By Simileoluwa Ashimolowo, Ibrahim Hamza Ibrahim, Roselyn Odey, Foluwakemi Ogunkua
The 9ja Girls project an initiative aimed at empowering adolescent girls between the ages of 15-19 years old in Ogun State, has recorded significant achievements in the implementation of its economic empowerment pilot phase. The 9ja Girls project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and implemented by the Society for Family Health (SFH). The pilot phase of the project focused on equipping adolescent girls with the necessary skills and tools to become economically independent and financially literate. The project provided training and mentoring on entrepreneurship, financial management, and vocational skills.
The phase of the project lasted for 9 months, and during this period, the project team implemented various interventions aimed at improving the health and socio-economic status of the girls. 853 girls successfully completed and graduated from the program.
The impact of the project has been significant, with the girls recording tangible improvements in their lives as the project provided vocational training and entrepreneurship skills to equip girls with the knowledge and skills needed to start and run their businesses successfully. As a result, many of the girls were able to start their businesses and became financially independent. Funmilayo, one of the beneficiaries, shared her story, “Before I joined this project, I was always dependent on my parents for everything. I could not even afford my basic needs like sanitary pads. But now, I have my own business, and I can provide for myself and my family. I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Another beneficiary, Blessing added, “This project has given me hope for the future. I had an unintended pregnancy before learning of this program and I never thought I could achieve my dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but with the training and support, I have received, I am confident that I can make it.”
The ES project has also had a ripple effect on the wider community. Ife, a community member and a friend of a beneficiary, said, “I have seen the positive changes in my friends who passed through the programs, they are now more hardworking and focused and it has inspired me to start my own business. This project has not only empowered the girls but also empowered the entire community.”
Additionally, the project also focused on improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls by providing comprehensive SRH education and services throughout the life of the program as a result, the girls gained comprehensive knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, and in a beneficiary’s word, “I now understand the changes in my body and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies“.
The project also helped to impact the attitude and behavior of adolescent girls positively. The ES program educated the girls on social and cultural issues that could impact their physical and emotional well-being. The girls became empowered to make healthy choices and avoid unhealthy behaviors. A beneficiary remarked, “I have learned how to make healthy choices that would promote my well-being. I am confident of navigating the challenges that come my way.”
The ES project has indeed made a remarkable impact on the lives of adolescent girls in Ogun State. Through the economic empowerment pilot phase, these girls have gained the skills and resources to overcome challenges and realize their full potential.
In conclusion, the ES program in Ogun State has transformed the lives of many adolescent girls in the state. Through the interventions implemented during the pilot phase, the girls gained economic independence, improved their health, and made healthy choices that would impact their future positively. The project’s success story speaks volumes about the impact of investing in the well-being of adolescent girls. Furthermore, the success of this project is an inspiration to other organizations and governments to invest and integrate both SRH and economic empowerment strategies for adolescent girls programming to achieve a well-rounded result. As we strive for gender equality and sustainable development.