us wanted to be victimized or thought of as wanting to mess up the good image of Mr intelligent and brilliant. One day he even tried to make out with her and she had to run around in his office with him chasing her until she managed to escape. She told us again and still we couldn’t tell anyone. We all finally decided that whenever Mr nice and intelligent sends for my friend one or two of us would accompany her to his office. If he did not allow us in , we made sure he knew we were outside. It was a case of standing up for each other applying our own little girly wisdom. Mr Nice did not get any further at molesting my friend but who knows how many other girls he successfully sexually harassed during our time and after we graduated to various tertiary institutions.

My point is this, girls who are sexually molested in our secondary schools don’t always have someone they can talk to when facing sexual assault or molestation. It is only very few of these cases that gets attention.

This is the first time i will hear about school girls protesting about charges of molestation even though they said the Mr Oshifala was not guilty of the offense. Sexual assault of female students by their teachers is as old as the start of education itself. No girl would dare report these cases. It is unheard of in our African/Nigerian culture.

In my day we could not report our Mr Nice and intelligent. Do we have to wait until things get out of hand before school authorities put in place measures that allows for report and redress of cases of molestation by teachers or anyone in school?

Society always think that kids are not able to or should not speak up for themselves! I say if us adult are not protecting them as we should then they have to shout to be heard. I believe that there is something to be concerned about in this protest. Instead of shutting the issue down through blame game, all those concerned with addressing the issue should investigate this matter and ensure that sexual molestation is stamped out now. Remember tomorrow it my be your daughter or grand-daughter or even niece.

Time to start listening to our children.

Photo Credit: http://www.punchng.com

Adebisi Adetunji

An endangered Specie

DSC05393000TEACHER IN CLASS

This post Life of a nine year old by Folakemi, just made me realize that girls are largely the endangered specie when it comes to those who serve as house maids. I can’t imagine my 8yr old daughter serving as a house maid!! Ridiculous, mean and wicked! I know we blame poverty as the culprit of parents inability to take care of their children. It is better to have your child go to the farm with you and manage your meager resources than send him/her into slavery.

In some quarters the argument is that these maid services are offered in exchange for giving such a girl an education, trust me this hardly works except in a very few cases: one in 50. I have seen families withdraw a child from her kind boss who wants to give her a future just when she is making progress in school or in learning a trade. Her father, uncle, aunt or whoever is her guardian decides to give off in marriage.

Those who hire house maids seem not to have any law in place to check them. Such housemaids face all kind of abuse and danger. Their madam(boss) decides to keep them under lock and key the whole day so that they would not run away when other members of the family she is serving had gone to school or work. Imagine if such a maid is faced with an emergency such as a fire out break or simply a health problem that is a matter of life and death?! Other maids are beaten and have to live with marks and bruises. Others are denied food as punishment whenever they displease their master and still others service the sexual urge of the husband of madam or any other male in that household.

In the 21st century almost every household needs a help in the house to take care of the burden of household chores but should it be an excuse to be inhumane to a child? Next time you are tempted to thrash that your maid or maltreat her imagine it was your child!

And if you must engage the services of a maid, hire someone old enough not a child!!!

Adebisi Adetunji

Two Elderly Women

TWOTWO

One attained the then level of education called the modern school. In her day girls were not sent to school because it is believed that it was a waste of resources since they would eventually get married. So her father refused to send her to school but she was so hungry for an education that she did managed to convince her elder brother who took responsibility for her education. Today this elderly woman can spend her time reading interesting books keeping herself busy and getting informed about the world around her.

The other elderly woman also had the same problem of a society and fathers who didn’t believe in sending a girl to school. In fact they believed that such a girl could easily get pregnant thus compromising her chance of getting a man to marry. She was not as lucky as she didn’t have anyone to speak up for her. The boys in her family went to school while she was left behind. Today she struggles to read even words written in her indigenous language. I could see the pain in her eyes as she tries to make sense of words on the pages of her Bible. She sighs and wished someone had spoken up for her at the beginning of her life’s journey as a girl.

Every girl deserves to go to school!

Photo Credit: mathstricksandtips.blogspot.com Thank you.

Adebisi Adetunji

I am a Girl

GIRLS

I am a girl …O yes a girl

I am a girl who has dreams
I want to be a pilot, flying away to the blue skies
Where the clouds of possibilities lay
I want to be a teacher, teaching the next generation
I want to be a writer,writing my own unique story
I want to go to school, and become
I don’t want to slave away in the kitchen while
my brothers play football or watch TV
I don’t want to be married off to the highest bidder
I don’t want to become a mother until i have blossomed; prepared and ready to face adulthood

GIRLS 2

I am a girl; fragile but very strong
I am a girl not a dunce but very intelligent to make informed decisions
I am a girl and inside of me lies the next solution to the world’s problems… I want to have the same opportunity as my brother
I am a girl, let me live, let me breath, let me become…

LIPS LASHES 9

Celebrating Every Girl Child

Adebisi Adetunji

A butterfly trapped in a school bus

Butterfly

A butterfly, beautiful but fragile
A butterfly helping with the pollination process
Beautiful flowers flourish as it moves from one nectar to the other.
A butterfly flies by my window, makes me  smile
Out in the fields children try to catch a butterfly from the many beautiful ones floating around. Butterfly 2

A hand catches a butterfly but on opening it,
The wings were crushed, the little girl felt sad and started to cry
Oh my beautiful butterfly is crushed

A four year old beautiful butterfly was deflowered by a bus driver who took her to school everyday so it went in a  news report.Then i decided to read further about the story. It came down to a horrifying detail. The news report says that the bus driver raped her on a table in her classroom!!! Where were the teachers? Who leaves a toddler in her class alone to be molested by the school bus driver?! Did he drop off all the other students before this incidence? What is the school’s yard stick for employing its drivers?  Many questions besieged my mind. Can’t a parent even feel safe with his or her ward’s school bus service, i asked myself.

