What do you do when you experience something traumatic? Some people go through the tides and hope to forget, while others make it their mission to bring about positive community change.
Justina Oziohu Isimishere was only 10 when she first saw a baby in a carton with a knife piercing its heart. A few years later, while in secondary school, she knew of a girl who birth to a baby and attempted to flush it because it was an unplanned pregnancy.
In Nigeria, unplanned pregnancy is prevalent. According to Oye-Adeniran’s et al., research carried out in two Southwestern Nigerian states, the rate of unwanted pregnancy is 26.6% while that of abortion prevalence is 21.7%. However, Ms Isimishere’s experiences would later make her start The Second Voice Foundation, a non-governmental organisation for less privileged girls with unplanned pregnancies.
She told SheHUB.tv : “Whenever I visit social media and see stories and pictures of baby abandonment, baby selling and babies found dead, it reminds me of my experience as a child seeing such, so I became inspired to start my agency.”
Ms Isimishere is from Kogi State and mother of four. She studied mass communication at Auchi Polytechnic Edo State in 2010. She further obtained a Master’s degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies at Benue State University, Makurdi.
According to recent United Nations Population Fund projections, by 2023, Nigeria may record 700,000 unintended pregnancies, leading to 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions. However, Ms Isimishere is doing her part to reduce the rate at which unplanned babies are sold, killed, and abandoned through her foundation.
“Every child deserves a right to life and should not pay the price of the mistakes of their parents. We must first save the carrier (the mother) to save a baby. Currently, at our shelter in Makurdi Benue State, we put many programmes in place to get the mother skilled and empowered,” she said.
Ujunwa Emilia Okeadu, popularly known as Uju Nice, is another woman helping girls in her community. She founded the initiative Unique Wellness Care Foundation (UWCF) in Kaduna to address the plight of vulnerable girls through long-term social support and care.
She told SheHUB.tv:
“We live in a world where gender inequality, prostitution, and molestation of the girl child, amongst others, is prevalent. Amidst this malady, the female child is mostly the victim. Undoubtedly, hundreds of our younger girls have been forced into early marriage, and some go into prostitution just to make ends meet. These problems cause me great distress, so I decided to do something about it.”
Born in 1984 and a mother of three, Uju Nice is from Anambra State. She studied Statistics at Imo State University. Through her foundation, Uju Nice provides free medical outreach for adolescents regarding their sexual and productive health. She also provides internships, vocational training, mentorship and counselling to needy girls.
According to the country’s minister of women’s affairs, Pauline Tallen, more than 37 million girls and women in Nigeria cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. In Feb. 2023, as part of Uju Nice’s outreach initiatives, she distributed sanitary pads to girls in her community –Kaduna.
The Directorate of Women Affairs National Youth Council of Nigeria Cross River State Chapter Nancy Daniels is another woman committed to serving women and girls.
A graduate of Cross River University of Technology, Cross River State, Ms Daniels is a personality development coach, quote writer, and women and child rights advocate. Her contribution to women’s rights advocacy earned her many appointments, including the SSA Gender and Women Development and Director Gender Inclusion, Future Team Nigeria.
Also, the founder of Echo for Tomorrow, her initiative is saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the rights of women and children in Calabar. She told SheHUB.tv:
“In our communities, women are mostly marginalised based on certain social reasons, one of which relates to her being referred to as a ‘weaker gender’ that should only manage the home instead of the boardroom. Thus, the Echo for Tomorrow Initiative was founded out of a passion to address most issues affecting women and girls and to reawaken hope for all. We believe that a balanced society must promote inclusion for women in decision-making; therefore, we need to advocate a safe space for them all.”
According to UNICEF, 7.6 million girls are out of school in Nigeria. Three million nine hundred thousand girls are out of school at the primary level and 3.7 million at the junior secondary level. More than 50% of girls are not attending school at the basic education level, and in each cohort, one million girls drop out between the first and last year of primary school, and 0.6 million between P6 and JSS1.
Following this, the Echo for Tomorrow Initiative campaigns for girls’ rights to education. They further aid in school sensitisation and teach girls how to practice sexual hygiene.
As part of Ms Daniels’ work towards bettering girls’ lives, her outreach distributed sanitary pads for UNICROSS Staff Secondary School Students in Calabar. Due to the agency’s work, Nancy Daniels has received many recognitions, including the Young Emerging Female Leader, Influential Leader, Influential Speaker and Young Entrepreneur Award from the National Youths Council of Nigeria Cross River State Chapter, MOGi Global Leadership School. She also received an award from Jonah Togbah School of Leadership and Development.
While “women supporting women” is sometimes used as a cliche in many forums, the act is true for Nigerian women who devout their time and resources to transform the lives of women and girls in their immediate community.
Simbiat Bakare is a journalist who resides in Lagos, Nigeria.