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EOF: Protecting potential of young girls in Nigeria, others | The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

It was to chart a new course for the girl-child, from lack of access to menstrual education to the risks of involvement in human trafficking, that the Emmanuel Osemota Foundation (EOF), a multinational nonprofit organisation empowering local communities in Nigeria and South Florida through accessible education and high-quality , stepped in.

With research revealing that the girl-child in the aforementioned communities and world over is at risk, the organisation developed a keen interest in supporting these vulnerable individuals.

The Chief Executive of the foundation, Emmanuel Osemota, who noted that the root causes of such inequality are difficult to pin down listed shame surrounding menstrual health, poor access to education, the stigma surrounding professional careers and unfortunately, exposure to child labour, early marriage, drug usage, sexual abuse, and more, as some of the challenges young girls face throughout their adolescence life.

The Foundation's goal of squashing out inequalities also aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5, which advocates gender equality by recognising the importance of giving the girl child a significant voice, by providing tangible healthcare education to alleviate menstrual healthcare and sex trafficking, which do not only prevent them from reaching their goals but also threaten lives around the globe.

The US-based Nigerian epidemiologist, Osemota, giving more insight on the foundation's goal said: “One of EOF initiatives, officially named ‘Girl Child Initiative: Invest in A Girl, Power the Future,' is aimed at equipping girls and those around them.”

According to Osemota, the organisation believes that the society, nation, and world will benefit from less poverty, less illiteracy, accelerated economy and eventually a more equitable society.

At the core of every society are love, power, and potential of women and girls who have been taken for granted for too long and subjected to vitriolic abuse. “The sooner we nip women's issues in the bud by protecting girls in their adolescence, the sooner we can overcome the painful impacts of violent inequality.”

Human trafficking is the second challenge the foundation is working hard to tackle, especially in Edo State. Osemota said: “Though the foundation provides education and healthcare opportunities to impoverished people in need, it also recognises that without addressing the violent trend of human trafficking, these other tactics fall by the wayside.”

He identified women in Edo State as part of those that are most vulnerable to human trafficking in the entire world.

“In Edo State, far too many young women and girls are enticed to join such schemes, often with the end goal of sexual exploitation and labour extraction in Europe and other foreign nations.

“On a global scale, human trafficking is now a $150 billion industry, with the average age of trafficked women just 14 years old,” Osemota said.

According to the 2017 International Organisation for Migration (IOM) demographics, of 119,000 migrants who arrived in Italy, 18,185 migrants were Nigerians, 5,425 were women. The IOM believes that up to 80 per cent were victims of trafficking, and estimated that 94 per cent were from Edo State.

These findings, according to Osemota, are backed by research from Reuters, which in 2018 ranked Nigeria as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for human trafficking exposure.

“In a recent report in 2022, the Nigerian Report listed 852 government investigations in potential trafficking cases, 323 were sex-related, 168 were labour-related, and 361 went unspecified,” the epidemiologist noted.

“With strong ties to these victims in Edo, the EOF bemoans the severity of the problem, as the rates of human trafficking are not showing any signs of improvement in the region, and the nature of the activity makes it difficult to track.

“In working with people in the region, the EOF has seen time and time again that one of the main factors driving naive girls into such situations is the quality of life for these adolescents in their own country. They view life as inherently better outside Edo State, especially the rural areas, resulting in even more allure to promises of a better life elsewhere – despite the danger of entering these trafficking circles.”

The EOF chief executive identified the quality of life factor as a key component of understanding the severity of this issue.

“These women need to be protected through authentically cultivated relationships of trust by addressing health and social issues with results-oriented planning, by which we can limit the perpetuation of trafficking.

“With these considerations at the forefront of the EOF, educating vulnerable girls with genuine connections is a core mission in everything our team undertakes. From community roadshows to staying connected to girls for years at a time, public and personal engagement is critical.”

On the connection between the trafficking schemes in Florida, USA and Edo State, Nigeria, Osemota said:
“Though Edo State, Nigeria and South Florida, USA, may not seem to have much in common at face value, a look behind the curtain of girlhood and human trafficking in both regions reveals many similarities.

“In the United States, remains a hushed-up issue. It may be discussed openly on a broader scale. Still, on an individual scale, only 30 per cent of sexual assault cases are ever reported, per research from the RAINN/Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“South Florida, particularly Orlando, is not where young women have the to seek help. With such poor reporting surrounding the frequency of sexual assault, it's safe to say the severity of these crimes is rampant and unreported.

“In Florida, young women are being targeted strategically and deceptively, they are being approached by strangers who ask for directions or offer modeling jobs and are thrown into vans in broad daylight. It is concern for this tactic that led to the launch of the EOF in South Florida, with believe that stopping such styles of human trafficking begins with girl-child education and advocacy.”

On the menstrual hygiene kit for adolescents, Osemota said: “Unfortunately for some young girls in Edo State, from the arrival of their menstruation cycle, they suffer from shame, confusion, and embarrassment. And due to a lack of education and resources, these young people frequently use unsanitary materials such as newspapers, rags, leaves, and tissue paper.

“The stigma of menstruation is issue enough, but this is coupled with the risks of poor healthcare education when forced to use unsanitary methods, they risk increased exposure to infection.

“Equally as concerning is the taboo surrounding the topic, some girls are forced to sell sexual exploits to access supplies. And, due to shame, there's a trend of skipping classes during menstruation or dropping out of school entirely.

“To address this tragic situation innocent girls are forced to face, EOF expanded its scope to distribute menstrual hygiene products to about 5,000 girls in schools across Edo State, starting with Benin City, as well as Miramar, South Florida.

“Embedded in EOF's outreach programmes is the belief that by tackling menstrual shame, girls can stay in school longer, reap the benefits of an education, and avoid the threat of human trafficking.”

The epidemologist suggested grassroots approach to connecting communities with girl child initiatives.

“Legislation and high-level government officials can have an impact on these issues, but they aren't the full solution. Someone needs to work on the ground with community leaders, someone has to communicate with state and local officials to champion programmes, and someone has to get them to the target audience. That's where EOF comes in.

“We are all about synergy, by working with multiple organisations from multiple levels and building relationships with victims, we can advocate for stronger laws and provide direct protection for those who need us most.” For example, the EOF has trained community leaders on the best practices for advocating for women actively caught in trafficking schemes.

“This blend of short-term and long-term tactics make up the foundation of ‘Girl Child Initiative: Invest in A Girl, Power the Future,' a collection of programmes designed to awaken communities to the severity of these issues, educate women about their health, and host symposiums to shine light on the dangers at hand for those who want to help.”

Osemota is, however, pleased to see a decrease in the dropout rate among schoolgirls in their target regions, a key step in giving them the tools they need to be self-sufficient.

He said: “The overarching goal of each smaller programme is to raise a generation of powerful women who, in the long run, will be in charge of minimising poverty, ending gender-based violence, putting a stop to genital mutilation practices, and more.

“With EOF officially registered with the Nigerian and United States governments in 2019 and 2020, the organisation has been able to pioneer medical outreaches, fund entrepreneurship projects, increase human trafficking , deliver educational drives, and empower community activists.

“In everything we do, the goal is sustainability. We don't want to be the band-aid solution; we want to heal wounds that enable lasting change. We are looking forward to the rest of the year to come, the EOF will continue to look for ways to expand its grassroots initiatives while remaining focused on the organisation's North Star, the protection of the potential of young women and girls around the globe.” 

 

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.

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PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

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EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.

ABOUT PBJ LEARNING

PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials online course is used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to potential victims. Learn on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.