Zulai is one of the teenage girls in Dawatsi of Warji LGA, Nigeria, who participated in a life skills training in 2019.1 Living with her widowed mother, before the training Zulai was already set to be married off by her mother and her father’s relatives. She had to agree to the marriage plans, as she was not in school and spent most of her time hawking to make ends meet.
Before the commencement of the life skills training, Zulai’s mother, an entrepreneur and a member of the Dawatsi Savings and Loan group (SLG), was among the mothers invited during the mobilization and sensitization process that led to the selection of girls for the training. There Zulai’s name was submitted.
After the training, Zulai has this to say about what she learned. “I really enjoyed the meaningful songs and drama used to teach us about self-worth and self-confidence. But the best was the one on communication.”
“Through the stories our teacher told us in class, like that of Mallam Tanko, I heard about the negative impact of Early and Forced Child Marriage.”
As part of the LS4Gs training program, a field trip was organized which afforded all participants and their parents to visit General Hospital Ningi, to meet the director of the Vesico Virginal Fistula (VVF) Center.
“I went with my mother and it was there that we saw girls and women that have been affected by VVF as a result of Early Marriage.” She recounts her experience as a painful eyeopener for both her mother and her.
After we got home that day from the hospital, Zulai says “I could not help myself, I just kept on crying. I then told my mother that I was no longer interested in that marriage because I did not want what happened with those girls and women to happen to me. I just want to go back to school until I am mature enough.”
Zulai’s mother says “Zulai’s father is not alive but I had a rethink about the earlier decision on Zulai’s marriage even at the hospital.” Her mother agreed to her request and assured her of the continuation of her study against all odds.
As a result of the modules covered within the curriculum during training. Zulai says she has learned how to handle herself outside especially with other people.
After the life skills training in 2019, Zulai was enrolled back in school to continue from Junior Secondary level 2 (JSS2). Although her father’s relations have taken their hands off her educational pursuit because she disappointed them, by not getting married, the mother and other well-wishers are standing by her choices and giving her the needed assistance for her to stay in school.
“I want to become a Medical Doctor to help women and children in my community as the health care center has no doctor. People who need a consultation with Doctors have to travel to the Local Government Area (LGA) headquarters at the moment which is very far.” She explains.
Daily survival may also be a challenge for Zulai as she has stopped hawking. In response to the question – what next?, Zulai, says “I may not have my school uniform, study materials (books and Biro), sandal and socks yet, but since education is free for now, I will try my best to learn as much as I can.”
FOLLOW-UP: NOVEMBER 11, 2020
Hadiza who is Zulai’s foster mother, said “Before the life Skills program For Girls, we were just together and all that she did for me was hawk, wash plates, fetch sweep the house (basic chores) but no matter how I tried, she was not keeping her own self clean. In fact, we had even set her wedding date before we called it off.
But after the program, Zulai’s mother said there were now evident changes in her daughter – “In fact, I have seen a lot of changes. Even with the sensitization at the Vesico Vagina Fistula Center at Ningi where we were invited to see some of the cases as a result of early marriage on girls. She is the one that said she did not want to marry again. That she will go to school and finish her education. Today Zulai is in school presently in Junior Secondary Class 3. And we thank God for everything. Also, she is no more hawking. ”
As we continue to share stories from the field, it will be good to note that Zulai was one of the girls out-of-school, but it is amazing that she now goes to school, fully supported by her Foster parents.
For Zulai she says – “Before the Life skills program, I had no respect for elders, and I was not concerned about my personal hygiene. I also could not speak to my parents or share anything personal with them instead I was always angry. But since the program with MEDA, I can sit with them and talk. Our relationship is better.
I also changed my mind about marriage after I saw the result of early marriage on some of the young girls in the hospital. Because of the pain of VVF a girl can even kill her husband.
Part of the impact of the program in a community called Muda Ruwa Uku is that 17 out-of -school girls have now been enrolled in school as result of the LSP4G