While attending a panel conducted by the Women Consortium of Nigeria, I had the pleasure to hear from Pearl Osamudiame who works as a facilitator for the non-government organization called Girl’s Power Initiative (GPI). She explains that GPI’s mission is to empower girls for the realization of a gender equal society where women are visible and valued actors. With this in mind, they work with young women ages 10-18 through educational programs, counseling, referral services, and social action.
In particular, Ms. Osamudiame explains why girls are so susceptible to trafficking and abuse. With pervasive poverty and unemployment, many families face economic hardships and lack sufficient support from government policies. Since women are generally more committed than men to repaying off debt, they will face more parental pressure to improve the family’s economic condition. Combined with the higher marketability of women and their lower social status, girls are more likely to be targeted for trafficking. Agents in trafficking will even try to convince the girl’s parents, boyfriends, and other family relationships of the economic benefit, and they will in turn sell the idea to the girl.
To help combat these problems, GPI helps girls in the years when they are most vulnerable to deception and pressure. They empower girl through skill training, education, and economic support such as providing micro loans and grants. Along with direct involvement, GPI also documents cases of trafficking and works to improve curriculum to provide a larger awareness of these issues. As girls become aware of dangers, learn self-sufficiency skills, and cooperate with other women from similar backgrounds, they are more likely to resist the pressure of trafficking and abuse.
Many challenges still remain for girls as trafficking moves from urban to rural areas and total gender equality yet remains unrealized. However, each young woman that GPI touches is one step closer to ending trafficking and gender abuse. As more people, groups, and government departments work together with the same goals of empowering women, then everyone may yet see the end to such violence and crime.