Empowering the Nigerian Girl-child

by Binta Iliyasu (ELP 2015), Nigeria

I returned from ELP 2015 with great enthusiasm and determination to make a difference. I am taking on the challenge in Northern Nigeria, advocating for female youth education and women’s participation in Agricultural Research and Development.

I began by conducting a Role Modelling Event at the Government Girls Secondary School Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria in collaboration with the Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research for Development (NiWARD), the Gender Policy Unit, Office of the Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Centre for Girls' Education (a unit under the Population and Reproductive Health Initiative of the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria PRHI/ABUTH, Nigera), and Savannah Resource Foundation (NGO). I used my story (which I developed at the Beahrs ELP 2015) to share my personal career journey as a Hausa girl, just like those at the Government Girls Secondary School.

Image iconFellow-Mentor-Mentee-with-students-1024x682_2.jpg Fellow, Mentor & Mentee with students

I shared how I pursued education at the University during a time when female youth education was unheard of throughout the entire community of hundreds of households. I shared how I became the best student overall at my graduation and the first female University graduate from that community. I also shared my current research towards the development of a vaccine to fight against African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness in humans and 'nagana' or 'sammore' in animals), a serious threat to the development of agriculture and food security in sub-Saharan Africa despite Africa's huge agricultural potentials. I encouraged them to study hard and join me to fight against poverty, hunger and underdevelopment through their engagement in Agricultural Science education. This motivation was timely as Nigerians are desperately looking forward to a positive change and a way out of the current crisis due to the abandonment of agriculture and the heavy reliance on crude oil.

Image iconNewspaper-225x300_2.jpgThe presentation titled “Empowering the Girl-child educationally and agriculturally'' was covered by the media and subsequently aired throughout West Africa (reaching the remotest parts that have no access to television or print media) through a series of Radio Nigeria broadcasts. After the presentation, there was a Q&A session. The questions that emerged during the Q&A session include: “Binta, how can we support or join you?”, “Our parents are poor, how do we get to the University?”, and “Who will pay our way to the University?” The Role modelling exercise yielded positive results as young girls in the school chorused, “I want to be like Binta, I want to be like Binta!”

Right now, I am faced with the challenge of sourcing for sponsorship for these girls as I get motivated to do much more. Often, girls are given out in marriage in order to settle debts or escape responsibility, especially when the fathers die. This happens mostly after the completion of Junior or Senior Secondary School, no matter how intelligent they may be.

Secondly, I have completed my two-year fellowship with the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and I was recognized as the best overall in the West African sub-Regional progress monitoring meeting in Ghana. Finally, I have concluded the primary screening of the DNA vaccine, and I am at the final stage of my final PhD program, awaiting the final external defense.