By Badriyya Yusuf, 2nd year MDP student
Today was the day – the day we’re to present the findings of our Photovoice project to the community. The key participants, our school girls, have just rehearsed for the third time. I could sense a little nervousness, little did the girls know I was just as nervous as they were. The objective of our Photovoice project is to encourage girls to remain in school, an intervention against child marriages. What if some parents were to speak out against our efforts? What if they accused us of putting “foreign ideas” into their daughters’ heads? These were among the many thoughts that crossed my mind as the parents and invited guests entered the hall.
Much to my relief, none of that happened. The event was a success with only one major setback –which was that only two mothers attended, despite a variety of measures taken to ensure participation of mothers. Today’s event was to showcase our project, to make parents proud of what their daughters have learnt over the past few weeks. Our project participants were going to use the advocacy skills we had taught them to encourage their parents to keep them in school. They were to do so using pictures that they had taken by themselves which reflected their perceived challenges and opportunities to their quest for education. All the major stakeholders were invited – the District Head, religious leader, local Education Secretary and schoolteachers, and they all attended. However, having more mothers present would have indicated a stronger level of commitment from the parents.
The event was started with a prayer recited by one of the parents. I was then introduced by Amina Dantiye, Program Coordinator at IWEI, as an MDP student collaborating on this Photovoice project with her organization, a local NGO - Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI). Next, it was my turn to give a presentation on our research project and its findings. I started out by explaining that my desire to find sustainable solutions to the development challenges in my society is the reason why I enrolled in the MDP Program and also why I chose to come back home – northern Nigeria, for my practicum. Then, I explained what Photovoice is- the use of photography for community capacity building. I then briefly explained the project activities which have included photography training, public speaking and debating sessions, life skills coaching and a discussion on maternal and infant health.
|One of the school girls presenting on the significance of a girl’s education|
Next on the agenda was a presentation by the girls. I should point that none of these girls had ever touched a lap top before and so putting together their power point slides was a great accomplishment. They highlighted the daily routine of a girl child and differentiated between their routines and those of their married counterparts. Theirs’ is considerably easier in terms of not having as many household responsibilities. They also listed the potential opportunities available to them which are not available to girls who drop out from school. However, they also listed the challenges they face as students. They identified early marriage as a major obstacle as many girls are forced to abandon their education once married. Other challenges identified included a shortage of female teachers and inadequate school infrastructure and facilities. I was proud of the girls. Their presentation was great and the nodding of heads among the audience was a good indicator.
The girls’ presentation was followed by a question and answer session where feedback from the audience was sought for. The community was proud of the girls and appeared to be highly supportive. The lack of a significant female presence among the audience was identified and suggestions on how to overcome this in future events were discussed. The project and the active engagement of IWEI in championing women and girl’s empowerment in the region were also praised. All in all, I would say that our Photovoice project was a success not just because of what the participants and I have learnt, but also because it has proven to be a relevant part in a comprehensive strategy to ensure education and the reduction of child marriages in the project area.