On Thursday March 7, Bestspring Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which takes care of the needy, widows, orphans and vulnerable children, organised its International Women’s Day (IWD) with a programme for school girls.
The International Women’s Day, normally held on every March 8, was set aside by the United Nations to celebrate womanhood and focus on challenges of women in the universe. However, the Bestspring Foundation devoted its IWD this year to look at the situation of the Girl-Child.
The programme, which came under the NGO’s Girls Arise Initiative, with a Girls Summit, themed, “Time Is Now: Girls As Change Agents” #SheCANLead, was held at Excel Baptist Schools, Ijegun, Ikotun area of Alimosho, Lagos.
Speaking on the event, Mrs Aramide Oikelome, the Convener and Executive Director of Bestsping Foundation, said that through its Girls Arise Initiative, the NGO promotes Girls Rights, Inspires Hope of the girl-child; thus Amplifying Her Voice, Promoting Integrity and Values, Mentoring the Generation Next and Empowering Her to Excel.
As Mrs Oikelome informed, girls from eight schools from the Ijegun area took part in the programme with over 200 children in attendance. According to her, the NGO runs a Girls’ Club, which meets every month, through which almost 100 indigent girls from humble homes and poor families are being mentored, with some of them now in higher institutions, while others that are still in secondary schools are also excelling in their academics.
She said that through the Girls Club, the girls, most of who live in the poor Ijegun environment, are faced with numerous challenges. Some that are even school drop-outs and hawkers, are made to know that there is hope for them in life no matter the environment they found themselves.
She said: “We focus on the girl-child because the girl of today is the woman of tomorrow. We believe innurturing and mentoring them to become great achievers that will rule the world. We do not like how things are in the families and homes, communities like even he country. There is a lot of poverty everywhere with many people having little or nothing to eat. We believe that these girls can be change makers if properly guided and supported.”
“Sexual and Reproductive Health is hardly discussed in homes and not taught in schools, churches and mosques. In this programme, we shall talk about it and educate them on their reproductive health. Amongst other things we are giving out today, we also have sanitary pad for each of the girls to take home. We will also counsel them. We want to share in their pains and concerns. Today’s programme is for girls only as it is dedicated to the International Women’s Day. We are planning a programme for the boys too, which will hold very soon. There will also be choreagraphy and cultural display today.
Mrs Eniola Habeeb, the Administrator of Excel Baptist Schools, Ijegun, in her remark commended Mrs Oikelome for setting up the self-sponsored NGO and her focus on vulnerable children, youths and widows is highly commendable. Her NGO also pays the school fees of indigent children that should have dropped out of school. Her self-sponsoredprojects as well as her efforts in educating and taking care the poor and less privileged, are some of the things the federal and state governments should have been doing.
On the focus of the day’s programme on girls, Mrs Habeeb said: “It is good to be a girl. There is something proud in being a girl. We are happy that Mrs Aramide Oikelome, through her NGO has decided to focus on the girl-child. Efforts have to be made to help in nurturing and bringing up the girl-child. We appreciate all the schools that are in attendance in this programme.”
Mrs Folusho Adedeji, a Senior Manager with Access Bank, in her lecture, titled, ‘Girls As Change Agents’ acknowledged that several women now hold key positions in the country and different parts of the work, in business, banking, judiciary and public service, while some have become Presidents and Prime Ministers of their country.
She told the girls that to rise to greatness and occupy top positions, requires a lot of hardwork, diligence and dedication to studies. She also urged them to mind the type of friends they keep if they must succeed in life.
Mrs Adedeji stressed: “Girls education is very important. For girls to be change agents, they need to read, know what is happening around them. They should embrace the social media like Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc, to know what is happening around the world. Women in Saudi Arabia fought against a law that prohibited women from driving and they succeeded.
“Now, women are involved in politics. Some women, like Margret Thatcher, have already ruled their countries. Mrs Ellen Sir-Leaf was the President of Liberia. In Nollywood several women have been doing very well. Many of them rose to the top from poor background. But, they were focused and became successful in their chosen careers
“Today, we have a lot of women in law, engineering, medicine and banking. Don’t allow peer pressure to distract you from what you want to be. Your life is in your hands, you have to study hard to be successful. Also, learn some vocations like fashion designing, dress making, hat making among others. Develop your talents. From them, yu can make a living. Your destinyis in your hands.”
Ms Yinka Asubiaro, a Sexual and Reproductive Health expert also took the children on ‘Challenges of Sexual Health and Implications.’ According to her if girls get the right information about sex, the rate of STDs, HIV and teenage pregnancy will be reduced.
She took the girls through life in infancy, childhood, adolescence, youth and adult as well as puberty. She taught them the changes that take place in their bodies during each period, including their first menstruation and how to calculate their menstrual cycle.
She warned the girls that although as they attain puberty, they will become beautiful and their body undergoing changes and attracting admiration of the opposite sex, they should not engage in sexual activities.
Ms Asubiaro stressed: “At this stage, you have to be careful in engaging in sexual activities. If you do, you may become pregnant and destroy their future. You should be careful of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) with all their implications.
“Begin to dream and see your future. As human beings, you are on a trip. Make sure that you get to your destination. Girls can get pregnant even before their first menstruation. It is better to preserve yourself as a beautiful bride on your wedding day. Be assertive. Plan your life and work towards your plan. Knowledge is power. Seek knowledge. With the right knowledge, you will grow and be happy.
During the questions and answer period as well as general counseling, Mrs Aramide Oikelome was assisted by Ms Asubiaro, as they treated issues like how to prevent and handle rape or abuse with copious examples rape cases and the provision of the law as well as importance of abstinence from sex. They concluded by advising the girls to always seek help against sexual harassment.