In Delta State, the Girl-Child Empowerment Office is seeing to the need proper training and equipping of the girl-child to enable her develop a positive mindset

DELTA State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is focused on meaningfully engaging the girl child through proper training. Declaring open a three-day training workshop on “Entrepreneurship and Life Skills” for 450 beneficiaries in the first tranche, the governor said training and mentoring processes for the programme aimed beyond raising entrepreneurs, to producing leaders and managers who have high levels of personal responsibility and personal effectiveness, thus enhancing a young generation of economically self-reliant women.

He also said: “From the onset of our S.M.A.R.T, now Stronger Delta agenda, we set out to unlock and unleash youth entrepreneurship through skills acquisition programmes, which will empower our youths with the vocational skills, attitudes and tools to become self-employed and subsequent employers of labour.”

Okowa noted that 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, the girl-child is still grappling with issues of gender discrimination, crushing poverty, early/forced marriage, identity crisis, social and parental pressure, poor life skills – communication, decision making, goal setting and low self-esteem. He explained that girl-child empowerment was the process of uplifting the economic and social status of “traditionally under-privileged girls in a male-dominated social construct,’’ and assured that if the 450 set of the pioneer trainees become successful, his administration would scale up the number in 2021 to achieve even a greater mileage, as he urged the Girl Child Empowerment Office, the direct driver of this initiative, to set their minds on the goal. Empowering the girl child is a task that must be accomplished, he said.

The Executive Assistant to the Governor on Girl Child Empowerment, Bridget Anyafulu, who heads the office, explained that the governor’s initiative in creating the office springs from the desire to give the girl child/woman, her pride of place in society. She expressed gratitude to the governor for creating and giving the office, free hand to pursue policies and programmes, which will leave lasting impact on the girl child to make integrate fully and compete favourably with her male counterparts. She also argued that in some rural areas, the boy child was given greater latitude in almost everything concerning upbringing of a child.

Anyafulu assured that the office will continue to create more opportunities for the girl child in Delta State.

Citing a former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in her opening remarks at the ceremony, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on special duties, Girl Child Education Programme, Mrs Marylin Okowa Daramola, recalled Annan’s belief that … “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” adding that … “the empowerment of the female gender is a necessity for the sustainable development of our local governments, our States ,our country, Nigeria – and of course, the world – a necessity, she said, which has engendered the launch of the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training project, GEST.

She also said with the initiative, the plan is to create a new empowered, and fearless group of skilled and determined young female entrepreneurs, who will help to turn the State and the nation’s economy around for good. The quest to discover the best, who are poised and ready for the new order of economic revolution in line with the Stronger Delta mantra of the present administration, was done through a rigorous but discreet approach, which lasted some months according to her and this entailed journeying across the 25 local government areas of Delta State to find the best and the brightest participants and trainers during which time, discoveries were made of some vibrant and passionate young women between the ages of 18 and 30 years with great spirit of entrepreneurship, matching courage and readiness to partner the Governor in his quest to build a stronger Delta of our dream.

With almost 6000 applications received from across the State and which was narrowed to 900 interviews, 450 successful beneficiaries emerged from a very thorough screening exercise to undertake a programme that has been carefully developed to train young entrepreneurs in fashion designing, cosmetology, hairdressing/ make-up and Information Communications Technology, ICT.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this entrepreneural initiative of the GEST project, according to its drivers, is imparting life skills training that will cover other necessary areas such as assertiveness, self-esteem, negotiation, effective communication and goal setting.

Others include creating a mindset change, critical business skills like bookkeeping and digital marketing that will prepare beneficiaries to manage their businesses effectively and key into the fast growing digital economy of what has become the new world order.

The ultimate vision is to achieve a Delta State where girls are empowered to maximise their full entrepreneurial potentials. A woman who is skilled in bread making ,goes back home, bakes for her children and possibly teaches them the art of baking. She is empowered, her children are getting nutritious bread and she will also transfer the skill to them if possible. Training the girl child and empowering her has a ripple effect on the immediate family and the nation on a larger scale.

George Washington, the first American President said this about his mother: “All I am, I owe to my mother; I attribute all my successes in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” This is one of the things Governor Okowa is determined to achieve in his well-conceived Stronger Delta vision for the State as it concerns the development of the human capital in the girl Child.

The wife of the Delta State Governor and founder of 05 initiative, Dame Edith Okowa who shares the same passion for training and equipping the girl child, urged participants at the training to see their selection as a privilege and not a right, reminding them that thousands of persons also applied for the same programme urging them to have passion for the training, and have integrity and commitment to ensure that they succeed in their ventures.

What makes the GEST project unique is that the selection and qualification process was done through a transparent process.

One of the members of the team actualising the training programme and who also doubles as the “Face of the Girl Child Project”, Miss Ese Omokri, said: “I’m delighted to be part of the Project GEST team. Aside from the experience gathered and the privileges that came with it, it is a blessing to know that I was part of something this successful. I heard some participants talk about how the programme has helped boost their self-confidence and I can say I understand that, because working alongside other amazing team members and coming out successfully, gave me a feeling of self-worth!

Another participant, Agari Faustina, a 20-year-old from Uzere in Isoko South Local Government Area of the State, said: “I am privileged to be here and I must say a big thank you to the State government which provided this opportunity. My vision is to be a great fashion designer; that anywhere they hear my name, people will know that somebody is there and even when Uzere my village is still a small place, I will make it proud and I will pay back to society what has been given to me.

“In five years’ time, I will make sure that with this empowerment, when people mention my name, they will know that they helped and empowered somebody. I am determined to record a milestone.

Yet another said: “My name is Chisom, I am from Delta North senatorial district. I applied for fashion designing, someone sent the link to me and I applied online. I’m lucky to be a beneficiary of this Project GEST.

“Well, my experience in the three-day seminar, starting from 20 September has been wonderful. Getting to meet ladies from different places like Warri, Sapele and all other places all over Delta State here present in Asaba for the seminar, has been a great experience. It has been a great opportunity to see different people doing the same thing. At first, I was thinking, oh! I’m into male fashion and I didn’t have the drive. But, seeing people and hearing different stories in this seminar, has taught me a great lesson and I have learnt a lot from the seminar teachings and I think I have to apply that in my business when I startup.”

Perhaps the icing on the cake is the revelation by yet another beneficiary, Miss Joy Oghenefego Mukoro when she said: “I actually wish the workshop never came to an end but then, I look forward to my training where I will hopefully learn a lot. The staff of the Girl Child Empowerment Office gave their best all-round"