By Talatu Maiwada
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) an NGO, has collaboration with the Cross River State Government, to provide a very friendly environment to educate the girl child in Nigeria.
The partnership which was signed at an event in Cross River on Thursday, was part of activities by the duo to mark the 2018 International Day of the Girl Child.
Speaking at the event organized for 150 girl children, Dr. Echey Ijezie, Country Program Director, said that the aim of the Foundation was to seek ways to creat an enabling platform for the development and well-being of the girl-child.
He said that the event would also create an avenue for young girls to share challenges bordering on their well-being and development.
He explained that AHF was interested in solutions that the students would proffer to creating an enabling environment that would support their development in schools.
“Our objective is to be able to rally the voices of every stakeholder, for our girls to have right to education in safety and dignity.
“We believe that through dialogue with girls and other stakeholders on girls’ rights, we can learn what works best to protect them while creating a supportive environment for their flourishing,’’ he said.
Speaking on safety in schools, access to safe and effective learning spaces and ending school-related gender based violence, Ijezie expressed AHF’s commitment to empowering women and young girls across the country and ensuring their well-being, dignity, development and productivity was well protected.
Speaking for the Cross River State government, Dr. Iyang Asibong, Commissioner for Health, lamented the high rate of teenage pregnancy at 17 percent in the state.
Asibong said the state government was committed to ending the trend of teenage pregnancy, while appreciating AHF for its initiatives and impact on women and girls in the state.
“The state government has built youth friendly centres in General Hospitals across the state to address challenges of young girls, and we are committed to doing more,” he said.
In the same vein, Dr. Kenneth Ehouzou, Head of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Cross River, said young girls contribute to Nigeria’s maternal mortality burden due to teenage pregnancy.
“Many young girls get pregnant at a young age, they face complications that are preventable and several times such situations have taken their lives.
“Presently we have about 12, 000 cases of fistula in Nigeria, most of these cases affects young girls thus, we need to do more in protecting and educating our girls as a society,’’ he said.
Miss Ama Archibong, a girl child advocate, further urged parents to listen more to their daughters and share in their concerns.
Archibong among several young girls held placards while calling on government to address issues that would impact their lives positively in all school environments.
Some of the placards read: “A safe learning environment that provides a sense of belonging and self-belief, an environment where a person is free to dream, dream to break the cycle of poverty and discrimination.
Others read: “we want an inclusive learning environment for students with disability, end violence in and around schools, and absence of gender based violence in schools among others.
The highlight of the event include, presentation of prizes to finalists of an essay competition instituted by AHF.