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Every Girl is a Shero!

Ajegunle, one of the communities I work with is a slum in rural Lagos and its home to about 300,000 Illaje and Yoruba speaking people of Western Nigeria.

It has a primary health care center that is not functional, a primary school and a secondary school that was recently closed down because of flooding. The students were then moved to another school compound which is about 10 minutes bus ride from the community and about 30 minutes by foot.

Visiting this community for the first time in September 2012, I noticed that a lot of teenagers (girls, boys) were not in school, I also learnt that the rate of teenage pregnancy, school dropout and illiteracy amongst girls are very high.

I knew I had to make an impact; no matter how big or small.

I then launched a project called “Empowering Women of the Future” with 20 teenage girls from this community.

Together, we identified the reasons for the very high rate of teenage pregnancy, school dropout and illiteracy amongst the teenage girls of this community.

Some of the problems we identified were:

• Proximity: The new school is very far from their homes, this they say is a huge deterrent. Some of them cannot afford to pay for the bus ride, if they decide to go on foot; they arrive very late and get punished. Some of the girls said they preferred to go to a friend’s instead of getting to school late only to get punished.

Another deterrent is the dearth of adequate facilities and a conducive learning environment – because they have to share one school compound with another school, the classes are always over crowded. Concentration in class becomes increasingly difficult for them.

• Poverty and Lack of Motivation: Most of these girls are from very poor homes, barely able to feed. The burdens of catering for the needs of their family quickly fall on them as they attain puberty – they begin hawking, become sex workers, get married, move in with an older man or start petty business to fulfill this responsibility.

Taking care of their parents and siblings from a young age doesn't go well with their education, they soon realize they have to forfeit one for the other and their education seems like a fair trade.

Many girls who live in the slums have no positive role model to look up to. No girl from the community had graduated from a University to the best of their knowledge so there really was no one to motivate them. They saw school as a pastime, not as something of utmost importance.

• Discouragement from mothers: Some of the young girls reported their mothers discouraging them about taking education too seriously by telling them that “no man wants to marry a woman who is too educated or intelligent, women who are too educated cannot be submissive wives and good mothers,” the words of discouragement goes on and on.

In order to address these issues, I knew the first thing to do was meet with the women leaders of the community.

During our meeting, I explained the CSW56 facts and figures on Education to them and how educating the girl child will improve the health of her children and reduce poverty in her family.

Secondly, we introduced the ‘Meet a Shero’ section to the participants of the Empowering Women of the Future project.

Here we introduce women from around the world mostly through social media who despite difficult challenges have acquired tertiary education and are making positive impact in their societies.

Once every month, we have a community public lecture where one of these Sheros delivers the keynote address. This has really motivated them a great deal.

Thirdly, we began a literacy school in the community where we help participants with their problem subjects and home work. They now look forward to their next school day because their assignments are done and they are prepared for their next lessons.

We also organize workshops where we train these girls on some skill acquisition like soap, jewellery making so that they can be able to support themselves in school.
We then commenced discussions with well meaning individuals and cooperation about sponsoring a potential Shero/s to the University.

Lastly, we are putting together a report to the state government/state education Board about building a new secondary school in the community.

It’s amazing what great difference just a little encouragement, motivation and support can do to people. In the 7 months I have worked with this community, I have seen these young girls transform into confident, resilient and determined young women. Their grades have improved greatly and they have become Sheros; champions of change and advocates for the education of the girl-child in their community.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

libudsuroy's picture

Amazing, amazing work.

Amazing, amazing work. Incisive problem-solving, committed advocacy. This is a document of empowering change. Thank you very much for sharing this with us. I just love the way you went far beyond your own woes and issues and help others find their own pathways to empowerment. Good luck to you always. Keep safe!

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Vweta's picture

Dear Libudsuroy

It is always a delight to read your comments. Thank you so much for your kind words.

Wishing you only the best,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

SSD's picture

Fantastic !

What a wonderful post ! Keep penning - 'tis making a difference, dear Vweta !
Cheers.

Vweta's picture

Thank you SSD

I am super glad you enjoyed reading my post. There is no doubt that together we would definitely make a difference!

Love,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Stacey Rozen's picture

Basic needs

Insightfully written, Vweta.

It really horrifies me that in countries such as ours where ALL girls have access to education - without having to fight for it as Malala has - lack of basic needs such as transport are reasons girls in our group drop out of school too. It bothers me that schools don't address this problem better by having school funded buses instead of girls from poverty stricken families having no money for a taxi ride. We have the infrastructure in place - what a waste that it cannot be used. How can we highlight this more?

Btw, we have a Shero Blog too. We also made a long Shero banner. It doesn't seem possible to upload a photo in a comment. I will try send you it.

Creatively,
Stacey

Vweta's picture

Hello Stacy,

Its sad indeed. The money is there, sometimes the facilities are even on ground but politics, greed and insensitivity towards the plight of rural communities, they are not functional.

