I have lived all my life in a community where girls are usually seen and not heard. Most times, when girls are featured in the news, it is because something has been done to them or for them…not by them.
At the age of 13, I was selected to join the Nigerian Children’s Parliament having been nominated by my government studies teacher. This exposure has defined the work I do today. I began engaging in grassroots advocacy for child rights – with a laser focus on issues affecting girls like access to education and female genital mutilation.
It didn’t take long before I decided to devote my career to advocating for girls and women. I made the decision to become a lawyer and went on to establish the “Girl Pride Circle Initiative”, an NGO in Nigeria that advocates for girls rights and empowers girls to transform their communities.
A proud milestone in my advocacy journey was mobilising 270 girls to draft an unprecedented community action plan against sexual violence, which has now been adopted by Alimosho - the largest local government area in Lagos Nigeria with over 2,000,000 inhabitants.
Girls’ voices must be heard
I am excited to represent youth voices at the “Amplifying Girls’ and Women’s Voices in the Global Movement for Gender Equality” session hosted by Plan International at the European Development Days event this year.
A society that protects and empowers girls is a progressive one that has inclusion and respect for human rights at the core of its existence.
For me, it will definitely not be a “talk shop” where we come together to simply rehash the unwholesome statistics on women’s and girls’ human rights – the world is already familiar with that.
Rather, my focus will be on putting a spotlight on the opportunities to include adolescent girls’ dynamic voices in the global feminist movement.
Drawing from my work in Nigeria, I will be putting forward recommendations and key strategies that the global community can adapt to ensure that girls and young women are at the centre of advocacy efforts and interventions to protect their rights.
Influencing norm change in Nigeria
Currently, Nigeria ranks 122nd out of 144 countries in the 2017 Global Gender Gap Index. This is a reflection of the status of women and girls and how far we have to go in our quest to achieve sustainable development that leaves no-one behind. Challenging outdated social norms is a crucial part of advocacy because laws and policies do not operate in a vacuum.
For instance, the Nigerian Supreme Court declared, in a landmark decision, that a traditional custom barring female children from inheriting their deceased father’s estate, is unconstitutional. Despite this declaration of the Court 4 years ago, members of local communities still struggle to accept the equal status of boys and girls.
This is why my activism is deliberate about empowering girls with the requisite leadership and advocacy skills to influence change within their local communities. We cannot afford to leave this evolution to chance.
Investing in girls powers progress
Everyone deserves to live empowered and dignified lives. Girls are no exception. A society that protects and empowers girls is a progressive one that has inclusion and respect for human rights at the core of its existence. Girls’ rights are human rights.
Data is also clear that educating girls and protecting their health and well-being assures communities of numerous socio-economic dividends. Investing in girls powers progress for all.
Ola will be at this year's European Development Days taking place on 5th and 6th June in Brussels.