The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Imo State government have engaged school girls in the state on building their capabilities in sexual health and rights of the girl child.
The state government through its Ministry of Gender And Vulnerable Groups Affairs and UNICEF organised the joint training programme for Imo young girls from 10 years to 19 years, drawn from communities in Owerri West Local Government Area and Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state.
The two-day programme with the theme: “Life Skill Training to Young Girls (in and out of school) to Enhance their Capacities in their Families and Communities” featured lectures on peer education, adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights; life building skills, gender issues, female genital mutilation (FGM), and planning, monitoring and evaluating peer education programme, among others.
Speaking at the opening session of the training, UNICEF Chief of Field Officer, Enugu, Dr Ibrahim Conteh, explained that the programme was designed to educate and equip the selected girls with basic skills that would enable them to train their peers and the larger community on issues of adolescent sexual and reproductive health/rights.
Dr Conteh advised the participants to take the training seriously, saying it would go a long way in shaping their lifestyle for a better future, adding that near absence or total lack of sex education in the society had gravely hampered the life and wellbeing of adolescents especially girls.
He remarked that training young girls on sexual and reproductive health issues would enhance their capacity in resisting all forms of sexual abuses meted out to young girls and women under the guise of cultural practices.
The UNICEF chief reminded the girls that adolescence was “a murky, slippery and dicey period in the life of every girl child”, and warned that those who were not properly guided at that stage often ended in misery and regret.
Conteh, who was represented by Ben Mbakwem, UNICEF representative (Imo and Ebonyi states) cautioned girls to guard against sexual abuses and teenage pregnancy, noting that “lack of information on sexuality, curiosity, peer pressure, desire for money/material things, child marriage, failure to use contraceptives and risky behaviours inhibited positive growth and progress of the girl child.”
He advised them to imbibe positive values that would enable them to grow into responsible adults in the society just as he enjoined them to carry what they had learnt at the programme home and avail their peers of the information they gathered.
Two resource persons, Rebecca Ugwuanya and Idara Effiong taught the participants management of menstrual cycles and urged them to shun myths and misconceptions about their sexual and reproductive health.
Also speaking, UNICEF Desk Officer in the Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Groups Affairs, Austin Okoro, expressed gratitude to UNICEF for partnering with the state government in educating girls on the need to be conscious of their sexual rights.
Speaking at Ehime Mbano Local Government headquarters, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Obagali Amajioyi, also charged the participants to take the lecturers seriously, saying it would help them when they matured as ladies.
Amajioyi, who represented the Commissioner in the ministry, Mrs Nkechi Ugwuanyi, thanked UNICEF for sponsoring the programme.