This year’s commemoration of the International Day of the Girl held on 11th October, 2016, at the Shell Hall – Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.  The event, which had over 900 adolescent girls, 40 teachers, members of the press, and invited guest in attendance was organised by YWCA of Nigeria, the Zonta International Club of Lagos 1), Initiatives for Sustaining Gender Empowerment in Nigeria (ISGEM), United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and the Wellbeing Foundation.

Mr. Seyi Soremekun , the National Information  Officer, UNIC delivered the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon’s message to all in attendance. He spoke on the theme for the programme ‘Girls’ progress equals goals progress’ with reference to the 17 Sustainable Development goals, and particular emphasis on goal number 5 which is directly related to girls, also reiterating that every girl child should have access to education, gender equality, and quality/affordable health care services.

H.E Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Founder and President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa delivered the keynote address in which she highlighted the 7 critical points of invisibility for girls in Nigeria. She stressed that “Girls matter and they do have a voice”. Together with the girls, H.E Mrs Saraki recited the girls’ declaration and challenged every girl to live out their dreams and start making their voices count.

The event had two sessions for girls; the first was tagged: “What we do for girls” moderated by Zontian Amy Oyekunle and had panellist from diverse sectors working on girl-related issues. Panellist included Ms. Darcy Zotter (Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate), Mrs. Ope Wumi-Jones (Head of diversity, Access Bank), Ms. Titilope Sonuga (Intel Ambassador), Mrs. Bolaji Fati (Executive Director, MAM Foundation) & Mrs. Olubukola Salami (Director, Lagos State Office of the public Defender).

The next session titled “Meet the Role Models” was moderated by Aderonke Adebanjo and also had a rich diversity of lively young women panellists like Wana Udobang (OAP & Blogger), Dr. Adunola Okupe (Education & Tourism), Chioma Ukonu (COO, Recycle Points), Joy Anago (IT Specialist), Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju (Actor), & Titilope Sonuga (Poet & Intel Ambassador). The role models shared what they do, their challenges and how they have been able to address some of the challenges they face as young women in their various careers and personal lives. The session was very interactive and girls had so many questions for each panellist.

To enable girls get a clearer understanding of their health and bodies, Dr Yewande Ayoola of Wellbeing Foundation took the final presentation on Adolescent girls and their rights. She gave an expose on what happens to girls as they go through the several stages of adolescence. She highlighted that good hygiene practices were critical and also explained how girls can better protect their bodies and their rights.

Girls were treated with useful resources like “Mamacare Adolescent Girls Skills & Drills Handbook” donated by Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and which provides information on several pertinent issues for girls like: respectful relationships, menstrual hygiene management, nutrition & drugs. In addition, each school present was given a ‘Girl Declaration” Plaque to hang in a place of prominence in their school, and Girls in attendance given bookmark copies of the girl declaration as a reminder of the event but also that they are powerful and strong girls. The bookmarks and plaque were printed with gracious support from INTEL.

Lady Chikwue Ochiaga, National President of YWCA Nigeria gave the vote of thanks at the end of the event. She thanked the partners for working tirelessly to put the event together, guest of honour H.E. Mrs. Toyin Saraki for her support and for being a part of the event. She ended by thanking the girls and schools for their participation.