That Saturday, March 20, young girls numbering 305 from a number of secondary schools in Lagos gathered at the hall of West Africa Theological Seminary, Ipaja.
They were brought together so they could be given direction on life, their sexuality and how to guard against sexual predators.
The event was put together by Anchor International Care and Humanitarian Initiative.
The summit with the theme, Identity is a pragmatic response to the happenings around given the increasing rate of sexual predators and the vulnerability of the girl child.
Identity for the girl-child according to the President of the NGO, Dr. Bolarinwa Omotosho “is about the quality of life of the girl child. It is about her purity, self-esteemed, character and how she can be God’s special person.”
But the summit was not just about the theme, Identity, it was also about acquiring vocational skills and how they could enhance their education by taking advantage of some insurance services.
The issue of identity which has to do with purity and their self-esteem however seemed to resonate more with the young girls whose looks betray their innocence or so it seemed.
Pastor Mrs Priscillia Omotosho was quick and witty about her delivery as she took them through the issue of identity.
Drawing largely from the Bible, she made the girls realise how special they are to God, to society and to their parents urging them to guard their identity jealously.
She stressed to them that their identity is their uniqueness. “It is that thing that makes you special. It is the way you are viewed by the world,” she said.
Breaking it down, she explained that everybody is defined by culture, profession, tribe, nationality, gender, religion and a host of other parameters.
She however noted that the girl child is defined by what she makes of herself which evolves over the course of her life. “This may include the aspect of your life that you have no control over, such as where you grew up or the colour of your skin, as well as choices you make in life; such as how you spend your time and what you believe.”
But then, she reminded them that since they are all God’s children and His beloved, they should work on their character, appearance, relationship with people, especially with the opposite sex.
Quoting from the Bible, she told the girls that they have been bought with a price and therefore should honour God with their bodies adding however that they have to be deliberate about giving honour to God in the way they live and relate with others.
To make it easy for the girls, Mrs Omotoso explained that the theme, Identity should be viewed as an acronym saying, I stands for: Identify with the right people, D-Distinguish yourself from darkness, E – Edify yourself with the word of God – N – Nurture your spirit with relevant Christian materials, T – Take heed – take heed to yourself, I – Imbibe Christian patterns, T – Think twice before you post something on the internet Y – Yearn for purity and holiness”
While concluding her delivery, she counselled the girls to always remain prayerful, listen to their parents, be free to share secrets with their parents and learn to cook while ensuring that they “hide” inside God so that men who want them in the future will be men who have also experienced God.
She said finally that “there is nothing ordinary about you. You are the daughter of the king and your story is significant.”
Say no to rape campaign
Dr. Omotosho came up with a rather graphic presentation giving the girls useful information that could help them stay free from sexual molestation.
He warned them specifically against the dangers inherent in the abuse of social media. He pointed out that there are many scammers out there who are only interested in taking advantage of them for sensual and selfish purposes.
He gave instances of ladies who fell prey to scammers on social media warning the young girls to be wary of who they make their friends, and how they relate with people online.
Giving the example of one post-graduate student of the University of Nasarawa, Miss Cynthia Osokogu who was killed by friends she met on Facebook, he warned them against being carried away by what they see on social media. “Not everything on social media is real. You need to open your eyes and ask questions. Make positive use of the internet,” he said.
Defining SCAM as Sexual violence without boundaries, C- Casual Relationship that will end in Hazard, A- Avenue for Emotional Trauma & Guilt and M- Mutilating your life, he said, “the Bible is already aware of these moral excesses. We are admonished to run away from youthful lust and pursue righteousness.
Omotosho also took time to take the girls through the evil of pornography and sexual sins warning that there are dire consequences for those who have been hooked to these vices. He urged the girls not to hesitate to report people who try to molest them or touch them in inappropriate places. “You have your tomorrow to guide jealously, don’t allow any man take advantage of you. Report cases of abuse as soon as possible.
“Don’t die in silence. The man who claims to love you now and wants to go to bed with you is deceiving you. He is only having lust in his heart and does not love you. If he claims to love you, he should not derail your education because usually, it is the girl child that bears the brunt of sexual sins.”
The official inauguration of #Stand To End Rape, Abuse of Social Media and Pornography ( STER- ASPAY) also took place right in the hall shortly after Omotosho’s delivery. The campaign is designed to end those vices among young people in Nigeria and Africa at Large.
And the skill acquisition scheme
Also at the forum, Managing Director JDP Global Concept, Mrs Olawumi Fakoya took the girls through some orientation on entrepreneurship urging them to learn some skills they can deploy to enhance their income after they might have left school.
She recalled she had started making money right from her primary school days by engaging in some enterprise saying, “today there are lots and lots of opportunity available to you that you can take advantage of to make money rather than depending on white-collar jobs that are not there.”
He encouraged the girls to begin to acquire skills in different vocations so that they will not be at the mercy of the labour market when they are through with their tertiary education. “Now is the time for you to learn various skills so that by the time you are through with schools, you can fall back on it,” she said.
The skill acquisition and vocational training is the training programme of Anchor International Centre for Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development (ACEND). The aim of ACEND is to Combat poverty and unemployment among young people in Africa by raising Transformational Next-generation leaders through innovation and skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development.
ACEND according to Dr. Omotosho is targeted at every unemployed African youth. The aim is to equip them to be an employer of labour in the future rather than being a job seeker and those who are employed can seek multiple streams of income.
Another lady, Bukola Ademola from Leadway Assurance Co Ltd also exposed the girls to insurances products they could take advantage of to help in their schooling.
The summit turned out to be a great time for the girls to ask probing questions about their sexuality and issues about relationship. The organisers took time to answer their questions while also giving them counsel on critical issues. It was also an opportunity to launch the say no to rape campaign
The Man ‘o” War award
The event also turned out to be an opportunity for the Man O War, Alimosho Chapter to decorate Dr. Omotosho with a lifetime award. The paramilitary body said it was impressed with the commitment of Omotoso to youth development urging him not to relent in moulding lives.
The Man o War decoration came with the appointment of Omotosho as life patron of the Chapter. The honour was bestowed on him because he is a lover of youths and because of his achievements in youth work for close to three decades and his selfless service to the community.
Present at the decoration was the South West Commandeer of the organisation, Mr. Innocent Okere, The Lagos Provost Marshal, Mr. Stevephen Morgan, Director of Special Duty, Lagos State, Ayodele Clement, Deputy Commander of Area C, Alimosho Zone and a host of other.
Many of the girls describe the summit as a lifetime opportunity for them. They expressed profound thanks to the organisers while also urging them to have more of such programme.
Dr. Omotosho hinted that the organisation has concluded plans to start a youth academy called, Anchor International Youths and Teens Work Academy with a vision to train pastors, teenagers, youth workers, educators and youth leaders on how to affect the lives of young people and motivate them in this present generation.
Resource persons for the event billed to hold on May 22 are drawn from institutions of higher learning and corporate organisations.
Story by Gbenga Osinaike