African girl child development

“Eze Ada, you are meant to be a boy”- this Is a phrase that has been said way too many times to me by mother and I have always wondered why; was it because of the way I walked- as a fast walker, did that mean I didn’t possess the grace that a woman was meant to have or was it because I have always rebelled for independence regardless of the consequences- was being bold a trait exclusive for men?


Lolo Cynthia Is a public health specialist, sexuality educator and founder of the social enterprise LoloTalks, that employs all forms of media (online and offline) to create awareness and sustainable solutions to our contemporary social and health issues in Africa.  She also doubles as a documentary and talk show producer and lends her voice on issues regarding interpersonal relationships, sexuality, gender, and social issues through her YouTube channel LoloTalks and her blog.

In a classroom in the South African township of Soweto, girls listen carefully, knowing they need to learn how to avoid the threat of rape that hangs over their daily lives.

“You are going to pretend that it is the rapist’s testicles,” says trainer Dimakatso Monokoli, holding out a padded target.

An 11-year-old girl charges without flinching and delivers a powerful knee slam.

It is part of a day of self-defence and rape avoidance strategies taught at the Thabisang school, where chairs and desks have been pushed back to the pink walls of the classroom.

Official statistics suggest that more than 110 rapes are recorded by the police every day in South Africa.

But such numbers are widely seen as inaccurate due to under-reporting. Some studies suggest only one in 13 rapes is reported to the police.

Recent news stories have triggered fresh horror among South Africans over the prevalence of rape.

In September, a 17-year-old was raped in a hospital maternity ward by a man pretending to be a doctor one day after she had given birth.

Around the same time, a seven-year-old girl was raped in the toilets of a popular chain restaurant in the capital Pretoria, with a video footage emerging of the naked man moments after the attack.

For the African National Congress Women’s League, drastic action is needed.

“We have tried our best… there’s nothing that seems to lower (the number of attacks). Hence, we are calling for chemical castration,” ANCWL secretary general Meokgo Matuba said after the two rapes.

Spotting the risk

Back in another classroom in Soweto, Monokoli teaches not only self-defence, but how girls can read and react to potentially risky situations.

“Don’t ever, ever make the mistake of being in the same room as someone you don’t feel comfortable with because your guts have warned you,” she says.

“They have sent a message — you are not supposed to be alone with that person.”

If you are attacked, she says: “Scream as much as you can.”

Monokoli works for Action Breaks Silence (ABS), a South African charity that works with schools to educate girls in self-defence.

It also runs a “Hero Empathy” programme for boys to try to preempt abusive and violent behaviour.

ABS founder Debi Steven was herself raped as a child, and has spent decades teaching and advising at schools and companies.

“Violence has been normalised in South Africa,” she told AFP.

“There is so much rape that people have become desensitised to it.”

Setting boundaries

She advocates a mix of self-defence training with mental awareness.

“The self-defence gives girls the confidence to set boundaries,” she said.

“If I have an education about what is wrong and right, I know what abuses it, and I am going to identify the minute you start abusing me emotionally, physically, sexually, financially.”

In many cases, sexual violence is committed by relatives or people known to the victim. Steven says two women are murdered every day by their partners or former partners in South Africa.

In the classroom, the girls — wearing their blue school uniform and long socks — giggle occasionally but the atmosphere is serious and focused.

“We are going to teach you how to fight smart, without strength,” one male instructor tells them, pointing out they can always “rip off the ears and nostrils.”

And the lessons seem to have sunk in.

“We are warriors,” says Nonkululeko, an energetic 11-year-old.

“I have this amazing drug in me, adrenaline, that helps you fight. It helps you to do almost the impossible.”

The classes are often cathartic, with pupils occasionally sharing with instructors their own stories of abuse they have suffered.

Teaching boys too

At another Soweto school, boys in the “Hero Empathy” programme run through roleplay games that encourage them to show emotions and develop empathy for other people’s feelings.

