NPO Focuses on Nurturing the Girl-child for Nation Building

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By Vanessa Obioha

To help further the cause for the girl-child to attain equality in the society, Raising Women Initiative (RWI), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to empowering and amplifying the voices of girls and women, recently held its Raising Girls Summit (RGS).

The summit which took place at the Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, attracted over 2,000 virtual and physical attendees.

Conceptualised in the UK in 2014, and launched in Nigeria in 2015, this year’s edition themed ‘Amplifying the Voices of Boys and Girls for Change’, had speakers centring their talks on identifying and understanding the basic challenges faced by boys and girls, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic; harnessing education, arts, science and technology to predict and control future models towards achieving effective empowerment goals; and educating its target audience on the role government, stakeholders, caregivers and parents play towards attaining change.

Leading the pack, RWI’s founder, May Ikeora gave the opening remark where she highlighted competencies (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication) essential to empowering young girls, women, and boys in today’s society.

She also projected the power women and girls potentially wield in the national decision-making process through her Register, Educate and Vote (REV) Project aimed at increasing the participation of women and girls in politics.

Shifting away from politics and the role of women in it, artist Polly Alakija leaned into her personal life experiences to project how arts can help convey strong messages of change.

“What can I do that nobody else is doing here? Or what is it I can do that is difficult for others to do. And what it is, is using my art to empower people; to tell messages, to tell stories. I empower people through arts and education. So we use the arts very broadly, very holistically. It is not about creating a nation of little artists, but it is about creating a nation of empowered young people.”

She continued: “Prior COVID, we were talking about the 4Cs, which are the four soft skills of the 21st century: creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. So those are the skills we need in our young people. That’s where the arts and culture come in… it switches it on. It gets you thinking, asking questions, working together.”

With the pandemic limiting movement and restricting millions to work from home, Alakija also highlighted the need to adopt 22nd-century skills: compassion, caring, culture, and thinking, to keep the economy thriving, and the family unit functional.

Buttressing Alakija’s speech on arts and education, Patricia Lamour, an educationalist based in London, hammered the need to re-evaluate the quality of education young people currently have access to. She believes this will better position them to attain their full potentials in a technologically advanced world.

She also spoke on the need to teach about identity using race as a backdrop. This, she believes, would help Africans in the diaspora find the self-esteem to forge ahead.

On gender roles, CEO, Magic Carpet Studios, Ferdinand Adimefe streamlined his speech to emphasize on the disservice done to boys who are deprived of the opportunities of life skills at home that will help them fare well in the future.

As part of its empowerment plans through Mentor Matcher UK that seeks to connect girls globally, five girls were awarded the sum of N100,000 each to fund their education and businesses.

From next year, the summit intends to hold yearly on October 11, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.