September 27, 2022

Background
About 15 to 20 years ago, it was like a thing of pride for a teenager between the ages of 11 and 20 years to have a child in Bayelsa State, especially in rural communities. It continued like that until recent times when exposure crept in and more strangers started trooping into the communities, particularly after the creation of the state on October 1, 1996. They believed that if a girl doesn’t give birth at a tender age, she will not be able to see a husband to marry her, because the feeling was that she may not be able to give birth hence. That of course produced so many teenage mothers and abandoned kids across the communities.
Teenage drop-outs
According to one of the organisers, “so, many school drop-outs were produced as a result of that, while also depending on their parents who incidentally most of the time, feel at home with their grandchildren. “But all that is changing now as most of them even went back to school while others got married legitimately before giving birth to kids. “Even at that, there are still so many teenage mothers in the environment, the reason why a group is known as Stand up for Women Society (SWS), legal aids of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) choose to change the destiny of some of them when they rooted out a programme to train and empower them. The training, which consists of tailoring, hairdressing and catering among other skills will be held at the state institute of tourism and hospitality and will last for three months after which they will be given starter packs and some money to start living according to the organizers of the programme. Inaugurating the programme recently in Yenagoa, the representative of Nigeria’s Content Development and Monitoring Board, sponsor of the project, Timbiri Augustine, said the board has not relented in carrying out its core mandate of building the capacity of the oil industry and building human capacity.
NCDMB speaks
Augustine appreciated those behind the training of the teenage mothers enjoining the participants to take the programme seriously. He said: “Thousands outside wish to be beneficiaries of this project so consider yourself lucky to be selected. Maximize this golden opportunity very well. “This is the first time we are doing this kind of training for this category of trainees and we can say this is the pilot phase of the training and we hope to continue. “This training is going to expose you to skills that will make you become a producer and a service provider or a combination of both. “At the end of the day, you are expected to optimize the training that has been given to you and we are not expecting anything less than that. “You have a role to play. We are playing our own role. The institute is also playing its own role. “The trainers are also to play their own role. You are also expected to play your own role. As we start today, you have to remain committed and align with our expectations. “If at any point you exhibit character that is not constituent with the provisions of our training handbook, you will be sanctioned and we will replace you.” Also speaking, the rector of the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Apuega Arikawei, applauded NCDMB for its efforts towards various pieces of training that are geared toward the empowerment of Niger Deltans. Arikawei said the programme was designed to reduce the fate of unwanted pregnancies and to reduce poverty in the Niger Delta as well as other social vices that have bedevilled the region.
Challenges
He said: “I challenge the beneficiaries to stay put. Don’t come here because of the stipend that they will pay you. You are very lucky and fortunate because so many girls out there are looking for opportunities like this. “For the fact that you have been selected is a very big opportunity for you to utilize the programme so that the challenges that we are experiencing in the Niger Delta will reduce drastically. “I want to thank NCDMB for financing many projects in the Niger Delta to reduce what we are experiencing today.” In her remarks, the state chairman of Standup for Women Society, Eunice Nnachi, said the partnership to train teenage mothers was a dream come through adding she has been worried about teenage mothers and unwanted pregnancies right from her service period and has been thinking of how to remedy the situation, adding that she will ever remain grateful to NCDMB for supporting the collaboration and partnership. Explaining what necessitated that birthing of the programme, she said it was about giving back to teenage girls that gave birth out of wedlock. Nnachi said: “We had 100 but they said since it is a new programme let’s start small. That is why we have only 20. “The programme will run for three months. We are training them in fashion designing, makeup, catering and hairdressing. “And I believe that after the training, they will be able to fend for themselves and move on without looking up to anybody. “The teenagers were selected from the eight local governments and we selected the teen mothers that are residing in Yenagoa for now. “We are going to be monitoring the children. We told them that if anybody misses for two days, the person will be changed. We will be coming here to monitor the children. We are not going to tolerate any form of insubordination.”
NYSC’s involvement
Also speaking, the NYSC CDS coordinator, Esther Odum, thanked the sponsor and enjoined the teenage mothers to utilize the starter packs and certificate to be issued by the international institute of tourism and hospitality. Odum said: “As a way of educating them on the child right at and to reduce the negative effects therein, we decided that it was important that we educate these people in Yenagoa and to give them everything that they need to move forward and to make progress in life. “As the training progresses, we will also give legal support and we will be providing monthly checks for the girls. “If there is anything you don’t understand, just ask questions. Feel free to open up. “You are not the only one that has gone through this road and you are not going to be the last. We are all together for you. “Please focus. There is a lot of money being spent on this programme. We are also going to provide stipends and starter packs. With these, you should be able to start up something for yourself.”
South South women
The South-South coordinator of the Stand up for Women Society, Timi Idoko, advised the teenage mothers not to toy with the opportunity as the training will make them become employers of labour and entrepreneur. Likewise, the coordinator of the Gender Response Initiative (GRIT), Dise Ogbise, added that her organization was borne out of various cases of violence against women folks including teenage mothers adding that she sees this training as very unique for those who might lose hope because of early pregnancy. Ogbise encouraged them to be hopeful as this collaboration and partnership would end the sorrows and disappointments associated with early unwanted pregnancies among young girls stating that “Gone are those days when teenage pregnancies cut short future ambitions of young girls.
Participants speak
One of the participants, Uzaka Johana, said: “I’m learning catering and I plan to open a restaurant at the end of the programme. “I’m excited about the training because I know that it will enable me to be proficient in my skill which will ultimately make me an employer of labour. “I promise to be a good student. I promise to do my best and come out in flying colours.” Another participant, who doesn’t want her name mentioned, narrated how she became a teenage mother at the age of 17. She said: “I became a teen mother at 17 as a result of wrong steps but since the pregnancy came, I have to embrace it because aborting the pregnancy wouldn’t have been an option rather it’s better I gave birth to the baby. “And look for one way or the other to train the child. Many people advised me to terminate it but I was like tomorrow this one can become something and help me and what if this is the only one God wants to give to me? “My parents never expected it from me but it has come. I know that they gave me good home training but I stepped out and I apologized but now they are even happy because the child came in as a blessing. “It was a mistake but from every mistake, something comes. Mistakes come for you to learn. Now I have learnt and I have kept to myself. With this skill that I will acquire now, I can be able to take care of my child.”
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