The BeMore Empowered Initiative of Ondo State First Lady, Chief Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a gesture that was initially not reckon with in some quarters, is now gaining momentum, and gradually changing the societal belief that some professions and skills are not for a girl child.
The initiative, which entails camping teenage girls for two weeks, where they were 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 brigde Gender-gap in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, (STEM) and to produce self-reliant female entrepreneurs.
She came up with this idea having considered the low number of female in certain fields and professions, despite the fact that this gender wasn’t created with less intellectual ability than 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 gender gap in these fields of life.
As the 2021 edition of BeMore Summer Bootcamp for Girls Naija, ends 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.
Less than a week that the 2021 Summer Bootcamp closed, Her Excellency has started receiving amazing feedback from the girls across the state. She was amazed with the reports pouring in on how her girls have started lighting up their houses, proffering solution to electricity problem; some have started producing reusable Sanitary Pads and hand bags.
Before now, girls were forbidden to climb a ladder and fix electronics, but reverse is the case now as BeMore girls between ages 12-16 were seen climbing the roof to install solar panel and connect it to the charger control to generate electricity; this skill they acquired at the summer bootcamp.
In Nigeria, First Ladies’ projects were known to go into extinction immediately after the expiration of their husbands’ tenure, to avert this ugly development and sustain BeMore in Ondo State beyond Akeredolu-led administration, Mrs Akeredolu 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 ,unarguably, apolitical as persons outside the All Progressive Congress fold are buying into the vision. The like of Senator Bode Olajumoke who sponsored 17 girls from his local government, describing 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, he 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 device 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 sunshine state full of digital girls, and saying bye bye to darkness.
In her speech, the founder disclosed that all the 368 girls who participated in this year’s edition were all sponsored by individuals and organisations. She maintained that her girls won’t be professionals for export, but would explore their potential to develop Nigeria, their States and various communities.
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; they 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 #50,000 for best performing girl in essay writing; while the Matrix Lab Technology gave a maximum of 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, Chief (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, bag making and cake baking.
Some guests at the event, after inspecting the exhibition stand, watched the girls’ staged performances, commended the Founder for transforming the lives of girls.
The Federal Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu said the Founder deserves an applause by equipping the girls with trainings that covered all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bothered by the issue of sustaining the initiative beyond Akeredolu-led administration, since it’s not a government-driven project, the Minister who was represented by Dr. Yemi Gbadegesin expressed readiness of FUTA 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 opportunity to explore their potential despite the fact the female population is more than that of the male.
Appreciating Ondo First Lady for initiating a programme that promotes girls’ interest in Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics,( STEM), the NSE’s President affirmed that they would grow to become future amazons, due to the numerous impact of the Programme on them.
According to her, a knowledge-based economy is the best way to equip any youth with skills to confront the challenges facing Nigerian Society, which the BeMore Empowered Initiative stands to achieve.
She, therefore, encouraged the girls to take a clue from the gesture of Her Excellency 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, who were divided into groups according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, all received Certificates of participation in the bootcamp and the World Largest Lesson, as they were introduced to the SDGs and expressed determination to actualize the goals.
BeMore Empowered Initiative is an all-emcompassing Programme, it’s indeed a University of Life. 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, Taekwondo Martial Art as self-defense against sexual molestation and harrassment, and they have become Breast Cancer awareness advocates to take the message home to their mothers and sisters, as change agents in curbing the increasing rate of breast cancer death caused by late diagnosis and presentation.
In conclusion, these 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 football sport and Yoga exercise.
By Mary Agidi
Special Assistant to the Governor on Media,
(Office of the First Lady),
Sept. 30th, 2021.
Photo Credit: Kemi Ramak & Gbenga Fasakin