They have to act out moods such as anger or sadness while their classmates try to guess how they feel — not always successfully.

“In an African community, it is often taught that boys (should not) show emotions. When you show emotions, it is like a sign of weakness,” said instructor Isaac Mkhize.

ABS has taught over 13,000 children, and its impact has impressed the government health ministry, which has asked the charity to train 160 new staff.

One mother, Mali Masondo, explained how deeply the fear of rape is embedded in the daily lives of children and families.

“You don’t know who to trust, who to love and who to care for,” she said.

“Sometimes you don’t even allow people to love your kids as they wish because every time you think of the negative side”

Credit: Pulse News, AFP

Hannah is a 29-year old fashion designer who is contributing to girl-child education in Makoko, a floating slum in Lagos.

Hannah is helping the girls build a better future by sharing her skills with them and also engaging the services of her husband who works as an English Language tutor.

Hannah, who is also a teacher and an entrepreneur, makes clothes for people living in Makoko and elsewhere in Nigeria.

Hannah is trying to help women by sharing her skills with them, so they can succeed in business as she did. She speaks to BBC Minute about her work.

Watch below.

Credit: Bella Naija

U.S First Lady Melania Trump has arrived at Ghana on Tuesday, October 2 2018, for her first solo trip in that office.

According to AP, Melania was received by Ghana’s First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo. She was welcomed with dancing and drumming and schoolchildren waving mini U.S. and Ghanaian flags.

She’ll be visiting Ghana’s neonatal intensive care unit, and then meet President Nana Akufo-Addo .

Melania will be spending five days in Africa, visiting Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt.

She had in August, announced that she’s visiting the continent to learn about “issues facing children” and its “rich culture and history”.


Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Makoko, a slum in Lagos, Nigeria, is known as the world’s largest “floating slum”. Rickety shanty houses stand on stilts in the polluted water. The men of Makoko are typically fishermen, while the women of Makoko are usually traders, selling the fish caught by the men.

Sharon (Photo: CNN)

That’s where 17-year-old Sharon grew up, the 11th child in her family. For girls like Sharon from underprivileged communities, their future usually entails getting married, having kids and carrying on the same business that their mothers did.

But Girls Coding, a six-year-old initiative of Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin’s Pearl Africa Foundation, is trying to teach them more, and level the playing field. The program is free and it seeks to educate girls about computer programming.

(Photo: Girls Coding)

Sharon attended Abisoye’s classes and on completion, recognizing that her family was underpaid and at a disadvantage with the middle-men who retailed their fish, created a website named Makoko Fresh to bridge the gap between her family’s products and willing consumers.

Speaking with CNN Heroes about how it all began, Sharon said:
“It was around 2015 when Ms. Abisoye came to Makoko community to train girls about computer. I said okay, I would go… I learned how to use computer very well, to build websites. That’s why I’m creating an app with my team.”

Sharon hopes to attend Harvard one day, and eventually become a software engineer.

Credit: konbini.com

On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir ElRufai announced on Twitter that the state government has declared free education for all female students in public secondary schools.

He tweeted:

“The Kaduna State Government has declared free education for all female students in Public Secondary Schools in Kaduna state. This is aimed at getting rid of the hindrances to girl-child education. The free Basic Education Policy in the state for every child remains.”



Reports from a UNICEF research found that 65% of females in the Kibera slum in Kenya, the largest urban slum in Africa, have at one point traded sex for sanitary products.

The girls are forced to have sex with older men because it is the only way they can access sanitary products due to poverty and the stigma surrounding menstruation.

(Photo: ThisisAfrica)

The research also reports that 54% of Kenyan girls still have problems accessing feminine hygiene products and 22% of schoolgirls still have to buy their own even though the Kenyan government signed a bill into law last year that says girls in public schools will receive free sanitary towels.

