By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
In 2016, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) established the Girls for Girls project (G4G), with funds from the Department for International Development (DFID), a UKAID establishment, as strategy to encourage girls in Northern Nigeria not only to go to school, but most especially to remain in school and to transit from the lower level to the upper level of education.
The intervention project was aimed at increasing demand and support for girls education, increase retention for girls in schools, enhance self appreciation and self esteem for girls and improve transition of girls from lower to upper levels of education, according to UNICEF.
Speaking recently on the objectives of the project, UNICEF Education Specialist Azuka Menkiti, noted that the initiative was designed to work with girls to improve support and mentoring in schools, for girls and by girls, and thereby improve girls’ retention and learning in schools.
According to her, it was also aimed at empowering girls to appreciate who they are, and why they should remain in school. And to encourage girls in school to remain and complete their education and aspire to higher levels.
She explained that apart from working directly with the girls, Mothers, Communities, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) High Level Women Associations, Professional women associations, etc are also part of the project to provide mentoring support opportunities for the girls.
Menkiti, said the project which is already running in three Northern States of Bauchi, Katsina and Zamfara, has already enrolled 15, 303 girls, with 4,399 of the girls in Zamfara, 5,284 girls in Bauchi State and 5,620 girls in Katsina State.
She added that capacity of 3,536 members of Mothers Associations has enhanced to provide support on strategies for increased enrolment and retention for 300 schools. And that 450 members of mothers’ associations in 300 school communities are engaging in the production of reusable sanitary towels for adolescent girl members of G4G groups, with 400 female mentors trained on G4G strategies and facilitation skills who are already supporting the G4G groups.
Expressing her appreciation to UNICEF, Chairperson of the Mothers Association in Tudun Wada Primary School, Talata-Mafara in Zamfara state, Hajiya Amina Abdullahi, explained that, the G4G, programme has given them the opportunity to know how precious their daughters are.
She said, they now value their girls the same way they value the boys, as such, same attention is now being giving to them, saying, “as part measures to support them, the house chores are no longer left alone for the girls to do, rather, we delegate both of them to carry out different work.
“This has greatly reduced their working period and allow them to go to school on time along with the boys. We have equally ensured that after school period, instead of giving them plenty things to go and sell, we share it with the boy so they can both come back home on time.”
Hajiya Amina, noted that the Mothers Association was established in various schools and trained by UNICEF to encourage girls education in the state in their various communities.
She called on the state government to help, by empowering them so they can take full charge of their children’s education, because once the G4G, programme ends they will return to square one. She added, while the men struggled for the daily upkeep of the family, if the women are empowered, they would run small scale businesses and assist in ensuring that the children go to school and continue up to at least secondary school level.
Hajiya Amina, commended UNICEF for their support through the G4G initiative noting that it had inculcated more discipline, hygiene and the zeal to search for knowledge among the children.
“As a result of this, even teachers now contribute from their personal earnings, money with which we buy school uniforms for our children, so we have strengthened the family ties in our communities, ” she said.
Some of the benefiting girls who also spoke, said the G4G programme has greatly improved their status in their communities and that it is now encouraging their peers to go to school. They said, the programme has made them aspired to want to become great people in life, from being; social workers, Lawyers, Doctors, Journalists, even teachers in the future.
They expressed happiness over the support and encouragement they have been getting from UNICEF, their mothers, mentors High Level Women, etc. They therefore, called on them not to relent or give up in ensuring that other girls who are yet to be part of it are also given the opportunity.