Magnus Eze, Enugu
It is an established fact that every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. But, unfortunately, majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually-transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.
According to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity. And since these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.
Worried by the challenges confronting the girl child in this regard, a women’s group in Okposi, Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Virtuous Okposi Wives Association (VOWA), seems poised to bridge the gap in the community. The group, as part of its 2019 end-of-year programme, kicked off a campaign on hygiene and sexuality education.
At least 100 senior secondary (SS1) female students drawn from five schools: Ezi-Okposi High School, Enechi Akuma Community Secondary School, Government Secondary School Okposi, Girls Secondary School, Okposi, as well as a team from the Christian Girls in Training (CGIT) of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, participated in the programme.
President of VOWA, Mrs. Anenechi Aja-Eze, said the one-day programme, with the theme “The Girl Brand,” was specially designed to avail the young girls with some critical things they may not have known about life; empower them with information and knowledge.
“The essence is to help each of them in becoming the total woman they hope to be in future and by so doing, they would have indeed become that brand that we had in mind.
“We are aware of what the girl child in Nigeria is meant to face. In this part of the world, the girl child is victim of rape and other sexual abuses, her education is threatened by early marriage, preference is clearly given to the male child in the family, and many other challenges.
“She also bears the burden of poverty in the family as many of them have to hawk for the family to survive, including doing menial jobs; while others face sexual exploitation and trafficking.
“Therefore, we will be exposing them to some role models and as a body we will henceforth serve as mentors to this crop of Okposi girls. It is our strong desire that every one of them leaves here far better equipped to face the challenges of the girl child in Nigeria, particularly in a rural community like Okposi,” she said.
Mrs. Aja-Eze stated that the group, since its inauguration on February 12, 2012, had organised various programmes, including skill acquisition for its members and cancer awareness facilitated by the executive director, Pink Oak Cancer Trust, Dr. Laz Ude Eze.
In her presentation, a motivational speaker and life coach, Mrs. Harmony Emma Dangosu, described the girl brand as a young woman with an authentic identity whose values and strategies have distinguished her from peers.
According to her, to become a brand, the girl must know who she is; what she stands for, understand her marketplace and position. She said that a girl must build her foundation, have value and content strategy.
Declaring that two major ways of building a brand for girls were by mentorship and making own mistakes, Mrs. Dangosu warned that learning through personal mistakes could be costly: “Mistakes teach strong, valuable and most unforgettable lessons; they may sometimes be really expensive and lead to great losses.
“Mentorship helps you to learn from other people’s mistakes and prepare you to avoid such pitfalls.”
Although mistakes may still be there, but she emphasised that mentorship reduces them to the barest minimum. “So, whatever foundation or identity you choose, look out for those who have been there and miles ahead to mentor you.”
Another resource person, Dr. Nneka Igwenyi, from the Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, gave them tips on personal hygiene. She also advised them not to succumb to peer-influence because their friends would definitely tell them all manners of ‘sweet’ stories about sex.
The medical practitioner further harped on mentorship, and urged the girls to identify mentors even from amongst the organisers.
In his remarks, principal of Ezi-Okposi High School, Mr. Ogbonnaya Okoronkwo, commended the organisers and appealed to them to take the sensitisation to all the secondary schools in Okposi.
He enjoined girls to always confide in their mothers because they would not mislead them.
Each of the participants was presented with gift packs containing sanitary pads, perfumes and other items.