Eminent Nigerians and a European Union diplomat, have thrown their weights behind the ‘Book over Tray’ advocacy championed by a non-governmental organisation, the Green Heart Impact Foundation (GHIF), which advocates more investments in quality education for Nigerian children, especially the girl-child.
The ‘Book over Tray’ initiative, according to GHIF President, Munira Suleiman Tanimu, is aimed at taking girl hawkers, from JSS1 – SS3 in every state of the federation, off the street and enrolling them in a school while also empowering their mothers.
Speaking at the GHIF Gala Night held recently in Abuja, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, former Minister of Women Affairs, Zainab Maina, and chairperson of Better Life Program for the African Rural Women, Aisha Babangida, all made cases for improved funding and collaborative efforts for the girl-child education as a major way of achieving fairer and more egalitarian society.
The EU Ambassador, Ketil Karlsen said the abuse and maltreatment of the girl-child obviously impedes their intellectual advancement in the society and is also a restriction on opportunities that they should have.
According to him, “We are all conscious that we do have a problem with the way young girls and women are abused and maltreated and that is why we are here today. We see this in statistics and numbers but I’m sure that we see it in our friends, colleagues and families”
The Ambassador opined that, “we can begin to have a better Nigeria for all,” with increased funding for girl-child and more collaborative efforts to empower more women, like the GHIF is doing by taking girl-hawkers off the streets to the classroom.
“It is wonderful to know that there are so many people among us like the GHIF that are working committedly to ensure every girl is in school and if we have more girls in schools, we can have more girls in employment, more girls making choices with their lives and their careers,” Karlsen said.
On her part, a former minister of Women Affairs, Zainab Maina, identified the role of religious and traditional institutions in the education of the girl-child.
She said, “We have culture and tradition that sometimes is very difficult to change. I believe that with young women and men and with constant advocacy, we are going to change it. We are changing it with NGOs like GHIF who are helping parents because most of these girls hawking are doing so because their parents send them out to look for money to feed the family but if they can be empowered the way GHIF is going, I am sure we can change the narrative”.
In her remarks, GHIF President, Tanimu, said that the driving force behind the No-To-Child-Hawking initiative, was borne out of her desire to ensure every girl child of school age attains her full potentials.
“Our organisation is currently training 52 girls on full scholarships covering tuition, monthly allowance, books, school uniform, mattresses. We have also empowered 52 mothers alike so that they can resist the temptation of withdrawing their girls back to street hawking. This project is fully-funded by GHIF” Tanimu said.
Chairperson, Better Life Program for the African Rural Women, Aisha Babangida, also called on all major stakeholders to continue to raise awareness and collaborate with more non-profit organisations so as to get more girls back to school.
A major high point of the event was the conferment of a honourary award on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for his consistent advocacy for girl-child education.
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