News The African Way

UNESCO Empowers Over 5 Million Girls On Reproductive Health, Life-Saving Education


By Justina Auta

Officer-in-Charge of UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja Nigeria, Mr Lamine Sow says over five million girls from 10 states have been empowered on reproductive health, life-saving education, among others.

Sow made this known during an interactive session with girls from selected schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on State of Nigerian Girls.

He said that the empowerment was under the UN body’s “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” (03) Programme in Abia, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Imo, Lagos, Nassarawa, Taraba and the FCT between 2018 to 2022.

He added that the programme enabled the girls to realise their positive health, education, and gender equality outcomes through sustained reduction in HIV new infections, early and unintended pregnancy, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child marriage.

He explained that “the programme raised awareness through advocacy and sensitisation to duty bearers, built the capacity of teachers, developed resources to address school-related GBV.

“It also integrated indicators to monitor progress in the Educational Management Information System (EMIS).

“As a result of these interventions, over five million adolescent girls and young women received life-saving education, information, skills to make informed decisions about their sexual reproductive health, well-being and achieve their goals.”

He added that the organisation also had the “Promoting School Health and Education for Girls in Africa in the COVID-19 Era” Project that prioritised girls’ sexual reproductive health and wellbeing, elimination of GBV.”

Sow said that the project was being piloted in Ebonyi, as assessment showed that many out-of-school children were due to poverty, early and unintended pregnancy, sexual and GBV issues.”

He quoted the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2021) conducted by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as indicating that 73 per cent of both boys and girls in Nigeria complete primary school.

“In Junior Secondary Schools, boys complete two per cent higher than girls, while in Senior Secondary Schools, it is 57 per cent for males and 51 per cent for girls,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the survey measures government’s progress toward national commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals.

NAN also reports that MICS was developed by UNICEF to assist countries in filling data gaps for monitoring human development indicators in general and the situation of children and women, in particular.

The UNESCO Officer-in-Charge, therefore, called for improved access to education for the girl-child, to be financially independent, and improved child and maternal health.

Ms Maria Machicado, UNICEF’s Gender Adviser, stressed the need for men and boys to be part of the conversation on girl-child education, and urged girls to aspire toward achieving their potential.

She said “we are happy to be working together, supporting those important policies to make sure no girl-child is left behind.

“No girl with disabilities, no girl that has a child should be left behind, all of them have to go back to school,” she said

On her part, Ms Uller Mueller,the Country Representative, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said early marriage and unplanned pregnancies are the biggest risks to girl-child education and development.

Mueller, therefore, urged government to provide strong political commitment that would ensure adolescent girls got life-saving education and sexual reproductive health services.

Also, Dr Folake David, the Director, Basic Education, Ministry of Education, called on state governments to domesticate and implement gender policy on education.

She said “we beckon on state governments to domesticate and implement this policy and a lot of states have also shown interest in ensuring that the right of girls are protected.”

Mrs Mariam Shaibu, the Assistant Director, Child Development Department, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, said the ministry and other development partners collaborated to ensure that out-of-school children returned and remained in school.

Shaibu said “the ministry has carried out intervention in promoting girl-child education.

“We have also carried out other interventions on mental health, adolescents and child health, menstrual health and hygiene management.”

Miss Jemimah Dauda, a 10-year-old basic 5 pupil, appealed to government to improve access to education for the girl-child, especially out of school children and address insecurity.

She said “I will like government to help the girls anytime, especially out of school children who roam around.

“They should be enrolled in school to enable them to have better future in life.

“Government should also help deploy security in Borno and other states to address insecurity.”

NAN reports that other highlights of the day include panel discussions, poem recitations, among others. (NAN).

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