FGM Monthly Article – October 2020

African First Ladies Call for Greater Protection, Equal Opportunity for Girl-child. The African First Ladies Peace Mission, AFLPM, has called for equal opportunities and greater protection of the girl child from gender-based violence, and harmful practices. The body of wives of African Heads of States and Governments made the call in a goodwill message by the Acting Chairperson and Nigerian First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, 2020, with the theme “My voice, our equal future”. In a statement signed by the Special Assistant to the President on African First Ladies Mission, AFLM, Dr. Mairo Almakura, Mrs. Buhari also urged African leaders to equip every girl child with quality education and new skills that would ultimately help them to be self-reliant as a woman. “On this occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, I, on behalf of my sisters, the rest of the African First Ladies, felicitate with our girls on their special day and salute their resilience in the midst of daunting challenges. “That the African society is culturally tilted against the girl child is not in doubt. The onus is therefore on us as regional bodies, international development funders and partners, national governments and subnational governments, corporate bodies, Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations and indeed as parents, guardians and individuals to scale up attention and resources towards supporting them to enjoy life and actualize their potentials. “We must heed and indeed amplify their yearnings for equal opportunity and protection from gender-based violence as well as harmful practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation that lower their self-esteem, deem their future, and cause them physical harms and needless deaths”, Mrs. Buhari said. The Chairperson of AFLPM equally tasked African governments and stakeholders on more attention and resources towards protecting the girl child from HIV and AIDS and encourage them to stand out as advocates for change. “We must build and support them to tell their own stories and stand out as advocates and agents for social change. Importantly, we must make skill acquisition and affordable quality education an overriding priority across the continent”, she stated. She wished African girl-child a happy...

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Self-Evaluation Questionnaire

Today we had an outing with thirty-one girls from two informal settlements. The girls were happy to meet up again, and even more excited to be grouped up with other teenagers in their age group. We had an ice breaker which included the girls introducing themselves, sharing where they go to school and what class they are in as well as the name of their community. Some of these girls had already been attending our mentorship classes, but we had a few new faces. The new girls were happy to be part of the team; they wished they’d known about the club earlier and benefited from the previous discussions.  Grace and Elizabeth briefing the girls as they get ready to answer the Questionnaire. After the briefing, each girl received stationery and a Questionnaire. They happily moved into their corners and got ready for the self-evaluation. We could see the girls deep in thought as they answered the questions.  The girls keenly going through the questions. ‘Re-shaking’ their thoughts as written on the young girl’s t-shirt…. The exercise was a necessary opportunity for the girls to pause and self-reflect. We needed to determine through their answers whether what we have been teaching the girls has created an impact. Their answers will help us evaluate and see areas where the girls need additional mentoring and counselling. After the Questionnaires were answered, we read some of the responses aloud and discussed the various answers we received, at length. Discussion after the Questionnaire. From their responses, it was clear that the students are seriously thinking about their lives and aspiring to make the right choices. We showed them understanding and unconditional positive regard concerning their various life challenges. As much as we want to know more about the girls and their plans in life by talking to them and encouraging them, we are also hoping to pass on the messages, below: We have respect for who you are and who you can become. We want to know you. You are unique and valuable. We believe in you. We have time for you. We learn when we listen to you. You are valued and respected. We need you here. Happy bright faces. After the session we took a nature walk; nothing refreshes the mind like clean fresh air and the quiet that fills the air as everyone admires God’s creations. Nature walk to refresh...

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Feedback On Self Love

We received positive and encouraging feedback from our discussions with the girls in the clubs we’ve formed. A group of 5 girls came together this week and underwent a self-evaluation session. Since they all live in the same community, they all undergo similar challenges. The girls resolved to look out for each other and promised to be better behaved. Some have been engaging in inappropriate relationships where they were obtaining money to maintain a false standard and self-image. The majority of these girls have received gift items like mobile phones, money, clothes, food and toiletries from the opposite sex in exchange for sexual favors. After the discussion we had with the girls on self-love, they decided to stop entertaining the men and collecting gifts from them but rather to look for manual jobs that can give them an honest income. Simple household chores like washing and ironing people’s clothes, cleaning and cooking, and baby-sitting are jobs that are easy to come by. The girls plan to save the money they will earn to buy secondhand clothes to resell and make a profit. They can also buy grains like maize, green grams and millet which can be used to make porridge when blended together. Two of the girls bucked the norm by cutting their hair said they realize now that short hair is easier and cost free to maintain. They no longer suffer from the peer pressure that bullies every girl into feeling the need to braid her hair in order to look good. In this regard, we have come up with a quiz that the girls will answer to further prompt them to continue to work positively on themselves. Their answers will, hopefully, provide us insight on areas we need to work on to continue to help them. Questions from the Quiz: What do I love about my life? What do I feel like my life is missing, and how can I get more of what I need? Where do I want to be in 5 years? Who are the people in my life that make me the happiest? When am I the happiest version of me? What do I love doing? What am I afraid to do? Can I improve on any of my daily habits? What steps am I taking to reach my goals? What makes me upset? How can I add to my happiness? Am I...

