Dec 3, 2013

Every girl needs a “Shero”

Source: World Pulse

BY Vweta

While volunteering as a speaker in sexual education at a public school in an impoverished area of Lagos, I noticed day after day that the number of boys in both classes I facilitated were up to four times higher than the number of girls. Even the girls who came were irregular and were always distracted and sleepy when in class.

The girls told me that many of their classmates had dropped out due to pregnancy and childbirth.

Others had to assist their mothers by hawking to raise money to feed the family, making formal education impossible for them. Poverty and financial dependence also contributed as the teenage girls had to negotiate sex in exchange for money to buy their basic needs like sanitary towels, bathing soap, underwear, toothpaste and body lotion.

I visited Ajegunle, the community where most of the girls lived. While meeting with the community heads and some of the teenage girls we identified that among other factors, discouragement from mothers who were reported saying “no man would marry them if they are too educated” played a big role.

Another deterrent was a lack of positive role models, feelings of isolation and poor access to basic information.

After listening to the girls, I decided to start the “Empowering Women of the Future” project.

Using technology and computer software like Skype and Google hangouts, we introduce participants to girls and women in our “Meet a Shero” segment. We profile Sheroes the world over who have gotten education at all cost and are influencing their communities positively.

We also show short documentary videos of global Sheroes who innovate to change lives, and share their stories and challenges. The Shero girls in Ajegunle then experience it themselves by finding their own Sheroes and sharing on video sites like YouTube.

The effect of this is that a Shero in Ajegunle for example, now knows Malala Yousoufzai in Pakistan because she has seen videos or read about her. This has helped the girls develop a sense of belonging, they know they are not alone now; that somewhere on the other side of the planet, a girl is experiencing similar challenges but she is determined to overcome them and get education at all cost.

 A Shero in Ajegunle for example, now knows Malala Yousoufzai in Pakistan because she has seen videos or read about her. This has helped the girls develop a sense of belonging

To free the women from financial dependence on intimate partners who often assault and abuse them, we download free tutorial videos on photography and makeup artistry. This has saved me the cost of having someone physically come to the community to teach them these skills and it has enabled them learn at their own pace. Some of our Sheroes are now able to make people up for a fee, which they use for their pocket money.

Their perspectives and mind has broadened since they were introduced to the web. Sheroes are now able to research topics on their own during meetings, questioning the things I tell them. They ask me to provide links to online sources especially when it relates to sexual and reproductive health. Imagine how well they would perform if they applied that same zest in formal education.

The problem with our system of formal education is that very little consideration if any is given at all to out of school teenage girls. Technology makes it possible for education to come to them – no matter where they are, at a farm, in their shops, in their backyards or while nursing their new born.

Social media can be a neutral player when used correctly, out of school teenage girls can get information and learn in an inclusive environment where they are not labeled or made fun of, or dropping out or bullied into conformity.

Opinions shared are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of views of CHIME FOR CHANGE, Gucci or any partners of the campaign.