By Lucky Ihanza
As a commitment to ensure that adolescent girls are empowered with knowledge and skills to prevent themselves from HIV, avoid teenage and unplanned pregnancy, challenge stereotypes, cultural barriers, gender misconceptions and risky behaviours that hinder their successful transition into productive and healthy adults, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) with support from FIFA Foundation, recently conducted a one-week Christmas holiday camp in Abuja. Tagged ‘SKILLZ Holiday Camp – December Edition’, the 5-day non-residential camp utilized YEDI’s girl-focused age-appropriate and gender-sensitive curriculum – SKILLZ Girl – that combines soccer metaphors, fair-play soccer and experimental activities with high impact health information that equip adolescents with the knowledge to live healthy lives and avoid risks. The camp which opened on Monday, December 16, 2019, at Junior Secondary School, Dutsen-Sagwari, Abuja admitted and graduated over 150 adolescent girls aged 13-19, featured topics that centred on family life HIV/AIDS prevention education, sexual reproductive health and rights education, self-awareness skills, one-on-one and group counselling, career counselling, world-cup tournament-style soccer competition, among other fun, physical activities.
YEDI’s Regional Head, North – Victor Nzenwa-Orji, who coordinated activities at the camp, noted that the holiday period presents another opportunity for YEDI to reach out to disadvantaged young people who were not captured during the various in-school interventions of the organization. “School holidays are high-risk periods for youth, as they often have little supervision and few opportunities for structured activities. So, to accelerate the reach of our programs in building healthy youth and communities, YEDI always convenes a weeklong, intensive non-residential community-based socio-behavioural health camps, which offer adolescents opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills on SRH, HIV and Malaria prevention and life coping skills. Participants at the camps who have parental consent also have access to HIV testing services, counselling and referrals for treatment and follow-up care.” This particular camp which is sponsored by FIFA Foundation is meant to complement YEDI’s year-long in-school and out-of-school interventions as well as create linkages to specialized health support for at-risk adolescent girls in this community.
According to Victor, the SKILLZ Holiday Camp curriculum is modelled after Grassroot Soccer SKILLZ Curricula which builds young people’s SRH and life skills assets, facilitate access to health and social services, and support adherence to treatment and positive protective behaviours, adding that it combines soccer metaphors and activities with high impact health information that engage youth and break down cultural barriers. “The curriculum is delivered by young female Peer Educators called ‘SKILLZ Coaches’ in small groups of about 10 participants per Coach to foster a close-knit relationship between the Coaches and participants. That way, the energy, mind and creativity of participants are engaged through fun, sports and educational activities, creating an environment conducive to learning. Apart from giving them daily breakfast and lunch, we also taught them some craft skills like soap-making, how to tie the traditional headgear (Gele) and Ankara/jean bags. At the end of the camp, they were equipped with the knowledge to make self-determined life decisions,” he added.
Nasima Suleiman, a 15-year-old participant recounted lessons learnt at the camp to include: abstinence as the best way to prevent HIV, and the three skills to say to sex when you are not ready. Another participant – Joy Nnaji noted that she came to the camp a very shy person but returned with a boosted self-esteem. As for 13-year-old Zainab Abdulsalam, it was at the camp that she learnt how to calculate her menstrual cycle.
The camp which is an annual event of YEDI, a youth-focused adolescent health NGO with evidenced-based curricula that have benefitted over 200,000 young people in four states in Nigeria, ended with a football tournament on Friday, December 21, 2019.