We can change all this by drawing attention and shinning the spotlight on these issues.

I am so eager to receive the Shero banner! I posted a need in resource exchange about it. Please, if you could send me the address of the blog, I would be glad to look it up!

With deep gratitude,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Stacey Rozen's picture

Image uploaded

Check out my latest post, Vweta. I managed to upload the Shero photo as the second image. Here's the link: http://worldpulse.com/node/69461

Recently we had to protect our blog. I will let you know when it goes live again.

Creatively,
Stacey

Vweta's picture

Thanks Stacey, I would look

Thanks Stacey, I would look it up now.

Best,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

otahelp's picture

Great achiever

there is nothing impossible when you are on ground and put your mind to it. Determination is the key word. You have done marvelous well. I hope you do more within your means and power.

Let the light keep shining.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative
Lets keep the light shining

Vweta's picture

Thank you Otahelp. I know I

Thank you Otahelp.

I know I can do more than I have done with the support and encouragement I have been getting from world pulse thereby making substantial impact in their lives, their community and together, our world!

Best,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

awinkie's picture

Keep it up!

Wow I can only imagine the impact you have had on these girls. When reading about the issues, I found them very similar to the ones I experienced in the Kibera slum in Kenya. Sharing your tools that you use to combat these issues I am sure will be able to help countless people! How are you combating the bus and distance issue? Keep up the amazing work. I loved reading about your story!

Vweta's picture

Am really glad to hear that

Am really glad to hear that my approach towards resolving these issues would help in Kenya as well.

For now we haven't been able to resolve the bus issue, we are hoping to get support to enable us get a school bus for the students till they can build them a new school.

Meanwhile, helping them with their difficult subjects and home work has really motivated the few girls we work with, they rarely consider the distance as very much a deterrent now.

I would be honoured to help out in anyway I can to make your work more impactful in Kenya.

Warm Regards,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Emily Garcia's picture

Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for sharing such a great success story! The work you have done to support and empower these girls is really inspiring. I love hearing how you decided that you wanted to make an impact, no matter how small, and then did it. And in the end I think the impact you've made in these girls' lives is huge, and who knows how great the ripple effect could be as they learn to support others as you have done. Great job again for an inspiring post and for the amazing work you've done.

Best wishes,

Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Associate

Vweta's picture

Thanks Verymuch EKG

"...and who knows how great the ripple effect could be as they learn to support others as you have done" - this was what I had in mind when I decided to empower just 20 girls in a community of over 300,000 people.

Am counting on them to help and support their peers, community and so on.

In Gratitude,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Potter's picture

Hooray for Sheros!

Shero! What a wonderful term! I see from reading the comments on your post that others have been using the term as well. This is how language develops and evolves. Wouldn't you love it if shero became part of everyday language? Wow! You are also a shero. yourself Thank you for all you have done and are doing for girls. I was particularly impressed with the list of problems the girls generated. They are very wise and very perceptive. Learning to identify constraints is a good first step in social problem solving. What a valuable lessons to learn young! I loved how you used your definition of shero as your concluding statement: champions of change and advocates for the education of the girl child. Great article and wonderful vision and work.

Vweta's picture

Dear Potter. Your comment

Dear Potter.

Your comment warmed my heart. Indeed, this is how language develops and evolves. We use it as many times as possible - it gets into the dictionary. Women have earned the term Shero too!

Gain-Buy-In was the idea i had when encouraging the girls to identify the problems they faced because like you rightly said " Learning to identify constraints is a good first step in social problem solving," besides they are in the best position to determine what deterrents they faced in attempt to attend school.

Lets keep in touch please.

Best Wishes,

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

yvonnegemandze's picture

Excellent Job

Dear Vweta

People like you are hard to come-by. You have a burning passion for humanity and you don't hesitate to serve mankind as soon as you have the opportunity to. I most say I am quite astonished by your marvelous accomplishments in just seven months.

Thank you very much for trying to be a part of the solutions of the problems your communities in Nigeria are facing, even if you were not a part of the cause for those problems.

I pray this journal pass across international Medias so that the voices of the thousands of girls in Ajegunle can be heard, at least someone somewhere can partner with you to put an end to their plight.

Yvonne Riwuya Gemandze
Chief Administrative Officer and Researcher
Center for Independent Development Research, Cameroon
Junior Chamber International (JCI) Cameroon National Vice President
yvonnegemandze@gmail.com
+237 70212069

Vweta's picture

Dear Yvonnegemandze

I honestly thought i had responded to this comment.
Please accept my heartfelt apologies for the delay and gratitude for your encouraging and uplifting comments.

Thank You again, It is my earnest desire to get as much partnerships as possible inorder to be able to improve the lives of these girls and their community in general.

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

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