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AFRICAN YOUTH EXPLORE STRATEGIES FOR KEEPING GIRLS IN SCHOOL

Youth from across Africa came together at a youth forum which was a pre-conference activity that took place at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Plot 903.Tafawa Balewa Way, Area 11, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria on 13th January 2019. The forum was set to kick-start activities for the First Regional Conference of African Traditional and Religious Leaders on Keeping Girls in School in Africa. One of the key objectives of the pre-conference was to stimulate discussions among youth that were participating at the main conference and get their unique perspective as well as the role they can play in Keeping girls in school. It was aimed at ensuring the voices of youth will be properly represented in decisions that will be taken at the end of the conference. The goal was for the youth to set an agenda on how to interact with the Traditional and Religious leaders and explore innovative ways for collaboration and partnership within the region. It was also aimed at promoting dialogue between young people, Traditional and Religious leaders and giving them an opportunity to come up with recommendation on the most effective strategies for keeping girls in school   (K G S).

 

There were 3 sessions At the Youth Forum;

1- An interactive session where participants were divided into 4 groups to articulate their questions and method of engagement with Traditional and Religious leaders. Each group was expected to come up with key messages, tailored at at streamlining the discussion to be focused towards KGS.

 

2-Two panel discussions to provoke discussions among the youth. The first panel which was headed by the Emir of Argungu HRH Alhaji Samaila Mera had panelists of Youth-led groups from Botswana Gogontlejang Phaladi, Nina Mbah from Nigeria, Joannes Yimbeselu from Cameroon, Joecelia Monica Quewon from Liberia.

 

Their discussions centered around programs within their communities that were led by youth. These included; Setting up youth-led commitment in mentorship programs for young people and creating vibrant youth networking and partnership with Traditional and Religious Leadership to advance Keeping Girls In School  ( KGS). The second panel was made up of youth working in different education focussed organizations, where they shared the work they do, their experiences and best practices as explored other strategic ways to ensure all girls access education and remain in school.

 

From the interactive session, some key issues were highlighted viz-a-viz;

  1. The need to create awareness, sensitize communities on the importance of keeping girls in school (KGS).
  2. Identified challenges of inadequate youth friendly centers and poverty as one of the key issues affecting girls education , there is need to come up with ways to address this and also identify the roleTraditional leaders can play in sustaining the process.
  3. Identifying issues that keep girls away from school.
  4. Changing the narrative on girls Education.
  5. Need to drive accountability by not only keeping girls in school but ensuring they complete
  6. The unique role Traditional and Religious leaders can play especially in taking the lead to advocate for Keeping girls in school (KGS).
  7. Exploring innovative and workable interventions that will keep girls in school

 

PANEL DICUSSION

The panel discussion had 3 young people who served as panelists/discussants. Discussions were centered on their various activities, achievement and challenges in keeping girls in school. While some of the interventions targeted girls in secondary school to ensure retention and completion of secondary education, others went a step further in providing support to girls upto tertiary level.

Lateef Bello was the first Speaker whose has over 5 years of experience in Civic Engagement and working with Non-Profit Organizations. He is currently, the Policy and Communication Head of the Development Initiative of West Africa (DIWA), an International non-governmental organization with office in Nigeria and Liberia, where he focuses on public relations, building and sustaining the organization reputation for quality and reliable stakeholder satisfaction, designing and implementing program and project communication strategies to raise the organization’s media profile and ensuring the organization runs with the policy framework as set up by various policy documents. He is part of the project team that have designed and implemented Girls Identified for Training Empowerment and Development (GIFTED) which is an on-going initiative that offer Full Educational Scholarship for 10 girl child from Northern Nigeria selected from Junior Secondary Schools in Kogi and Niger State and were sponsored up to tertiary level with about 4 of them already graduated while others are currently completing their tertiary education. He is an advocate for the use of religion in engaging right issues and has participated in training for religious leaders by Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Islamic Education Trust amongst others. Bello is committed to mentoring and grooming young people to become productive and better persons. He is widely referred to as a productivity evangelist and believes in the ability of the African girls, women and youth, to impact and improve their community via personal development and leadership.

 

Aziza Dangote the second panelist who is a role model to young girls talked about her voluntary support to activities of girl focused organizations like Girl Child Concerns where she mentors young girls in safe spaces aimed at encouraging and inspiring the girls remain in school to attain secondary education. She equally raises financial support for indigent girl through fund raising to support girls to school. Through her direct efforts, she provides intervention for girls with disabilities especially as it relates to their education and equipping them with life skills to sustain their lives.

 

The Third speaker Nuratu Abdul-Rashid the Program Assistant of Girl Child Concerns was able to shed more light on the activities of GCC as a non-governmental organization which focuses on girl child education by creating interventions to support girls to school thereby increasing enrollment, retention and completion of secondary education. She explained that the goal of the organization is to increase girls enrollment, retention and completion of secondary education, create awareness and sustain interest of community members in girl child education, build confidence of girls to have a focus on pursing education and empower them to be responsible members of society, reduce early marriage, improve the reproductive health of young people, as well as address the special needs of married adolescents by providing them with the opportunities to develop to their highest potential.

 

The organization she further explained provides holistic interventions that meet the needs of vulnerable adolescent girls especially those from poor rural areas, disadvantaged and underserved groups like married adolescents. Their specific interventions include Adolescents Reproductive Health & Rights, Female Students Scholarships for vulnerable girls, Advocacy and community mobilization and sensitization on civil rights and responsibilities as well as gender equity.

 

Other activities include the Give Back Project, youth Development and Mentor training project, Women Empowerment for Gender Equity and strategic Research. Her discussions also highlighted activities of the organization that targets girls in humanitarian context in Borno and strategies the organization is using in getting girls displaced by insurgency and conflict return to school and complete their education as well as challenges encountered in the process.

 

 

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