The need for renewed efforts to address the peculiar needs of out-of-school adolescent girls in slums communities has again been brought to the fore, but this time with a strategic plan to mobilize resources to maximize their potentials, provide increased access to education and health services.
This is premised on fact that overwhelming majority of out-of-school girls have no say over their schooling and are indeed traumatized.
Speaking recently at the Launch of Lagos State Government Plan of Action to Empower Marginalised Adolescent Girls, the Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in Lagos State, Hon. Lola Akande explained that “Poverty and Gender Inequality are the driving factors prematurely end schooling for most girls.”
According to her, “Girls who drop out of school usually do so for reasons beyond their control. Their labour may be required either at home or to increase family income. In families for whom the costs associated with schooling represent a strain, parents may continue to enrol their sons while sacrificing their daughters’ education.”
The program, which held at the Federal Palace Hotel in conjunction with Ford Foundation, UNFPA and Action Health Incorporated stressed that the Strategic Action Plan for Out-of-School Adolescent Girls will be implemented by all stakeholders.
“The plan of action will include strategic partnership i.e. involving more corporate organizations and civil societies e.g. supporting training programs, provisions of jobs, improving programmes by identifying their needs and tailoring their training programs towards the needs”, assured Hon. Akande.
Also speaking at the event, the Director of Action Health Incorporated, Mrs. Adenike Essiet applauds Lagos State government for its trail-blazing role in championing the cause of the Girl-Child.
“Lagos remains a trail blazing state in Nigeria while the Governor is the chief voice for the voiceless. In the 26 years of Action Health Incorporated, we have done a lot in the area of sexuality education.”
“For most out of school girls, pregnancy is as a result of transactional sex, not because they are in love with the men that get them pregnant. Out of school girls are most vulnerable because they are exposed to unsafe sexual habits, early marriage, poverty and other hazards.”
“Our Priority Areas at Action Health Incorporated are-1. Education – Basic Information – Literacy & Numeracy
2. Health – Access to health education and service
3. Economic Livelihood
4. Social Protection – Access to protection so girls are not violated/abused and that they will get justice when violated.
Mrs. Essiet therefore expressed great joy at government’s collaboration with her agency to train and empower three hundred (300) adolescent girls from three slum communities in Lagos State- Oto-Ijora Badia, Makoko Iwaya and Sari Iganmu.
Program Officer, Youth at Ford Foundation, Mr. Dabesaki Mac-ikemenjima warned that “If we fail to empower our youths, we will end up having a large portion of our society become liabilities. We must empower girls, not only economically but also by letting them have a voice to speak on issues that affect them.”
“Government need to take the next step by empowering youths with skill acquisition and also give them the certificate that enables them find employment.”
He assured that “Ford Foundation is also working on linking vocational training centres to work places as well as entrepreneurship opportunities in order to provide additional capacity support.”
“Nigeria is currently experiencing a youth bulge; many are within the 18-35 age bracket. The challenge at hand is that if we do not make the right investment, there will be massive unemployment and its attendant socio-economic problems. We must grow our economy and be a donator for the country because we have an unprecedented opportunity to move our country forward”, noted the officer.
Also commending the empowerment of the girls, the Chairman – House Committee on Women Affairs, Hon, Mrs. Mojisola Lawal-Meranda congratulated the 300 girls and assures that the sky will be their starting point.
She however cautioned that beyond empowering them with training and tools, we need to engage them and keep them busy by helping them source for jobs and contracts in their various fields. Once they are not idle, they will make good use of the equipment given to them but when they are not, they will be tempted to sell the equipment and return to their poverty state.
Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun said, “I believe in empowering girls, whether vulnerable or educated. This is not only to train but also empower them to put to use what they have learnt. He advocates that the training should be for all children so they can conserve funds. He further advocates for more opportunities for such trainings, saying that vocational training is better than while collar jobs. “It can bring us out of recession, instead of youths staying idle and jobless. In fact, the vocational training we are giving our youths will make them useful to self and society.”