I can connect the dots of my advocacy career backwards to 13 years ago, when I was selected to join the Nigerian Children’s Parliament. As a Child Parliamentarian, I spent 4 of my impressionable teenage years participating in high-level consultations with policy makers and creating awareness about the provisions of the Child Rights Law across media platforms and local communities. More than anything else, this early exposure brought me closer to the barrage of issues that the average girl child confronts, which includes unequal access to education, child marriage, and sexual violence.
In Nigeria today, 1 out of 4 girls is a victim of sexual violence. Also, 2 in every 3 out-of-school children are girls and 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday. Clearly, the girl child is under attack – with widespread discrimination against women/girls, gross under-investment in girls and a lingering culture of silence serving as the greatest implements of terror.
I was a final year law student with $27 in my bank account when I founded Girl Pride Circle Initiative – a registered girls’ rights advocacy NGO in Nigeria. Over the past 4 years, Girl Pride Circle has collaborated with community gatekeepers across South West Nigeria to advocate for optimum investment in the girl child as well as the protection of girls rights. In 2017, we successfully drafted an unprecedented action plan for the prevention of sexual violence in Alimosho – the largest local government area in Lagos State, with over 2,000,000 inhabitants. This action plan has been adopted by the local government and is currently in the hands of over 1,500 community leaders, guiding local interventions for the prevention of sexual violence. Through our after-school education clubs and grassroots workshops, we have also reached over 1,700 adolescent girls, educating them about their sexual and reproductive health and rights while equipping them with practical leadership and advocacy skills to speak up for their rights – for themselves and by themselves.
As a qualified lawyer, my legal training has equipped me to defend the rights of the defenseless, pursue equity and seek justice above all. While I am a passionate advocate for girls and women’s rights, I do not seek to become the voice of adolescent girls in my community. Indeed, my mission is to raise a dynamic generation of girls who are unapologetic about championing their rights.
More on Olaoluwa: http://youngleadersfordev.org/author/olaoluwa-abagun/