No Future for Africa Without Equal Access to Education for Women
Benedicta Chukwuyem Apuamah: "Welcoming new ideas"
Women empowerment has been at the core of the Foundations work in sub-Saharan Africa for a number of years now. There are issues that existed before the pandemic that will most likely exist post the pandemic. What then can be done now to drive a new narrative along with the new normal to ensure that the African agenda for women empowerment and gender equality doesn’t fall away as the world re-looks into the future? We have collaborated with COGNOS International, a German private education company that operates universities and educational projects worldwide. COGNOS is running female empowerment programmes in several countries in Africa together with FNF Africa.
Benedicta Chukwuyem Apuamah is a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree holder who is passionate about working towards the Sustainable Development Goals. She recently participated in a training and networking session on Decision Making & Personal Performance Female Empowerment Programme in June 2021 organised by COGNOS International and FNF Africa.
Born into a family of academics in a small town in Southern Nigeria. Benedicta came face to face with her educational prospects at a young age. "My father is a university lecturer and my mom is a high school principal." Her parents could afford to send her to an all-girls boarding school, which became the foundation of the kind of work she does now. "Going home during the school holidays, I observed an increase in teenage pregnancy in my community, causing a rise in numbers of out-of-school girls." Benedicta observed that local teenagers didn't have access to proper sex eduction and a safe space to express themselves without judgment. She decided to create that space for them. "The teen-age is one full of many challenges. From raging hormones to physical and emotional changes. Utilising my pharmaceutical background as well as my youth leadership skills, I took initiative to approach school heads in my community to release their students to attend our Campaign Against Teenage Pregnancy. The schools obliged and we had over 300 students in attendance," she says.
The Campaign Against Teenage Pregnancy taught its students about sex eduction and provided them with an opportunity to ask all the questions they've been yearning to ask without any judgment giving them room to express themselves. "This project had experienced speakers, religious and community leaders in attendance," adds Benedicta. Although, the COVID-19 pandemic has further amplified the gender gap in eduction, her work attracted the attention of ONE Campaign, a campaign and advocacy organisation.
Today, Benedicta runs the organisation, Girls for Development Goals Foundation (formerly Girls Health and Education Foundation). Their projects include advocacy, campaign against teenage pregnancy, a Valentines Day project titled "A Love Letter to Myself" and a self-esteem project where they support girls with sanitary products to keep them in school during their period to list a few. "I could do all of these because I was educated and the fact that I was open to new ideas. Although, my background is in pharmacy, my passion for community development and public health drove me to welcome new ideas that could advance the United Nations Global Goals," says Benedicta.
Benedicta believe that in order to advance quality education in not only Southern Nigeria but Nigeria as a whole, the following should be put into consideration:
- Inclusion of youth friendly centres & safe spaces (where proper sex education is taught) in schools which should be run by mostly young people.
- Policy that encourages & supports out of school teen mothers to return to school.
"I envisage a future where the quality of education in all regions of the country is standard, a future where the Nigerian education is enough to enable one to compete favourably globally."