Girls as barrier breakers, problem solvers
It was an unusual sight in the Yusuf family in Akure, the Ondo State capital, last week as their 14-year old daughter, Boluwatife Chelsea, climbed a wooden ladder to get to the roof of their residential building in an attempt to put to use a skill she had just learnt. Boluwatife spent about 15 minutes mounting a small solar panel on the roof and proceeded to connect to it a light bulb inside the living room and then there was light, to the excitement of the whole household.
Boluwatife, who attends Messiah High School Akure, is one of the 368 freshly trained teenage girls from the 2021 edition of BEMORE BootCamp. Wearing her green camp uniform with pride, she successfully installed a solar light in her parents’ home just one day after graduating from the boot camp. Curious Boluwatife, of the SDG9 in the camp, had hardly settled down at home before she commenced the process of solar installation in her house.
Asked why she had to make immediate installation, Boluwatife, who had gone home with a brand new laptop, solar panel and clothing upon graduation from the Boot Camp, said: “Immediately I got home on Sunday morning, I just said let me try my knowledge of solar to be sure whether I know it or I don’t know it. I knew nothing about it before but I feel very happy now that I can do it.”
An initiative of the First Lady of Ondo State, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, BeMore is a two-week intensive training in Information Communication Technology (ICT), Solar Technology and other life-enhancing skills. The fourth edition of the Summer Boot Camp, tagged Bemore Ondo 2021, was held at Elizade University, Ilara-mokin, Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State, last week with 368 participants.
Educate a child and you have built a future for him and the community he represents. Needless to amplify the axiomatic saying that education unlocks the potentials inherent in a child.
The above is even much more rewarding when you educate a girl child because by so doing, you have built a nation. This is predicated on the limitless capacities an educated woman possesses and how she can translate those capacities into building a nation where development and inclusive growth reign supreme.
It’s against the background of the foregoing that the First Lady of Ondo State, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, among other several interventions of hers, has, since 2017, been committed to girl child empowerment through the instrumentality of technology.
To bridge the noticeable knowledge gap between the girl child and their male counterparts when it comes to technology savviness in Nigeria, Mrs. Akeredolu, in her characteristic, can-do-spirit manner, rather than continue whining and moaning about the pathetic situation as most will do, decided to rise to the occasion by founding and funding BEMORE, an initiative of hers, to empower the female child through the deployment of technological training.
BEMORE, by the founder’s vision, is an annual two week Summer BootCamp where girls, aged 10- 15, mostly sourced from rural communities, are made to undergo intensive training in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which covers computer appreciation, digital literacy, software development, coding, web and app designing, among others.
The participating pupils are also trained in renewable energy, solar panel development, solar PV installation, e.t.c. Aside the training in ICT and renewable energy, girls also get trained in other life enhancing skills such as bead making, liquid soap making, baking and pastries, drawing and painting, Gele tying, e.t.c.
She said, “BEMORE girls are carefully moulded with good character and empowered with diverse skills. They have been exposed to various apprenticeship and trainings that now arm them to be self reliant. With them, such nasty experiences where men take advantage of a girl child’s vulnerability is over. We are deliberately modeling these young ones to change the ill tides around the womenfolk, to change the narrative about women.”
#BeMore 2021: Encouraging philanthropic culture, promoting citizen-driven project
By Mary Agidi
The BeMore Empowered Initiative of Ondo State First Lady, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a gesture that was initially not reckoned with in some quarters, is now gaining momentum, and gradually changing the societal belief that some professions and skills are not for the girl child.
The initiative, which entails camping teenage girls for two weeks, where they are trained in Information and Communication Technology, Renewable energy and other life-enhancing skills, commenced in 2017 and had produced over 2,000 techy girls in Nigeria, majorly from Ondo State.
According to the founder of the initiative, the primary purpose of the Summer Bootcamp for Girls Naija was to bridge the gender-gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, (STEM) and to produce self-reliant female entrepreneurs.
Mrs Akeredolu came up with this idea having considered the low number of females in certain fields and professions, despite the fact that this gender wasn’t created with less intellectual ability than the male gender.
Through the BEMORE Empowered Initiative, the Ondo First Lady is on track to change the narrative and correct the archaic ideologies that subjugate and deter a girl child from choosing certain professions; especially technology and renewable energy; a norm that dominates African society.
With the recent development as a result of the wide coverage of the just concluded 2021 and fourth edition in Ondo State, coupled with the skills the girls showcased at the closing ceremony, men of calibre, including the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, have begun to plead with the First Lady to extend the gesture to boys.
This plea, undoubtedly, is coming out of fear that these girls that are being churned out fully equipped with STEM skills and knowledge about leadership, might take over the affairs of governance and industries in the future, bridging the gender gap in various fields of life.
