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Story and Perspective

Scaling Up: Giving Adolescents More Power Through Skill Development and Peer Mentorship

Written by: Bayo Ewuola

Photos: Bayo Ewuola

Nigeria

“…I was thinking that when I finish school, I will find a job and become what I want to become”, says Treasure. “When they came, they gave us an idea that, even when you are in school, you can monetize your skills to empower yourself.”

Treasure Otene with a reusable sanitary pad. Photo: Bayo Ewuola

The Scale Up of Empowered Choices Project enhanced the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents in Kobi community, a slum area located in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. The project employed guided peer learning sessions and life skills empowerment to develop the agency and acuity of the young people in healthy decision making.

Given that a significant portion of Nigeria’s population consists of adolescents and young people, this effort is tailored to an important context. Poor reproductive health outcomes and alarming rates of adolescent pregnancy have been exacerbated by unmet sexual and reproductive health needs. In the Federal Capital Territory, 14% of girls become pregnant before reaching 18 years of age, representing a remarkably high percentage of teenage pregnancies. Teenagers with the opportunity to learn life empowerment skills are more likely to make informed choices and take advantage of important health, educational, and employment possibilities in the future.

Pathfinder worked with peer mentors and local organizations to teach peers about HIV, puberty, menstruation, and menstrual hygiene management. In conversation with the community, the project developed skills-building workshops reflective of the most in-demand trades, equipping adolescents with tools to increase their agency.

Nancy Felix, Peer Educator. Photo: Bayo Ewuola.

Peer-Led Mentorship Sessions

Drawing from results of the needs assessment carried out prior to the intervention, Pathfinder modified the National Peer Mentorship Curriculum to facilitate sessions and guarantee that adolescents and young people have an improved understanding of their sexual and reproductive health and necessary life skills. Participants learned about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and how important it is to be aware of their status. They also learned about the connection between poverty and risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex.

“I did not know making liquid soap could be that easy. I made some quantity, and it came out really good. That makes me excited,” Mary said, smiling. Mary wishes to become a lawyer, and the goal setting session provided her with more clarity. “To become a lawyer, I will need to face my studies, and pass all related subjects. I believe I can,” she said confidently.

Mary Joshua. Photo: Bayo Ewuola

Skills Development

To empower the peers, Pathfinder collaborated with local organizations.

  • Shoe Making: We led the shoe-making workshop, familiarizing participants with materials and teaching them how to cut out and construct shoe patterns. Each participant received instructions on how to construct a pair of leather palm slippers. 
  • Soap Making: We held a liquid soap-making workshop and provided a starter kit to each of the 50 peers so they could practice and make soap to sell. 
  • Menstrual Hygiene Management and Sewing Reusable Sanitary Pads: We educated peers about puberty, menstruation, and managing menstrual hygiene. Additionally, the program taught participants to make reusable sanitary pads using needle and thread and sewing machines, from locally obtained fabrics.

With the Scale Up of Empowered Choices Project, Pathfinder’s Program Coordinator affirms that “reaching people when they are young can help them to adopt healthy attitudes, values, and behaviors to practice throughout their lifetimes.”

This project truly exemplifies the power of education, community engagement, and practical skills in creating lasting impact. By addressing the lived realities of girls in communities, providing them with a platform to voice their concerns and questions, and empowering them with knowledge and skills, Pathfinder successfully transformed the lives of adolescents in Kobi,” said Temitope Obatoyinbo, Peer Mentor.

(L-R) Temitope Obatoyinbo and Hauwa Usman. Photo: Bayo Ewuola

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