Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Giving a Voice to Adolescent Girls

Adolescent girls in Nigeria can face many challenges - especially in educationally disadvantaged states - from access to education, violence and forced child marriage.

Lacking access to information and a support network around her, many of these girls lack the skills or confidence to make decisions about their own lives.

Imagine creating an avenue so that young girls have a voice, encouraging them to be strong and confident in any environment they find themselves. Imagine an environment where girls have access to information that is helpful, motivating and also creating awareness for issues girls face in the society through personalized mentoring designed to enrich their lives.

Interestingly, there Girls Connect; a digital platform delivering a personalised experience for girls where they can access on-demand stories and conversations via a mobile phone.

It is a first of its kind partnership between Girl Effect, a creative not-for-profit that empowers girls through media rich content and iSON Group, one of Africa’s largest IT services and BPO companies with a presence across almost 25 African countries, aimed at enriching girls’ lives through technology. The program provides access to entertaining and informative content that they can select based on what most interests them, followed by real-life conversations to help make sense of what they have heard and help them apply it to their own lives.

Girls Connect exists to bring about a change, creating an immersive world where girls can satisfy their curiosities on their own terms .To empower young girls with skills, ideas and knowledge and to boost their confidence so they are vocal, and able to realize their powerful potential as young women. It is helping them avoid making mistakes and building confidence in their potential.

The service was trialled in two areas in Kano in 2017 and, in three months, received 44,000 calls from 7,700 callers. Girls, and their families, have been very positive about the service and how it has helped in building their confidence.

Take 15 year old Fatima, for example - before listening to Girls Connect, Fatima knew little about savings and its benefits. She used to sew as a means of generating income, which was used to settle family needs. On accessing the Girls Connect platform, she developed an interest and was inspired by the story of Rashida under the topic “Money”. After listening to Rasisha’s story, Fatima spoke to a Girls Connect role model and expressed her interest in applying prudent as Rashida. She was signposted to Aisha Halliru Youth Development Initiative (AYDI), an NGO in Kano, and was supported in opening a bank account to save her proceeds from sewing. Fatima also listened to the story on Social Media (Nafisa’s story) which inspired her to open a Facebook account as a way of advertising the clothes that she sews.

Another story is that of 17 year old Hafsat. Unable to attain the necessary grades to pass her exams and her family unable to pay her tuition fees, Hafsat had to drop out of school. Luckily, she found out about Girls Connect. Hafsat said she was inspired by Rashida’s story (Money) and listened to it over 10 times! On speaking to the Girls Connect role model, she asked for advice on how to engage in a vocational activity to help her realize her potential. The Girls Connect Role Model signposted her to a local mentor group where she is currently learning a vocation and her progress is being monitored.

The service will go live again in February/March 2018, extending state-wide across Kano and Edo, and offered in Hausa and Pidgin.

This initiative is the brainchild between Farah Ramzan Golant, the London-based CEO of Girl Effect, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a new normal with and for girls and Ramesh Awtaney, Founder & Chairman of iSON Group. As nearly half of iSON’s 10,000 employees in Africa are women, Awtaney decided to use his call center services to benefit Africa’s young women.

Currently being piloted in Northern Nigeria, the Girls Connect model offers the potential for rapid expansion to other countries in Africa and beyond.

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