As the 2021 edition of BeMore Summer Bootcamp for Girls Naija ended on Saturday, September 25th, no fewer than 368 participating girls returned to their various communities fully equipped with knowledge, Laptops, Solar home-lightening device that has three bulbs, and cash prizes.
A week after the 2021 Summer Bootcamp closed, reports started pouring in on how the girls have started lighting up their houses, proffering solution to electricity problems; some have started producing reusable Sanitary Pads and hand bags. Some were seen climbing the roof to install solar panel and connect it to the charger control to generate electricity for their homes; a skill they acquired at the summer bootcamp.
In Nigeria, First Ladies’ projects are known to go into extinction immediately after the expiration of their husbands’ tenure, but to avert this ugly development and sustain BeMore in Ondo State beyond the current administration, Mrs Akeredolu has ensured that the initiative is not government-sponsored but citizen-driven.
With this, it’s obvious that aside serving as an avenue to raise future female technology leaders, the initiative is also encouraging well-meaning individuals and organisations to embrace philanthropy by giving back to their immediate environment.
BeMore Empowered Initiative is also apolitical as persons outside the All Progressives Congress fold are buying into the vision. The likes of Senator Bode Olajumoke, who sponsored 17 girls from his local government to the camp, described the initiative as a welcome development worthy of investing in. As if sponsorship wasn’t enough, the renowned PDP stalwart upon listening to the testimonies of one of his girls who represented her SDG Class during Solar exhibition, summoned his friend who owns a Solar company and handed her over to him for further training in renewable energy till she gets admission into the university.
BeMore is really promoting collaboration among the citizenry for societal development irrespective of social, religion, tribal, and political differences. Without this initiative, none of the sponsors could have thought of purchasing such quantity of laptops and solar devices for girls in their constituencies despite having the money. BeMore is an eye-opener. With 368 houses powered with Solar, and 368 girls having laptops, Ondo is gradually becoming a state full of digital girls, and saying bye to darkness.
At the closing ceremony held at the main auditorium of Federal University of Technology, (FUTA), the graduands showcased all they learned within the two weeks Bootcamp to the guests, ranging from installation of solar panel, Artwork, ICT, bead making, among others. Guests were amazed.
Outstanding girls were rewarded with prizes which included N100,000 worth of scholarship each for five best girls who performed excellently well in the renewable energy training, to be trained at ASHDAM Solar Academy.
Other partners of the BeMore Empowered Initiative including the CSI Media, announced a cash prize of N50,000 for best performing girl in essay writing; while the Matrix Lab Technology gave N100,000 cash prize to three best performing girls in ICT Computer-Based Test.
The closing activities featured Art Auditioning where 10 girls crafted the portrait of the First Lady of Ondo State and Founder of the Initiative, Mrs Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu; five focused on Shredded paper work, while the other five did a pencil work. These girls came to the camp as novices.
The discovered Artists were all motivated with cash prizes by the Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF), and supported by other guests. These girls were drilled within the two weeks to become professional Artists, and can now make profit from the skill, likewise other skills like making of detergent, hygiene products, bags and cake baking.
Some guests at the event, after inspecting the exhibition stand and watching the girls’ staged performances, commended the Founder for transforming the lives of the girls. The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said the Founder deserves an applause for equipping the girls with trainings that covered all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bothered by the issue of sustaining the initiative beyond the Akeredolu-led administration, since it’s not a government-driven project, the Minister, who was represented by Dr. Yemi Gbadegesin, expressed the readiness of FUTA’s Engineering departments to take up the training of the girls in some areas of STEM in collaboration with the office of the First Lady.
On her part, the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Bwari Branch, Abuja, Engr Halimat Adediran, who described the initiative as magnanimous and life transforming, noted that having followed the Bootcamp’s activities keenly, she had realized that Nigeria is missing a lot by not giving girls opportunities to explore their potentials despite the fact the female population is more than that of the male.
According to her, a knowledge-based economy is the best way to equip any youth with skills to confront the challenges facing the Nigerian society, which the BeMore Empowered Initiative stands to achieve. She, therefore, encouraged the girls to take a clue from the gesture of the First Lady by extending the knowledge they’ve acquired to their fellow girls and others that would come across them in life; saying “be always willing to invest in others”.
The girls got all-round education including early morning fitness exercise which formed part of their daily routine throughout their stay in the bootcamp. They were introduced to sport and Yoga exercise.
The girls were also introduced to “Health Talk on Cervical Cancer Prevention: The Mother-Daughter Collaboration”. Dr. Isiaka Lawal who handled the session, noted that if girls are well-grounded in the cancer awareness, it would be easy to reduce the scourge. The girls were taught Breast Self Examination, personal hygiene, menstruation management and Taekwondo Martial Art as self-defense against sexual molestation and harassment.
The girls, who were divided into groups according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, all received Certificates of Participation.
Agidi is the Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Media (Office of the First Lady).