90,000 girls in 335 schools in Kenya now have access to safe and clean facilities because of that bill, but there’s clearly still more work to be done. Andrew Trevett, UNICEF Kenya chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, hypothesizes two reasons why girls have to trade sex for sanitary products:

“One obvious reason is poverty – girls and women don’t have the financial means to buy sanitary products. But there is also the issue of supply.

Transactional sex for sanitary items happens because the items are not available in girl’s villages.

In the countryside, girls are faced with no transport and can’t afford a bus fare. In some remote villages, there are no roads and there isn’t a bus service.”

UNICEF found that 7% of women use old cloths, chicken feathers, mud and newspapers in the place of pads or tampons — while some dig a hole in the ground and sit there for days till their period passes.

UNICEF also found that only 50% of girls felt they could openly discuss menstruation at home.


Credit: konbini.com

Blessing Timidi Digha is the Executive Director and also works as the Community Mobilization and Advocacy Officer at African Girl Child Development and Support Initiative, a non-governmental, not for profit organization that advocates and works towards the advancement and development of the Nigerian Girl Child through Advocacy, Research and Interventions.  Her Foray into activism began actively during her stint with pregnancy as a teenager where her eyes were opened to the plights girl children faced when it came to Sexuality Education, Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Today, she has dedicated at least ten years of her life working on issues and interventions as it relates to the girl child particularly in the Nigerian and African context and with much bias to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Feminism and Gender Equality. She shares her story in this inspiring interview.

Growing up

My childhood and teenage years prepared me a lot for what I do now, in fact I will say my experiences shaped me for all I do. My experiences growing up in my family, church, my personal experiences especially with sexual debut and experimentation as a teenager , getting pregnant as a teenager, seeking for love in the wrong places, quest for knowledge and a whole lot prepared and shaped me with mostly first hand experiences and witnessing the experiences of others.

30 and daring

My name is Blessing Timidi Digha, I clocked 30 on the 5th of March, I am a mother to three beautiful children (two girls and a boy) and I advocate on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) especially as it affects young girls and women and also consult on advocacy and community Mobilization/engagement. I run African Girl Child Development and Support Initiative. I identify as a feminist because I believe and advocate for EQUAL opportunities politically, economically, socially, educationally etc for both Male’s and Females. I am an ambivert with my introvert side more domineering except of course while I am at work where I can be very chatty and in your face but I like my privacy and quiet a lot. I am a Women Deliver Young Leader, a ONE Champion, a #Choice4Life advocate which are a few of the platforms where I contribute towards the rights of girls and SRHR. I love colours and can paint, draw and do some calligraphy, I also play with simple graphic designs, I am a creative in my own right who has also learnt do different many things *thanks to my mom*. I have a strong support system in my Family and partner who supports all my work  when I have to be away and need someone to take care of my kids, someone to talk to at any time or advice me. I am a polyglot (I speak a couple of Nigerian languages and learning to speak some foreign ones at the moment). I cry a lot (whether I am happy, sad, depressed, confused, disappointed, tired, anything, crying is the outlet for me). I love travelling.


Going into Advocacy

I started advocacy when I got pregnant as a teenager. My eyes got opened to the issues that girls face  as a result of lack of inadequate sexuality education which leads /can lead to teenage pregnancy among other things. So I started with Sexuality education which was strictly abstinence based. Along the line while developing myself and interacting with young girls, I realised no one is thinking of the young girls that have already debuted sex and how they will wade off unintended pregnancies or unsafe abortions amongst others or just make informed choices.. Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights covers a whole of issues especially issues that we especially as Africans/Nigerians don’t like to talk about or don’t see as an issue such as Menstruation, Female Genital Mutilation, Family Planning, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), Consent, Child /Early/Forced Marriage, Rape, Unsafe Abortions and a whole lot. I also work also with individuals and organisations on issues that surround the rights and SRHR of girls and women and policies.

