It’s the season of life, love & Health. The air is quite thick with echoes of love with its flavour. In its wake however, some would get hurt, some would conquer, many may become wiser too…All the same, It’s the season of Valentine!
The cluster of the young girls around the skills Facilitator, Mrs. Abosede Oyetunji and their enthusiasm at learning negotiating skills around love and health from Young Provider, Paulina Adeyemi, emphasizes the essence of Adolescent 360 (A360) Project, 9ja Girls.
The girls about 30 in all, comprise both out of school and in-school adolescents with ages 15-19 and had come in two batches to the “9ija Girls’ Youth Friendly Services, Alimosho Centre in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos; for a common purpose of acquiring skills that will make a difference in their lives especially when love fails.
Oyetunji is one of the Skills Facilitators who has been empowering the girls who come daily to follow up on acquiring special trade skills while Adeyemi, a Registered and certified Nurse, takes turn to share information on love and health and how the girls can safeguard their future.
15 year-old IfeOluwa Owolabi with the consent of her mother, Abike has been a regular beneficiary of skills acquisition at the centre.
She spoke with Healthstyleplus during a visit to the centre, “I actually had my first encounter with this centre when I came with a friend who told me the centre teaches skills that enable one to have sense of belonging as a “9ja girl”.
“Right now, I am learning to be a make-up artist as well as how to make air freshener and beads. I actually love to be a make-up artist so I make money also from tying gele (head tie) for fees”, said IfeOluwa.
The attraction that kept IfeOluwa close to the centre which makes her visit thrice a week for two hours is not only about the skills she is privileged to pick.
“Before now, I used to feel lots of pain when it comes to my monthly period and I had no idea what to do. I told the friend who brought me here and during a session of Love and Health, I was told what to do.
“The Youth Provider gave me needed information about menstrual pains and what to do and I now have less burden as I can take care of myself”, she proudly told our Correspondent.
Aside all these, IfeOluwa acknowledged, It was part of the skills picked from the centre on being close to one’s parents that embolden her to learn to speak to her mother about herself.
“My mom has started talking to me about Life, Love and Health especially on how to be neat during my period and change frequently to avoid stains.
AnuOluwapo Oluwatoyin is also another 15-year-old in Senior Secondary Class who shared her thought about the Youth Friendly Centre and the concept of 9ija Girls.
She is not a newcomer to the centre as she had an encounter as a Junior student of Ikotun Grammar School when she learnt from a Community Social Mobiliser that the centre helps with skills acquisition and vocations that can engage a young person to be more productive.
As a 13 year-old she had learnt how to make disinfectant and liquid soaps and air freshener a skill she told our Correspondent she now uses to help subsidize her pocket money from her parents. Now, at 15, Oluwatoyin has added bead making and says, she also sells to make money too.
At the Youth centre, Oluwatoyin said she was taught how bad associations with street guys can destroy an ambitious future.
“Here in Ikotun there are many street guys who have constituted themselves as influencers but since I have been equipped with skills, I know how to avoid pressure without making enemies.
“I know when these bad boys can be dangerous for me to avoid their gang.”
Perhaps more than anything, Oluwatoyin said, “I am confident and have that self-esteem about myself that I can be whatever I want to be and I am worth what I set out to be”, all thanks be to the Youth Friendly Centre.
According to Adeyemi, “Here at the Youth Centre, which was set up at the instance of Society for Family Health (SFH), I provide counselling for Adolescent girls within 15-19 on Life, Love and Health.
“Life in the sense that these young girls need to learn one skill or the other in order to be independent and not depend on everything from their parents.
“Skills acquisitions are mostly such as how to make liquid soaps, beads, Ankara bags etc to help augment their parents’ financial status.
“Under Love, we talk about relationships, dating crushes and sometimes too we talk about how to negotiate when it comes to negotiating friendship between either male or female and friends generally.
“Under Health, we talk majorly on menstrual hygiene, menstruation, how to calculate their calendar period, menstrual circles, sexually transmitted infections –STIs and how to prevent or treat if they have it”, said Paulina.
Adeyemi told Healthstyleplus how erroneous it could be for mothers or parents to generally just think “every young girl is an innocent virgin or that when empowered about sex and protection, that is a passport to become sexually active.
“In this suburb, I have encountered young girls of 13 years who came to the centre because they are infected with STI and they said they heard that they could be treated.
“We start by taking them through counselling sessions before we treat and follow up thereafter.. Sometimes some will lie that the infection is from toilets but by the time we sit to talk, they open up to tell us about their sexual activity. I let them know that STIs could lead to infertility and HIV which is real is not written on the forehead of anyone”, said Paulina.
The centre offers contraceptive services for the young and sexually active girls who come in to pick methods ranging from short active methods like pills and injectables or condoms “and whenever we have any of the long active methods, the big girls do pick up”, said Paulina.
Speaking on the idea behind the 9ija Girls programme of the A360 Project, Programmes Director, Society for Family Health, Hajia Fatima Mohammed described the Project as one which focuses attention on the girls in the community who ae the future generationnext.
According to Mohammed, “Principally, the SFH A360 project has components of Family Planning, Behaviour Change, Cultural Orientation /Context and meaningful youth engagement”.
She explained that the project uses a multidisciplinary approach like the Human Centred Design and Youth engagement approaches to design the 9ija Girls for unmarried young girls and the Matasa Matan Arewa Programme for married adolescent girls in Nigeria.
“In the project, the idea is to ensure young girls of sexually active ages (15-19) have access to modern contraception relevant and accessible to adolescent girls with unmet needs”. Said Mohammed.
She explained that community social mobilisers who know the girls encourage them to visit the centres for skills acquisition and pick up of services so the girls get skills to be self-independent and feed herself while she can get methods to protect herself from unwanted pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections”.