Each year on October 11, communities around the world celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. The day recognizes girls’ rights, the unique challenge girls face around the world, and promotes the attainment of their basic human rights. This year, YES alumni in Nigeria commemorated the day by hosting a girls empowerment seminar called “My Voice, Our Equal Future” at the Hassu Iro Inko Government Girls College in Katsina State. The event, which was attended by more than 100 high school students, aimed to empower young girls by educating them about their rights and engaging them in discussions related to challenges they face in society as women and how to overcome them.
Alumni invited four speakers: Mr. Mustapha Shehu, from the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), Malam Salisu Lawal Kerau, from the Katsina State Ministry of Education, the Katsina State Coordinator for U.S. Government Exchange Alumni Hijiya Jummai Garba, PhD, and Dr. Aisha Kashim.
During the seminar, speakers talked to the young participants about their right to an education, why girls have a lower transition rate from primary to secondary school compared to their male counterparts, and steps they can take to change it. Dr. Aisha Kashim discussed the challenges adolescent girls face when growing up. She spoke about the importance of informing young girls to make good decisions, specifically in relation to the impact of drugs, which can be detrimental to young girls' education and health. Jummai Garba, PhD, led the session on sexual assault, during which she discussed the physical, psychological, and emotional impacts of assault on young girls and how silence around the topic makes it difficult for young girls to report assaults.
Another important event involved in this project was the quiz competition, which was led by YES alumni. Student representatives from each school were chosen to participate in the competition and were quizzed on Nigeria’s history. Awards, medals, and certificates were given to the three best scoring schools.
Muhammad Saleem Ibrahim (YES 2014-2015, placed with FLAG in Zanesville, IN) said this event is important for alumni to host each year in order to encourage the participation in discussions related to social injustices that occur in Nigeria and all around the world. “Many of the girls have been denied their rights to go to school. This event has helped to give the participants hope for a better future, a future which they will build on their own, a future that doesn’t involve them being sexually harassed or denied their rights due to them being girls,” said Ibrahim.