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Girl Support Clubs

Finding someone to confide in and to tell their most innermost thoughts to- is something most girls lack, especially those living in the informal settlements. Valvisions intends to pat the girls on their backs and say: “We believe in you and want to offer you the space and understanding to change your life for the better.” In Africa, it is more profitable to educate the boys in the family as opposed to the girls. We have heard stories of mothers in other countries who have actually strangled newborn daughters at birth as a girl is often considered a liability rather than a value. Millions of girls the world over are subjected to abuse, child labor, trafficking, child marriage, and other offenses. An educated girl is more likely to provide for herself and her family’s good health; she will also be better positioned to take care of her own children when they come into her life. As the Choice Clubs have halted for now due to the closing of schools, we are forming clubs in the slum-areas in an effort to teach the girls there the need to see their worth and to love themselves deeply despite the many challenges they face. Providing a forum of love and compassion for these girls will, hopefully, help them navigate life with more ease. These girls come from communities where alcohol and drug abuse is the order of the day; they look forward to an activity that gets them away from the mundane life in the slums. A group of 13 girls sit in a makeshift hall listening to a discussion on self-love in relationships, especially those concerning the opposite sex. Most girls’ clubs are single-sex environments, enabling girls to meet, learn and discuss issues that affect their lives without the presence of boys, who might dominate discussions or make it harder for girls to reflect on gender inequalities. For this reason, we label these gatherings as ‘safe spaces.’ Gender norms typically assign girls a heavy burden of domestic labor, which limits the time they can spend studying, and in turn affects their progress through school and subsequent job opportunities. Gender norms also limit girls’ free movement outside the home, and their ability to socialize outside their family. As a result, many adolescent girls feel isolated and disempowered, and have limited aspirations for their future beyond imminent marriage. Girls’ clubs are an increasingly popular approach...

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Self-Love

The month of August was mostly spent outdoors with different groups of girls from informal settlements in Nairobi. We engaged in various activities like nature walks which the girls found very insightful; they were really at ease outdoors such that opening up to their issues was easier for them. They were indeed very excited and took pictures showing how much they were appreciating the environment. Hiking, and Zumba classes were other activities that got the teen’s adrenalin running. Hiking showed them how tough and resilient they can all be. Zumba was fun; they had an amazing time dancing to the music and keenly following the moves of the Zumba trainer. Each activity ended up with a talk, and a shared meal. We catered to a total of 50 girls during these sessions. The issues that came forth during the discussions were predominantly based on relationships, family matters, and poverty, amongst others. Relationship issues were discussed in all of the groups. Grace, picking up on the girls’ confusion surrounding relationships, was quick to point out that depending on other people to feel loved often results in unhealthy relationships, not only with others, but also with themselves. “The more you love yourself,” Grace explained, “the more love you can give to others, and the more love you will attract from ‘the right kind’ of others. Work on loving yourself first,” Grace suggested, “in the way you would want someone in future relationships to love you.”  The majority of the girls Grace spoke with lacked parental love and attention and were looking for both from the opposite sex. As a result, most were engaging in relationships that ended up hurting them and damaging their self-esteem. The stories Grace listened to were generally the same- the girls’ core questions turning to relationship issues with a significant other. Most of the girls Grace spoke with informed her they went into relationships with high expectations but with a total lack of grounded preparation. Grace tried to explain to the girls the importance of understanding themselves before committing to a relationship. By understanding themselves first, the girls will subliminally come to understand what they are looking for in a significant relationship. The two go hand-in-hand. How a girl treats herself sends out a clear message to those around her as to how she expects to be treated. When a female knows her own self-worth, others will either follow suit or...

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