LONDON, United Kingdom — According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), “Girls in the rural areas face more problems than girls in the city.” Although the IPPF story talks about Nepal concerning sexual health, the statement quoted above is true of all women and girls in rural areas in the developing world and in this particular case, Nigeria.
The rural population in Nigeria is the most disenfranchised, and women and girls form the most vulnerable segment. Access to social amenities like hospitals, education, skilled employment and business sponsorships are almost non-existent. It is the reason most young women migrate to the cities and due to their low educational level, end up in prostitution and other social vices to survive.
While missionary groups have tried to fill this gap by building schools and hospitals, their capacity to cover the large expanse of the country and growing population is severely limited. The country’s estimated population was far above 200 million in 2021 with an annual growth rate of 2.4%.
Jennifer Etuh Foundation is one of those that are determined, through its work, to level up the gap. The program manager of the foundation, Joe Otu, who spoke to The Borgen Project, stated that the foundation began its journey in 2021 and focuses on providing women and girls in some parts of rural Nigeria with health care delivery, education, skills acquisition and assistance in setting up micro and small scale enterprises. He explained that the foundation is the conception and the last wish of a wife and mother who died of cervical cancer.
While alive, the woman, Jennifer Etuh had reached out to women and girls in rural areas in Nigeria to provide these social amenities for them. Her deathbed wishes were for her efforts to be continued.
Health Care Delivery
The Jennifer Etuh Foundation has so far built three well-equipped specialist hospitals in three different rural locations in Nigeria. It plans to build three more to cover the six geo-political zones of the country. Usually, pregnant women and girls with sexual health problems either travel long distances to the cities or the missionary-run hospitals in far-flung locations to receive treatment. They also patronize traditional health providers which are often inadequate. Most times, they simply stay at home. The outcome could be worsening conditions or death.
These new hospitals are coming as great relief to the women and girls in these areas. According to Otu, the foundation is building hospitals at an estimated cost of $8 million each. The three already built and functioning are located in Oduh in Dekina LGA of Kogi State, Mallagum in Kaduna state and Ifewara in Osun State.
Along with this and aware of the difficulties rural women and girls in Nigeria face during their menstrual periods, the foundation buys sanitary pads for distribution to women and girls across three states of the country. So far, they have distributed to about 2,500 of them.
The foundation also reaches out to women and girls in rural Nigeria by assisting them to acquire education. At the moment, it partners with about 20 secondary schools across three states of Nigeria to provide scholarships and educational materials to indigent girls. About 2,650 girls have benefited from this program. More than 30 beneficiaries are on the foundation’s scholarships worth about $30,000 annually.
Skills Acquisition and Start-Ups Support
The foundation has built skills acquisition centers to train women and girls in rural Nigeria to become economically independent. Out explained that when women and girls graduate from these training centers, they receive soft loans to start their micro and small businesses.
Another segment of the population of women and girls in rural Nigeria that suffer neglect are the widows. In many cases, because of cultural practices and beliefs, widows do not inherit their husbands’ properties, especially those whose husbands died at young ages, leaving behind young wives and children. The economic impact of the loss of their breadwinner is often devastating and the low literacy levels of the women further compound it. The foundation periodically organizes outreaches to different rural locations to identify and assist these widows in large numbers. At the time of writing, the program manager stated that about 2,560 widows had benefited from their outreaches.
Nigeria has a vast population growing beyond government projections and resources. Large sections of this population especially women and girls in rural areas fall through the social network, unavoidably. It takes non-profit organizations like the Jennifer Foundation and several others, scattered across the country to take deliberate social actions to reach out to them and uplift them from poverty.
– Friday Okai