Women and girls in Cross River State, Nigeria face many hardships including gender-based violence, something they receive very little protection from. As a result, Plan International Nigeria is helping adolescent girls build life skills and acquire knowledge to claim their rights in Calabar.
“I have seen women who have suffered,” explains 15 year old Esther. “When I was in my first year of high school, there was a female teacher who was cheated. She was from the east of Nigeria, and she lost all her husband’s property to his family.”
The practice of dispossessing widows their property is common. To be able to defend women who face oppression and abuse, Esther resolved to study hard to become a lawyer.
“We need to break that unacceptable attitude. Recently, there was a case of an attempted rape in our neighbourhood,” Esther shares. “It has to do with the traditional belief system that girls are not important. We are all equal in the eyes of God.”
Esther is a beneficiary of Plan International Nigeria’s Better Life Options Opportunities Model+ (BLOOM+) programme, which is helping teenagers build life skills, including self-confidence, interpersonal communication techniques and career planning. The programme, which is sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, also includes a Youth Action Mapper on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 goals adopted by world leaders in September 2015 to eliminate poverty, confront inequality, and address environmental concerns. The goals require action from rich, poor, and middle-income countries to improve the lives of their own citizens and people outside of their borders.
Esther says SDGs goal 1 (focusing on poverty) and 5 (on gender equality) have become her top priorities.
“A big thank you to Plan International and it’s partners. You don’t know how much you have changed our lives. It’s a privilege for me to be involved in this pilot project and I am proud to be a mapper. I want to see a world where women and men are given equal opportunities to do everything.”