What inspires me

Nature abhors vacuum and a lot of things and people fill the vacuum. A lot of things and people inspire me. I am inspired by positive events as they affect the lives of girls and women Eg policy changes, structures etc. I am inspired by people who are doing something worthwhile and impacting lives positively. I am inspired by children especially their tenacity and persistence. I am inspired by colours

Greatest reward

The greatest reward I have ever gotten for what I do is when I get feedback that what I have taught  helped girls and women  to make informed choices as it regards their SRHR.


In the line of work I have faced and still face criticism from people, brick walls from girls and women whose rights especially their SRHR has been violated when I try to step in, opposition from men who feel they should have the final say in the health and life of women even when the acts are obviously endangering the girls and women involved, , opposition from many religious institutions and leaders who feel some of ‘these’ things should not be talked about by religious leaders or on religious platforms when we seek to include them in sensitization, challenges in  getting the police  to act swiftly while trying to educate them on existing laws or policies that cover the issues at hand which they tend to mostly see as domestic issues, challenges in interacting with cultures that refuse to see certain acts as issues that violate the rights and SRHR of girls and women and lastly insults from some family members from time to time who always still bring up my experience with teenage pregnancy to judge my work.

My projects

  1. A reusable pad sewing hub- teenagers, young mothers are taught how to make reusable pads from clothing materials which are still neat but are no longer used to allow for dignity in periods especially as the price of sanitary pads keep skyrocketing. This way every girl and woman can manage her menstruation hygienically. We also work on issues surrounding menstruation Eg the possibility of Menstrual Leave, engaging policy makers in issues of Menstruation (WASH, availability of menstrual management products etc)
  2. Girls Support Club under the umbrella of African Girl Child Development and Support Initiative where girls and recently we have had boys join us to learn and talk about issues that affect girls and boys while growing up and how they can avoid these issues. We run self defence classes against sexual assault, keep a toilet clean, One pack of pad One Girl, Counselling etc as activities under this club. Safe spaces!!!!! This is one project I really really love. As the name implies it is a safe space for women and girls fleeing any form of abuse and a need a space void of judgement and forced opinions to get themselves together or decide on what next to do. I have had to use a safe space myself for sometime to evaluate my options and the way forward. This was born out of the inadequate support people face in abuse especially women where they are expected to stay and pray it out, stay for the kids etc when even as little as small space would have gone a long way to rectifying a lot or saving the person’s life. Presently we use the spare room in my apartment but a place in a highly secured area is being set up for official safe spaces residence and a few friends have also offered their residences as support safe spaces. . Storytelling – recently trained by The Moth on Storytelling, I have began exploring Storytelling in Advocacy and how we can use stories to tell issues in advocacy and SRHR in a bid to reach stakeholders/gatekeepers, policy makers, organizations, individuals and the entire public.

I felt like giving up several times

A time? A time is too small to quantify when I have wanted to give up. I have felt like giving up MANY times, when my finances don’t add up, when all the things I hear on the field keep ringing in my head, when I feel I am not spending enough time with my kids, so many times I have thought of it but then the next day I am at it all over again, Infact most times in the midst of my thoughts, something will just come up and I am back to doing I love doing. I also get encouraged by people.

My view on feminism

Feminism in Nigeria has always been here since the days of our mothers who led and sought out equal opportunities in all areas. Women like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Flora Nwapa, Queen Amina, Buchi Emecheta, were all feminists. Despite the misinterpretation and ignorance oof Feminism in Nigeria by many people and its portrayal as women being rebels and not wanting to cook or wanting to put the men under their feet by men and women alike, Feminism in Nigeria is here to stay and we will eventually get it right. Patriarchy and sadly religion has portrayed women as weaker vessels and Nigerians use religion to justify everything, good or bad but eventually we will get it right with adequate sensitization and education of concepts in demanding equal opportunities for females and males in all sectors.

Being a woman of rubies

My contribution to the society advocating for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of girls and women and talking about topics that won’t be discussed in my own little corner.

Final word

Women’s rights are human rights. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.