In line with its overall vision to build the health assets of young people, facilitate their access to health services and promote adherence to healthy behaviour, a non-profit organisation, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) has launched an adolescent health project for girls. Aptly tagged the BMZ SKILLZ Girl Project and sponsored by the German Government’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through StreetFootballWorld, the girls-only project targets over 2,000 girls aged 13 and 19 in disadvantaged communities in Lagos, Abuja, Akwa Ibom and Ogun states and centres on HIV/AIDS prevention, sexuality and life skills and aims at supporting young women and girls to better protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and make self-determined life decisions.
Present at the launch were YEDI’s Executive Director, Oje Ivagba, Head of Programmes, Tomisin Ojo and other staff members of the NGO; stakeholders and school teachers from beneficiary communities in Lagos; programme Peer Educators and beneficiaries of a previous SKILLZ Girl Project. Also present were Dr. Esther Somefun and Jaiyeola Anyanbolejo (UNFPA), Mrs. Peter-Popoola F.O (Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development), Mr. Taiwo Akinwale (Education District 1), Mr. Joseph Adeyinka (Education District 2), Mrs. Balogun Oluremi O. (Ministry of Education, Alausa), teachers representing various schools as well as the reigning Miss Nigeria, Miss Peace Mildred Ehiguese.
Speaking during the stakeholders’ briefing and launch of the project in Lagos, the Executive Director of YEDI, Oje Ivagba, stated that the objectives of the project were to improve the sexual and reproductive knowledge of adolescent girl thereby reducing risky sexual behaviour, the incidence of HIV and unintended pregnancies amongst girls aged of 13 to 19, as well as equip them with critical life skills training, health awareness and counselling that will enable them to make better decisions and become productive members of society. “The project will also build and develop a team of community role models who can deliver and monitor the project in their local communities, and promote physical activity and well-being through inclusive sport.” He also noted that the desired impact of the programme was to support adolescents’ positive and healthy transition into productive adults.
On her part, YEDI’s Head of Programmes Tomisin Ojo reiterated the organisation’s overarching vision of empowering young people with requisite knowledge to live healthy and avoid risky behavior.
“YEDI is very particular about empowering and educating young people and this project is specifically for young women and the girl-child. It is aimed at providing them with sexual and reproductive health awareness and life skills through innovative football curriculum; developing local community youth (notably women aged 18-28 years) who will deliver the interventions. We are also particular about raising HIV/AIDS and malaria awareness amongst young people using the in-school, out-of-school and community approach especially during international United Nations Observance Days.”
On why a special focus on adolescents, Tomisin was quick to quote from a 2011 study conducted by Action Health which stated that 25 per cent of adolescent girls surveyed had begun childbearing as early as 13 years old. “In addition, over 50 per cent of girls had experienced physical and sexual violence by their partner and had no support group or association outside of their families and religious organisations. “It is estimated that women make up over 50 per cent of the population of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria,” stated Tomisin during her presentation about the SKILLZ Girl Project. While thanking the sponsor of the BMZ SKILLZ Girl Project – the German Government’s BMZ and StreetFootballWorld, Oje noted that the convening power of football will be deployed in delivering the project.