Girls and women in Nigeria are getting a boost from a programme designed to help close the gender gap in school success rates, writes Timi Olagunju, 29, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Lagos in Nigeria, who spoke to a trainer with the organisation.
According to a 2014 UNESCO report, Nigeria has one of the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, with a large drop out rate for girls.
The report says 40 per cent of primary school teachers are not qualified, 47 per cent of Nigerian women are mothers before they reach 20 years, and 60-79 per cent of the rural work force is constituted by women.
This wide need for education of girls and women led to the ‘Empower Her’ initiative, which has in the last six years committed itself to promoting girls’ education and women’s education and engagement.
As part of its program for the 2014/2015 academic session, the ‘Empower Her’ Initiative held its end-of-session programme in different schools across the country. Femi Malachi, a UK- certified life coach, speaker, trainer, and founder of the ‘Empower Her’ Initiative, while speaking at one of the events held in Ilorin, Kwara state, recounts his experience with community projects across the country. He speaks on the issue of bridging the gender gap in education through girl’s education and women’s empowerment in under-served areas across the country.
“With this great challenge in gender equality, I believe the future is under a serious threat, and I also believe that some of us must task ourselves with the critical responsibility of salvaging the situation and saving the future. This is one of the critical motivations for the ‘Empower Her’ Initiative which was designed to promote gender equality in Nigeria”, Femi says.
He adds, “we believe that men and boys must be recruited in driving the ‘girl-child education’ agenda”. The ‘Empower Her’ Initiative (EHI) has, for more than half a decade, committed to promoting girl child education and women’s empowerment; successfully transforming the educational and social experience of girls in public schools in Nigeria by providing educational and leadership support through structured mentoring to thousands of public school girls in under-served communities in Nigeria.
“In addition to awareness campaigns and direct legislative advocacy, the support system includes extramural classes, performance coaching, mentoring, and leadership training where girls and women are equipped with necessary life, professional, and leadership skills for effective social, workplace, and political participation.
“In this year’s academic session, the ‘Empower Her’ Initiative did not only appraise the students, but also inspired them. On a one-on-one interview with the girls, the feedback was positive. The school administration also confirmed the impact the initiative has on the girls. They carried card-boards where they wrote highly inspiring things like: “I am strong as a girl, and even stronger with an education”, “With an education, my future is so sure”, some even said “with an education, I am good to go, so dropping out is not an alternative”.”
In the words of the ‘Empower Her’ Initiative team, “we therefore on this special occasion sincerely express our gratitude to the girls for giving us the opportunity to improve their lives. We also thank communities and the school administration for their profound support. We are also indebted to all our partners, who support us in ’empowering girls to learn’.”
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Photo credit: courtesy of Timi Olagunju
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