Improving lives of Nigerian girls

Improving lives of Nigerian girls

Nusaiba Yusuf, 17, grew up on the streets and the only trade she knew was begging for alms to survive in Kano. But succour came her way when she was integrated into a business value chain and taught how to make money. Little did she know that the business training was an attempt to get her off the street.

Nusaiba got a business grant and started her petty trading which saw her off the street as she concentrated on her business and now has a better means of livelihood that no longer exposes her to danger.


Elizabeth Adebayo is a single mother who ran away from her family to Lagos when she discovered she was pregnant and could not go to school any longer. She was discovered and also enrolled into an intervention programme and integrated into a business value chain.

She started her business with the grant she received by getting a crate of soft drinks which she sold. She has now moved up to 64 crates as the business is thriving.


The teenage single mother has through this intervention been able to enroll her child in school thereby breaking inter-generational poverty she otherwise would have lived in.

These two individuals are out of 18,000 girls that have benefitted from a Mercy Corp implemented programme sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) to support marginalised girls between the ages of 16 and 19 years to improve their learning outcomes and economic status across four states in Nigeria.

A recent Demographic Health Survey conducted by the United  Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that over 13 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the largest in the world presently.

The deputy programme lead, Mercy Corp for Educating Nigerian Girls in  New Enterprises (ENGINE II), Joy Aderele, at a capacity building workshop on gender sensitive and social inclusion sensitive reporting in Abuja said, the intervention programme is focused on reaching marginalised girls in three states – Kano, Kaduna, Lagos and the FCT.

“We are working with girls that are in school and those out-of-school. Those in school, we help in improving their learning outcomes so that they can complete their education and those out-of-school we are helping them to return to school and also improving their livelihood,” she said.

She said the training is one of their interventions to improve the ecosystem of support around the girls, explaining the girl-child cannot make decisions on her own so, people around her – parents, community leaders, and religious leaders – are encouraged to help her and make decisions that support her.

“We know that the media is powerful and they influence behaviours. If you want to break barriers and stereotype around girls, you need to engage the media and that is why this training becomes necessary, to equip journalists for gender sensitive reporting that will ultimately improve the lives of Nigerian girls,” the deputy programme lead said.

The Mercy Corp intervention programme has been able to reach 18,000 girls with 12,000 in the North and 6,000 in Lagos State.

Aderele said the choice for the targeted area was based on research made available to them on where the most marginalised girls are based, she said adding that “these are areas where we have high needs for the girl child. With the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, we can see that the need is enormous.”

“Our intervention programme for the girls in school is to help them remain in school. One of the reasons why girls stay out of school is if they are not doing well. We ensured they are doing well and that is why we help in improving their learning outcome by providing tutoring for them on how to excel in their subject area.

“We also provide scholarship for them when it comes to transitional exams. A lot of them drop out when it comes to registering for junior WAEC or SSCE.

“For the out of school, we provide literacy and numeracy for those that have never being to school through our partnership with the Agency for Mass Education.  For those that have dropped out, we provide intense coaching to prepare them for exams and we also provide business grants for those that already have family so that they have a means of livelihood.”

She added that when a woman is not empowered, her children may end up like her but when you help a girl, you’re breaking intergenerational poverty because she will be able to help her children and send them to school and equip them for a great future. “Our success stories are diverse on girls who were very low on confidence but now have improved and are able to go about their day-to-day lives in a better way.”

A media development trainer, Lauratu Abdulsalam, who said the project is targeted towards the girl child and the barriers they are facing in accessing education, said they are trying to bring in media professionals to see what those barriers are and how to relate to them and report them with the mindset of having the private and public organisations ad policy makers to help girls in lifting off those barriers.

She said there is a huge gap when it comes to access to education for the girl child, adding that the cultural factor is also feasible.

“In the North, we see that the extent to which the girls are not educated is really very obvious. The programme is working on information and research available for them and based on this information, we are addressing the northern part more and that is not to say we are not going to other parts of the country but are focusing on where we have the prevalence.”

She said the programme will go a long way to help because in the North there are many girls and women that really desire to go to school.

“There are so many parents that want their girls to go to school, so many parents, faith-based organisations and cultural organisations that want their girls to go to school.”

“Despite the cultural barrier and insurgency that limit the girls’ ability to go to school and also seek for knowledge, there is a subtle shift to see girls aspire to be what they want to be with very good support from the community and household.

“It is unlike what we see before where parents were keen in marrying off their girls at early age; there is a shift as a result of these interventions going on. Girls are also demonstrating that they can be trusted,” the media development trainer said.

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