By Diana Omueza
An NGO, Parenting Champions with Irene Bangwell, under its Body Smart Girl Bootcamp programme, has trained not less than 1200 girls on body safety, self-esteem and building relationship with God.
Mrs Irene Bangwell, the Convener of the programme, said this on Saturday at the end of the 6th Edition 4-day bootcamp themed “Inclusive Body Safety Education for Girls”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bootcamp was held virtually across Nigeria and in several other countries including Canada, UK, Brazil, US, Portugal and Ghana.
According to Bangwell, this is the largest number we have had so far, and we look forward to accommodating much more in the August holiday edition.
“The goal of this programme is to provide girls with knowledge, skills and resolve to prevent, report and recover from sexual abuse or threats, as well as overcome peer pressure to do what could be detrimental to their well being.
“In August 2021, I began by bringing together 160 girls aged between 3 and 17 to educate them on body safety, self-esteem and building a relationship with God.
“The girls are divided into 5 age clusters; 3 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17, this helps us communicate effectively on the various topics to the different age brackets.
“In this 6th edition, the population has increased from 160 girls to over 1000 and we believe there is still room for more girls because this type of education is crucial for the girl child” she said.
Bangwell said that many of the participants joined through viewing centers hosted by well meaning Nigerians in Ogun State and in the FCT who understood the importance of the training for the girl child.
She urged parents who had daughters aged between 3 years to 17 years to properly supervise, monitor and guide them during the holiday and also make plans to register them in the next bootcamp.
The convener, however, called for support to set up more viewing centers across the country and for support to send camp kits to community viewing centers.
“The next bootcamp is scheduled to hold during the long holidays in August and participation is free.
“Parents who have daughters aged between 3 to 17 can register their daughters by simply sending a WhatsApp message with the word *CAMP* to 08100944320.
“We need support to set up more viewing centers, we will like to send a camp kit to community viewing centers including camp workbooks, sanitary-pads and a hygiene kit for the girls joining at the community level.
“Also for those who would like to donate in cash or in other kind towards this course they can also contact us,” she said.
Mrs Ada Ehi, a popular Nigerian Gospel Artist who co-hosted the programme, said that the bootcamp was a vision, a ministry and many other expressions which was quintessential for a girl.
Dr Chito Nwana, Executive Director of Tabitha Medical Center in Abuja, coached the girls on puberty and menstrual hygiene, advising them to seek medical help when their cycle was beyond 45 days or less than 21 days.
“One of the causes of early puberty is the use of estrogen products. Puberty for most girls starts at the age of 8 and there is a need to see a doctor if it starts earlier.
“Also if your menstrual cycle is less than 21 days or more than 45 days, you need to see a doctor,” she said.
Mrs Hellen Beyioku-Alase, the Executive Director of Deaf Women Aloud Initiative lauded the inclusion of sign language interpreters in the four days bootcamp.
She said that no girl child should be left behind on such educative programme on the grounds of disability.
“All girls with disabilities should stand firm no matter what is happening. They are also girls regardless of disabilities.
“If you ever feel discriminated or stigmatized, just remind yourself that God created you in his image and likeness,” she said.
Miss Valerie Essien, 2020 Miss Dauntless, Lancaster University, advised the girls to understand themselves, learn to be assertive when saying yes or no in order not to be misunderstood, especially when someone went beyond their boundaries.
Other teenage motivators who coached the girls encouraged them to be creative as teenagers, chose a safety word and learn to shout for help using the word when in danger or when threatened and to report any form of abuse.(NAN)