A charity, CEE-HOPE Nigeria, continues to support underserved communities in Nigeria in order to build a future for the children born in these communities, writes Elechi Chidinma.
Maryam Kusika, 22, elicited both laughter and applause as she effortlessly interpreted her role as a mother of a school girl in the playlet performed at the event.
The theme was, obviously, girl education and centred on a character determined against all odds to enrich her life through education, beat the abusers and make it to the top echelon of society in spite of her impoverished background.
The day, mood and physical setting were perfect for the play. The venue was the palace of the village head of Makoko-Iwaya, the slum community living by the borderline or on the Lagos lagoon and which typifies urban poverty and seclusion. The event was to mark the ‘International Day of the Day of the Girl.’
The day is commemorated worldwide each year to draw attention to the plight of the girl child. It is geared at generating attention and subsequent action which would improve the lot of the girlchild including education, economic and all-round empowerment leading subsequently to sustainable development. It is also an avenue for widespread discourse and attention on issues such as early marriage, maternal mortality, illiteracy, sexual abuse among others militate against girls and prevent millions from being in a vantage position to contribute meaningfully to societal development.
According to UNESCO statistics for instance, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, totaling 10. 5 million. Nigeria has also been in the eyes of the world for several months now owing to the Chibok girls’ abduction.
The choice of Makoko owes to its poverty level and the fact that the impoverished fishing community has the highest number of adolescent pregnancy in Lagos State. CEE-HOPE also runs a “Girls-Go-For-Greatness” (‘Triple G’) Club there.
The Makoko event, put together by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), besides the playlet, featured dances by the hosts, members of the Girls-Go-For-Greatness (Triple G) Club of Makoko, a brainchild of CEE-HOPE. Several others including child’s rights activists, authors among others gave motivational talks to the girls.
CEE-HOPE’s founder, Betty Abah, kick-started the meeting which attracted mostly teenage girls from across Makoko and also Iju in Lagos as well as visiting teenage girls from Ota and Matogun in Ogun State. “You are the future of Nigeria,” she told the youngsters. “What stands beside you and your future is your determination to be the best amidst the odds. Even God recognized that there is no stopping the person who is determined to excel as witnessed in the story of the ‘Tower of Babel’. You can be the best if you overlook your current circumstance, look beyond peer pressure and quick fixes, study hard and aim for the skies. You are made for greatness, do not let anyone or anything stop you,” she further admonished.
Meanwhile, the invited speakers Mr. Uzodinma Nwaogbe of Community Defence Law Foundation (CDLF) also encouraged the girls to aspire for the skies and avoid circumstances that may lead to life-debilitating circumstances like teenage pregnancy among others. He encouraged them to make education their watch word in addition to learning from accomplished women in the society.
Ms Abimbola Junaid, founder of Nigeria Women Arise and one of the mentors of the ‘Triple G’ Club was also on hand to goad the girls to greatness. She encouraged them to shun youthful vices and be dedicated to growing up responsibly and contributing to national development. She urged them to look beyond their sexes or circumstances of birth. She also led the gathering in the Nigerian national anthem.
One of the invited guests, Emmanuel Okoro, an author and literacy culture promoter read from his book titled The Girl Who Wanted a Lion for a Pet and to which the girls listened with rapt attention. Like the others, he also encouraged the girls to look beyond the present, trust in their abilities and aim for the skies.
Anuoluwapo Salawu, 20, and an aspiring economist, who came from Matogun, Ogun State described the meeting as eye-opening. “It energized us to be focused on our studies and try our best. One thing I remember is that if we tell ourselves that we can do it, we will surely make it,” said Miss Salawu who finished her secondary school in 2011 and is waiting to go to school.
The Baale of the community, Chief Aide Albert expressed appreciation to CEE-HOPE for the imitative as well as its development activities including scholarships for indigent children. He also said, in a bid to ensure that children born in the area access opportunities available to others at least at a basic level and ultimately square up to their peers in the future, he had attracted a primary school to the area, drinking water and other facilities donated by public-spirited individuals, religious organizations among others.
To further pep up the event, members of the Impervious Youths of Makoko’s dance group comprising boys and girls sang, danced and generally provided entertainment.
Abah explained that the ‘Triple G’ Club was formed to inspire girls in education, build leadership skills and create awareness about several issues around girl children including tips on preventing sexual abuse. The club, she said, was in addition to others of CEE-HOPE’s interventions with children in excluded communities mainly urban slums and rural areas of the country.
“If we don’t catch early, nurture early and show love to children in impoverished and underserved communities such as Makoko, then the country has no future we can look up to. There are many Makokos around the country, be it in Kano, Ibadan, Aba, Abia State or in Abonnemma, Port Harcourt. Rather than wait to move in the amoured tanks, we can wrap our arms around them before it becomes too late, be they boys or girls,” she added, in explaining CEE-HOPE’s vision.
Quote: If we don’t catch early, nurture early and show love to children in impoverished and underserved communities such as Makoko, then the country has no future we can look up to