Grace Anuforo – Global Youth Ambassador March 2022

Global Youth Ambassadors, GYA of the month

One GYA who is breaking down gender barriers is Grace Anuforo, from Nigeria. Grace is a passionate feminist, school administrator and public health professional working to reduce child marriage among girls in northern communities of Nigeria. Through her non-profit organisation, the Graciella Initiative, Grace supports and sponsors girls to receive a basic education and develop their financial independence.

We spoke to Grace to learn more about her project and her message for International Women’s Day.

Can you tell us more about the work the Graciella Initiative does?

I founded the Graciella Initiative in 2016, after completing my National Youth Service. Through my volunteering, I discovered a big problem in local communities was that girls were regularly missing out on school, and instead turning to sex work to provide an income for their families.

I started to mentor girls, holding seminars with their communities and families to shed light on this problem, and encouraged them to support the girls back to education. Through this, the Graciella Initiative grew, and we began to host yearly empowerment programmes.

These programmes run from January to March, for girls and women between 12-30 years old. Each year focuses on a different theme, with this year prioritising literacy. Last year, we focused on ICT and the year before, skills development.

We are also sponsoring girls to go to school in northern Nigeria and have 72 members in the organisation across East Africa supporting our projects. We aim to provide three things for every woman: mentorship, education and empowerment.

How did Covid-19 impact girls in your community?

Many girls were unable to continue their education because of the pandemic. Their classes and seminars were cancelled, and they were not able to continue learning. I decided to organise an online programme for girl advocates across Africa. We hosted a leadership challenge – that tasked 24 girls to develop a solution to a problem in the community. We picked three winners who were provided with mentorship, resources and grants to carry out their interventions. This was very rewarding as we saw the uplifting and building of female leaders across Nigeria, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Since the pandemic, we have continued to financially empower women. Many families were economically and financially impacted by Covid-19, and so we partnered with local farmers to provide food for women and the community. This gave women a sustainable way to get money and put food on the table for their families.

If you were making the case for girls’ education to a room full of world leaders right now, what would you say to them?

My message to leaders is to focus on literacy. It is such a crucial element to girl’s education that is not prioritised enough. Dropout rates remain high, because many girls cannot read and have not been given the opportunity to learn. After dropping out, the pipeline to marriage remains strong for many of these girls, facing familial and economic pressures to support their family. If we focus on literacy, we can see how girls can soar and keep forging forwards to provide better quality education for all.

When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

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