On the other hand there are parents who do not engage the services of a school bus. They simply refuse to see the need to ensure that their children get to school safely. I find it amazing that a woman who has a small shop or sells Ate ties a wrapper early in the morning and sends of her 3year – 7year old to school by himself or herself. That is what i see in some Adugbo close by me. These same children would have to cross a quite busy road to get to their school. Soon it will be in the news that a car crushed some school students trying to cross the road by themselves! Or a young child gets raped in some lonely pathway between her house and school. Some would engage the services of an Okada rider to take and bring back their kids to and fro school. This morning i saw two girls on an Okada with the rider struggling to get a balance on a very busy road. A trio danger is involved here: accident, kidnap and rape of such girls by a depraved minded okada rider.

Seriously we need to make going to and been in school safer for children!

Photo Credit: Blue Butterfly- Clipart Panda

Photo 2: Royalty Free stock photo thank you for sharing- dreamstime.com

Word Glossary

Wrapper: Big and colourful or plain  West African clothing that can be tied around a woman’s waist like a wrap skirt.

Ate: Petty trading items like biscuits, sweets, tomatoes, etc displayed on a stand or tray.

Adugbo: Neighborhood

Okada: Nigerian local slogan for motorcycle

Okada Rider: Motorcycle rider

Adebisi Adetunji

Imagine a Chick laying an Egg

Egg
Freshly laid egg

An egg is fragile; it can be easily cracked or crushed. When put under the right temperature or warmth of its mother then it grows into a chick. A chick well cared for and protected from attacks of vultures then grows to become a mother hen or cockerel at the right time. There is a time for everything and all things become beautiful in their time goes the words of a “Holy Book”. Ever seen a chick ready to lay eggs?  I don’t think so but some chicks prefer or are forced by circumstance to lay their eggs.

Chick
Chick

Ok what do I mean? Follow this story….
It is said that nothing is new under the sun so one shouldn’t be too shocked about certain things. But somethings just leave you bewildered. Such was a case I handled during a field work as a trainee Social worker. It was a quiet morning and case workers were sited waiting for clients to show up. We all hoped that cases of conflict handled under our watch for the day would be easily resolved. Usually it was always many sessions of counseling and intervention before certain cases were amicably settled that is if the parties involved are willing to cooperate and negotiate their rights.
On some days couples in conflict end up becoming rowdy and physical, then the social case worker would have to engage the police in the matter, that is after ensuring that you don’t get caught up in the exchange. Juvenile cases are also treated at the center but this one left me flabbergasted and annoyed.

A mother walks in with an allegation that a man had forcefully married her daughter not legally mind you. He impregnated her and took her into his home a midst the protest of her parents. The man in question whom I will call Akin was over 40years old. He was as old as the mother who came to the agency with the complaint. The young girl was a 15year old. I will call her Ramota, she was in Junior Secondary school or so, before being impregnated. It became a family round table discussion. Akin was asked to defend himself on the allegation that he had forcefully married the obviously under aged girl. What he said left me shocked…confused… and so much more. He had no idea that he had broken the Human Rights Law against child marriage which was punishable under the law. Akin explained to us that he started dating Ramota a year before that time. He usually see her returning from school and he liked her, so he asked her out. Ramota agreed and a relationship between the two began. When it resulted into a pregnancy he went to seek her hand in marriage from her parents . Ramota’s dad and mum were furious, they wanted her to finish schooling before any talks about marriage. They were even angrier that the father of her baby was a man old enough to be her father. At the time when the case was reported to the agency, the conflict had gone as far as both parties arresting each other with the police. Ramota’s parent had jailed Akin and had only agreed to bail after much pleading. Somehow he convinced the young girl who ends up moving in with him. In between all of that Akin decided to arrest Ramota’s parents accusing them of attempting to murder his baby. I don’t understand what kind of police officer will agree to arrest a parent of a minor when the man whom she was living with seem to have abducted her?! The whole thing was just a mess.

As social workers we then interviewed Ramota, she was unruly and choose to take sides with Akin. Bitterness was thick in the air. Ramota’s mother began to weep, she couldn’t believe that her child would support a man arresting her and locking her up. Her father too was quite upset. Akin was oblivious of the implication of his decision to forcefully house Ramota as a wife. He was guilty of abduction, sexual abuse, child marriage crime according to the law. When we started to explain things to him, he became afraid and numb.

How did they all arrive at the point? Ignorance, lack of proper parental care and monitoring, among other things are factors in this case. I felt sorry for the young girl Ramota who had stopped going to school because she was now a mother at 15year old. She was also reveling in the false safety of having a husband. It later turned out that Akin was in the habit of dating young girls prior to this case many of whom he had gotten rid of.

I don’t want to go into details about steps we took in intervening in this case but it is worrisome that a lot of young girls drop out of school because of early pregnancy. It is even more worrisome that parents are not doing enough to help give their children particularly the girl child a proper sex education. Graciously the parent’s of Ramota are kicking hard against giving her out in marriage to an older man unlike some others who force their girls into early marriage.  Many of our girls particularly in public schools lack the necessary education and information about sex and men. Our girls need older mentors to guide them in the right part. They need more adults , parents who would speak up against child marriage and i turn protect them against this menace that stills their childhood and future.  Their reproductive system is just not ready and more harm is been done to them biologically.Who would take up this challenge of preventing more “chicks” from laying eggs?

Photo Credit: Oyekunle Farms, Ibadan.

Adebisi Adetunji