06 Aug Creating a Safe Space for Vulnerable Girls
In cases of social unrest, children and young people are most vulnerable. North-East Nigeria has experienced over 11 years of conflict arising from attacks by Non-state Armed Groups and over 60 percent of the affected displaced persons are children. With our established infrastructure, our network of partners and trusted recognition as a reliable partner in quality care, SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria (SOS CVN) remains committed to helping the most vulnerable children and families through our Emergency Response Programme.
SOS CVN has been in Nigeria since 1973, responding to the needs of children without parental care and those on the verge of losing parental care through an alternative care system, family strengthening, and youth empowerment programmes. In Borno State, North-East Nigeria, SOS CVN is implementing a Humanitarian Response Programme which consists of child protection, food security and livelihoods, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene projects in Gonidamgari and Alajiri communities of Maiduguri, Borno State.
In the quarter under review, SOS CVN has reached 2,022 children (999 boys and 1023 girls) with play therapy and psychosocial support in Gonidamgari and Alajiri communities in Maiduguri. 380 vulnerable caregivers have been provided with food packages and 392 households have been supported with cash transfers to enable them to take care of their families.
As part of the SOS CVN Emergency Response Programme, our child protection programme which focuses on developing community structures to safeguard and protect the rights of children has established Child Protection Project in Gonidamgari and Alajiri Communities. Under this project, SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria established a Child-Friendly Space to provide a suitable environment for conflict-affected children to enjoy their livelihoods to the fullest and form social bonds. The place provides children with a protected environment in which they participate in organized activities to play, socialize, learn, and express themselves as they rebuild their lives under the guidance of trained community social workers. One of the activities in these Child-Friendly Spaces is the Girls Clubs.
The club also empowers them to shift gender norms, attitudes, and practices in their communities; while also giving them access to mentors and role models. The club exposes the girls to leadership roles, and tasks them to aspire to leadership; while directing their energy into education, basic life, and vocational skills. Some of the topics of interest to the girls are Teenage Pregnancy, Body Image, Menstrual Hygiene Management, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Personal Hygiene, and Peer Pressure.
The club meetings consist of 20-30 girls per cluster, in line with the NCDC directives for gathering, and also for effective communication and interactions during their meeting. It also helps with a seamless monitoring and reporting process. This allows for more than one cluster per club location. Participants who are within the ages of 10-25 and are either a part of any of the SOS CVN programmes or reside in the communities of our programme locations have found themselves being more knowledgeable about gender/female issues and can now freely interact, play and ask questions.
A club member, 16year old Amina Shuaibu, who was forcefully displaced from her home in Guzamala Local Government Area, after Non-State Armed Groups killed her father and destroyed their home; together with her mother and two younger siblings found their way to Alajiri community where they live in a temporary shelter. Amina followed other children and adolescents to the Child-Friendly Space supported by SOS CVN in the community. She joined the Girls Club, tagged “Cigaban Al’Umma”- meaning Progressive Community.
By participating in the play, learning, and psychosocial support, Amina has overcome her fear of interacting with people and has gone back to school. She wants to become a teacher in the future. In addition, her mother was registered as a new arrival under SOS Emergency Response and received food packages and cash transfers to enable her take care of Amina and her siblings.
Amina has this to say, “When I came here, I did not like to meet with people. But when I went to the SOS Child Friendly Space, I met other girls who were happy to be my friends. I am happy to belong to the Girls’ Club because I have been able to learn new things and ask questions about things that I am too shy to ask at home. I have gone back to school and will like to become a teacher in the future.”