While the United Nations has called for concerted efforts and investments in the girl- child education, health, safety and 21st-century skills, no fewer than 44 underprivileged girls in the rural and urban slums of Lagos State have been empowered in different skills.
The empowerment scheme under the Project #40 for 40 Girls Initiative, organised as a give-back to the society under the aegis of Action Health Incorporated (AHI) had girls from different areas such as Mushin, Iwaya, Yaba, Bariga, Makoko among other areas benefit from life skills training including beads making, baking and pastry; wig-making, household agents, make up and other business skills, as they were given start up kits and capital to start up their businesses. This is line with the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child held on October 11 every year, to address the challenges girls face as well as empower them.
The Convener, Project 40 for 40 girls, Adeola Olunloyo, lamented that the Nigerian girl child is often neglected, stressing that there are many girls who are out of school without support from their families and government, thereby making them easy prey to sexual abuse.
She revealed that the unfortunate ones are often abused while they become single mothers without means of getting income to feed themselves and their children, which are the girls the project targets. “These girls that were selected are out-of-school girls, some of them did not finish primary or secondary school, but a few of them have their Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSSCE). The challenge they are having is that many of them are not doing anything, they don’t have help from home and they are easy preys to be sexually abused and exploited, seven of them for instance are single mothers, they already have children that they cannot even cater for,” she divulged.
Olunloyo also lamented that out of school girls are often neglected, noting that while there are calls for youth development, the target is always on graduates who have the needed qualification for jobs, while “these ones cannot even compete with those ones that already have qualifications, they are really at the lower rung of the ladder and they need help to be uplifted out of the situation they are in right now.”
She further called on the government and corporate organisations to invest in youths to make the world a better place for younger generation, rather than investing in things that would only entertain thereby endangering the future of the country. “Right now, if we have millions of girls who are underdeveloped, it means half of Nigeria’s capacity is underdeveloped. So government needs to invest in young people, invest more in providing services that give them information to develop themselves and aspire. For those who cannot go to school, let them learn news skills and let them receive resources to set up their own businesses and they will contribute a lot to their communities and the society at large,” she added.
The Executive Director, Action Health Incorporated, Adenike Essiet, said it is necessary to recognise that people should be given the opportunity to excel, noting that for every woman that has been empowered, the government has lessened the burden of poverty on its shoulder and the economy. “Every girl given an opportunity is contributing to the economy of Nigeria and the economy of the world. My plea to every other Nigerian is to provide and opportunity for any girl down the road. The girls are looking for the opportunity for education, skill learning and to be the best they can be. If we provide that kind of environment they sky is the limit for every girl,” she said.
Commending the initiative, a Community Leader in Bariga, one of the areas where the girls were chosen from, Bamigbade Silas Adedola, said the initiative to empower girls is a good direction because most of them have lost hope of living. “When you teach one girl you are teaching a nation and once these girls are trained and empowered, we won’t have lots of bad eggs on the streets,” he said.