GIRLS ARISE INITIATIVE
Girls Arise Initiative is a project of Bestspring Foundation which started in May 2016. It is a mentoring program geared towards safeguarding the girl-child against all forms of abuse and giving her a voice and power to rise above the limitation imposed on them by tradition/financial hardship. It is to encourage and inspire her to aspire and achieve the seemingly impossible.
In addition, Girls Arise Initiative seeks to raise awareness on their sexual reproductive health rights and needs and on the thorny issues of rape, teenage pregnancy and emergency motherhood.
The community where we operate is Ijegun, Ikotun in Alimoso Local Government Area of Lagos State. Although densely populated, Ijegun and its neighbouring communities, namely Ijeododo, Abaranje, Oke-orube, Ijagemo and Kudebu, are largely enmeshed in poverty and illiteracy, with high rate of teenage pregnancy, school drop outs, risky sexual behaviors and its attendant STDs & STIs, unemployment, human trafficking and wanton waste of human resources and talents. Due to the poverty rate, which is very high, many youths, especially girls are vulnerable.
Girls Arise Initiative therefore provides a safe space for the girl-child to be informed and inspired to stand tall in the face of daunting challenges that make her vulnerable or mitigate against the actualization of her dream. This is a sure platform that seeks to empower the girl-child with necessary education and life skills to enable her maximize her potentials and defend her rights.
BOYS & CHAMPIONS CLUB
About six months after we started the Girls Arise Initiative mentorship program in Ijegun; one of our partners asked me some thought-provoking questions. He said, “You are doing a great job raising these young girls to be self-aware, dutiful and to work towards reaching their full potentials. But what happens to them in future? Who will marry them? Is it not these boys we have refused to train and mentor? Is it not these boys that we fail to raise as responsible men that will end up tormenting them? What then becomes of all our efforts and investments? Why can’t we pay equal attention to the issues affecting the boys too, especially in this Ijegun community where there are hardly any role models to guide them in the right path?
His questions opened my eyes to the vast opportunities open to us to build a generation of responsible boys and men; hence the Boys & Champions Club was birthed.
Boys & Champions Club is another mentoring project of Bestspring Foundation geared towards inspiring young boys and teenage men to embrace integrity, hard work, diligence and resilience in the face of daunting challenges, hardship and temptation to be wayward.
Ijegun, where we work is filled with many streetwise and disenchanted youths, with no sense of direction and or hope. Unfortunately, the community has nothing to offer them; neither do they have any role model to guide them.
As the number of out-of-school boys is increasing, social vices such as internet fraud, theft, drug abuse etc. is also on the increase. This calls for urgent need to give utmost attention to the young boys all around us. They are also vulnerable, hence the need to educate, enlighten and empower so as not to engage so they are not lost to crime.
Boys & Champions Club seeks to educate the boys about the amazing potentials and strength that lies within them and also guide them on how to channel these gifts and strength in the right direction. We believe there is a King in every boy; all that is required is to identify and nurture him to greatness.
Here, we seeks to translate the boys from being naïve, purposeless and disenchanted minds to intelligent, dutiful and responsible men and champions; with the right social and moral values that is required to build a great and functional society as Leaders. It also aims to give the boys the courage and power to make right decisions about their life and situations.
Boys & Champions Club is a mentoring program that equips the boys with the right knowledge and mindset needed to grow into responsible and successful citizens of the country. We are set to raise a new generation of Champions and Noble men.
ADOLESCENT MOTHERS CLUB
Adolescent Mothers Club is an offshoot of Girls Arise Initiative, targeted at giving out-of-school/marginalised-girlsa new lease of life.
Our work-base, Ijegun is a remote, densely populated community tucked away in the Alimosho local government area in Lagos State, Nigeria. It is under-developed and engulfed in abject poverty. A high percentage of youth here remain uninformed about their reproductive health, rights, and needs.Our survey revealed an ever-increasing spate of teenage pregnancy in Ijegun with girls becoming mothers who are least prepared for the tasks of motherhood.
This, according to our findings, is due to the high poverty rate and struggle for survival here. Under such circumstances, youth, especially girls, are vulnerable and easily swayed in the wrong direction. According to Akin Jimoh, program director of Development Communications Network—a non-profit in Nigeria focused on promoting public health—young girls “are vulnerable to sexual violence when they are ignorant of their rights.”
Many of the girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy in Ijegun are between the ages of 14 and 17.
Even though teenage pregnancy is rampant in the area, it is often met with rebuff and disdain. Some of the girls we spoke with said they were mercilessly beaten by their parents for getting pregnant. Others said they suffered rejection from their parents as well as the men responsible for their pregnancy. Still others said they were forced to marry the men who impregnated them, or as in the case of Olamide, were forcefully evicted by their own parents or guardians and had to move in with these men.
The overwhelming majority of these girls were also unable to continue their education because they were ridiculed by their peers and expelled from school. For girls who get pregnant as teenagers, one major setback is not being able to continue school in order to realize their potential.
A Second Chance for Adolescent Mothers
To stem the tide of misfortune among adolescent girls in Nigeria, we decided to set up a club to educate our young girls on their reproductive health, rights, and needs. In essence, Adolescent Mothers Club seeks to provide girls safe spaces to nurture their potential in spite of whatever mistakes they have made. It also advocates for a second chance for young mothers, by giving them equal opportunities to empower themselves and earn income through education or skills acquisition.
If given such opportunities we believe that the benefits are boundless: Young mothers will still be able to pursue their educational dream, even up to tertiary level and beyond; they will be in a better frame of mind to raise healthy and happy babies; the rate at which they dump their newborns in septic tanks and refuse sites for orphanages to rescue will drop; the rates of attempted abortion, related complications, and maternal mortality will fall; young mothers who opt for skills acquisition can also be empowered to make a living and take care of their children; thereby making the community a better and safer place to live.
We hope to get support and funding so as to embark on advocacy to parents, guardians, community elders, traditional rulers, faith-based organizations, educators, educational institutions, and other stakeholders in communities like Ijegun with this message. It is high time we as adults release our judgment of teen mothers so we can celebrate and encourage their potential and that of their children.