When I started a campaign to retain girls in school, I knew I was doing something noble and significant, but never imagined the joy that would follow.
I had advocated for educating the girl child to whatever level she desires and tried through Life Aid, (an NGO i founded) to sponsor the very disadvantaged ones to at least High school.
It has seemed like a very daunting task, but we tried to do what we could to make a difference in the lives of our girls.
The case of Ene, one of our beneficiaries would warm even cold hearts.
She was a seventeen year old whom teenage pregnant could have stopped temporarily or permanently her education.
She was manipulated by her aunt who practically put her in harm's way for financial gains. Ene made deliveries of a local drink to the aunt's male customers. Some took advantage of her and one eventually got her pregnant.
On discovery of the pregnancy, the aunt still saw prospects of more financial gains and wanted to marry her off. That was when Ene reached out to her sister, through whom we got to know about it.
It was a long process, but we intervened and we're able to stop any marriage.
Pregnancy out of wedlock around this part of the world is still a very big deal . The family in a bid to cover the "shame" just plans a marriage irrespective of age, emotional maturity, financial capability or circumstances leading to the pregnancy.
Thankfully, we influenced against a marriage. Ene's ordeal came in great measures, because having scaled one, another one would come .
She decided she wanted to continue schooling, but she had a government policy against pregnant students stare her in the face. Pregnant girls can't be in school.
Help came when we could raise funds for her to register as an external student for her Junior secondary School examination. Tutors were paid to give her private lessons at home. . The fee for this special exams too were paid by us.
She was one determined soul. She was glad we could pay for her when her family could not afford it. and so she put in her best. She battled with the shame of being laughed at . People do not have have sympathy for pregnant unmarried girls. She battled with stress of pregnancy adding to her preparing for an exam.
Her dream to be a computer Engineer kept her going. And just last month it paid off as she has her Junior secondary School certificate.
She passed every one of those subjects well. And she has her baby! To crown it all, she didn't have to stop school then and so has gone on with her senior secondary Schooling.
We see in every life of the girls that we have helped to stay on in school that a little help can go a long way! Even in ways that can not be quantified.
With education, girls like Ene can make informed decisions about their bodies, their rights and their future.
With education, they can be anything they want to be.
With education, they can break the limitations the society places on them.They can fight stigma, shaming of any sort.
Like Ene, education helps them know they don't have to be defined by their present circumstances. Education gives them a platform to fight for their places in the world.
Just today, we added three more girls to the list of girls we are sponsoring.
We may not know right now exactly how their lives are impacted but we await when we hear them. We know our hearts will be warmed again, for they will be stories of impact.