Very recently, I read with dismay an online article credited to the British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Laure Beaufils, which stated that about 36% of Nigerian teenage girls from ages15 to 19 are mothers. This, of course has become a worrisome trend, not just because girls are the most vulnerable in the society but much more because if their welfare is neglected, the society becomes deeply and negatively affected.
It was therefore against this backdrop that Beaufils expressed British government’s commitment to tacking the numerous challenges confronting the girlchild in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos State, where the influx of visitors has resulted in our having so many hapless girls on the streets, with no education or means of livelihood. According to the envoy, the British government effort is geared towards taking girls out of the streets and ensuring that they acquire literacy, numeracy and entrepreneurial skills.
It is believed that such knowledge would unlock the potentials of the girls who before now had little or no education as well as grant them access to new opportunities that could improve their lives and the society at large.
It was against this backdrop that we at Bestspring Foundation recently engaged young women in our Adolescent Mothers Club at Ijegun for a vocational training exercise that was facilitated by Omotola Bisuga Jesusina. The primary aim was to create a more structured platform for them to acquire livelihood skills and support them to improve their learning outcomes and economic status.
Interestingly, the program had in attendance new comers; yes, pregnant teenagers with no clue as to what the future holds; two pregnant girls, aged 16 and 18 that had to drop out of school few months ago due to their pregnancies and are currently going through emotional distress as a result of rejection and poverty. Theirs is indeed pathetic because even with six/seven months old pregnancies respectively, both of them have no means of livelihood- no job, no skill, no business.
But after spending one hour with me at an interactive session where we addressed the issues causing fear and apprehension (health, food and emotional stability) and examined possible intervention measures, they were encouraged. They also spent ample time with our trainer Omotola alongside other members of the Adolescent Mothers Club as she taught them how to make Perfume, Air-freshener and Insecticide. At the end of the day, Yemi and Shade went home with some ray of hope and new sense of direction.
Of course it’s the preamble. We are gradually laying the foundation; training the minds of these pregnant girls/young mothers to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel; that they are not hopeless and helpless; that they can make something beautiful with their lives; that they can take a second chance at life; that they can acquire skills to earn income; that they don’t have to be liability to anyone; that they can have economic power and above all we at Bestspring Foundation are willing to give them and their children all the necessary support.
Yes! I uphold that a girl’s life and dreams should not come to a halt because she got pregnant while in school. She deserves a second chance and should be encouraged to shake off the dust and forge ahead. Let's unite and end the shame game! Let's heal their hurts and restore hope to them and their vulnerable children.