#Impact&CommunitySeries: “We support Girls in schools, have educated over 300 parents, 180 teachers and 1,750 children in body safety education,” #LLA Meets Yewande Olusore Oguntuyi,  Founder, Steadfast Love Foundation & Advocate for Girls’ & Body Safety Education.

Image credit: Yewande Olusore Oguntuyi

Yewande Olusore is an advocate for girls’ and body safety education. She supports girls in underserved communities/low-income families back to school and teaches body safety education classes across schools in rural areas. She is passionate about empowering and educating children to help ensure their own safety, as well as inspire and educate adults, provide them with the tools and skills to help keep children safe.

Childhood sexual abuse infringes on the basic rights of human beings. Children should be able to have sexual experiences at the appropriate developmental time and within their control and choice. The nature and dynamics of sexual abuse and sexually abusive relationships are often traumatic. When sexual abuse occurs in childhood it can hinder normal social growth and be a cause of many different psychosocial problems.

One woman who is incessantly working to prevent this and reform the lives of girls who’ve undergone this trauma is Yewande Olusore Oguntuyi. In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Yewande shares the inspiration behind establishing Steadfast Love Foundation, how her NGO is working to remove girls from poverty, lack of education and sexual abuse and what she hopes to achieve in the future via her organization. This is definitely an impactful read. Lean in!

Background Story to founding “SteadFastLove Foundation

I am not doing what I am doing for the likes or accolades; rather, I am doing it for passion. Passion and personal experience got me here. I know what it feels like to be out of school and to be abused at a tender age. I remember the inability of my parents to pay for my school fees when I was in primary school. I was out of school for about two weeks, until my dad had to sell his car to foot the bill. The same thing happened when I was at the University -Covenant University. So, I thought to myself:

“What if he didn’t have a car to sell? How about children whose parents have got nothing to sell to send them to school?”

This concern led to the establishment of SteadFastLove Foundation. Setting up the community-based charity organisation in 2015 has been one of my greatest achievements. The organisation is aimed at transforming the lives of girls in rural areas to become useful to themselves and their communities via access to formal education, skills and vocational training. 

The organisation also educates children in rural areas on body safety/protective behaviour to keep them safe from sexual predators as well as reduce the occurrence of child sexual abuse. Our mission is to increase girls’ enrolment in school, specifically focusing on rural areas. For girls to build independent lives and become empowered young women, they need to go to school with the motivation to gain recognized qualifications.

Child sexual abuse cases in Nigeria is increasing daily; from my personal and interpersonal experiences, it is often perpetrated by people known to the victims (children), such as immediate family, family friends etc. Child sexual abuse is no respecter of places- it can happen anywhere including the least expected places such as homes, schools, churches and other trustworthy avenues.

As a victim of child sexual abuse, my passion is to empower and educate children to ensure their own safety, build their resilience and assertiveness. I want to arm every child I come across with the necessary information that I was not privileged to have, to lessen the likelihood of them being victims of child sexual abuse. I do this by going around schools and communities in rural areas to inspire and educate the children, their parents and teachers on the prevalence of child sexual abuse, warning signs, and how to report a case of child sexual abuse. 

Measured impact and achievements with the Steadfast Love Foundation

Currently, we support ten girls in private primary schools and fifteen in public primary schools across three states in Nigeria. We pay their school fees and provide them with monthly provisions. We have educated over 300 parents, 180 teachers and 1,750 children on body safety education (child sexual abuse prevention education).

In a bid to close the gap that exists between girls and school enrolment, increase girls enrolment in school, and end the exclusion of married, pregnant students from schools, we launched a Girls Support Centre in Imota and hope to establish more across the country. Our Girls Support Centre is a safe haven where girls can read, socialise and play games with their friends. The centre also plays an important role in teaching girls about their rights so that they can protect themselves against harmful practices like child sexual abuse and child marriage.  

Girls both in and out of school receive academic support for 4 hours, 4 times a week class at the Girls Support Centre. There, we teach them concepts in Maths, English Language, Science, Body Safety, ICT, Personal and Career Development, Etiquette as well as Arts and Crafts to bridge the gaps that have arisen from some being out of school.

We don’t just want to send them to school, we want to make sure they can keep up with their peers and attain specific grade competent levels. The centre is opened after school; three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 2 pm-6 pm and 10 am – 4 pm on Saturdays for skills acquisition classes).

What We Offer: 

Homework assistance, healthy snacks and meals, ICT class, counselling, mentoring, scholarships, body safety class, arts and crafts, mental health & wellness, physical fitness & sports, college & career access programs, movies, etc. We provide girls with free sanitary pads to manage their periods with dignity.

We give them healthy meals and snacks since it is important for them to have enough energy to study as many of them do not always get enough food at home. The centre is a place where they are supported to make the most of their potential. The centre has a library, ICT room, toilet, kitchenette, play area, etc. There is also onsite counselling service at the centre on open days.

 Motivation and Inspiration behind your organization and what you do

My biggest motivation is God, my husband, my family and Prophet T.B Joshua.

Image credit: Yewande Olusore Oguntuyi

Challenges and Lessons Learnt

It hasn’t been easy because the organisation is about 80% self-funded. When I started, I worked as the web designer, accountant, admin officer, programs manager, social media manager etc, I took on a lot of hats. At times, I wanted to give up but when I remember why I started in the first place and the fate of the girls if I quit, I dust myself and get back up again. Hopefully, we will get to have corporate and international organisations come on board and support us. I have learnt to be patient and keep going. I know the best is yet to come.

Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work? 

My most memorable was when I got a space for the Girls Support Centre. I had planned to open it for years but couldn’t due to financial constraints. Also, the school results of our girls and the successes they achieve makes me proud and excited.

Your work is greatly involved in community development, especially for young girls. What is most fulfilling about the impact you make? 

It is evident that girls drop out of school due to the following reasons: 

  • Lack of school fees;
  • Early marriage;
  • Sexual abuse; and
  • Lack of sanitary facilities.

Education is the best legacy you can give to a child. Quality education will decide how far they go in life. As an advocate for girls’ education, I believe that “when you educate a girl, she becomes informed. Information brings reformation…An Informed girl reforms her family, community and society.”

Education is a process for me:  Deformation- Information-Reformation. Whenever I am informed about a girl who needs educational support, I am always happy because I am about to change the story of another girl for the best. Our girls are on top of their respective classes.

With how far you’ve come, and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next 5 years? 

I hope to establish more Girls Support Centres in all the states in Nigeria and hope the Federal Government introduces Body Safety Education in Nigerian primary schools.

Image credit: Yewande Olusore Oguntuyi

Some women you consider mentors? 

Elizabeth Nyamayaro – she is a Senior Advisor to the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director for UN Women and the Head of the HeForShe Movement. She is also the founder of Africa Youth.org I also admire Michelle Obama, the Former First Lady of the United States and Founder of Girls Opportunity Alliance.

Do you have a life philosophy or personal mantra that keeps you steady when the going gets tough? 

Philippians 4:13 ” I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me”, “Be like a postage stamp, Don’t quit until you get to your desired destination” and “There is no shortcut to any place worth going”.

Brief Profile

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Covenant University Nigeria, a Diploma in Practising Social Care from Stonebridge College with certificates in Humanitarianism, Journalism for Social Change, Early Childhood Education, Child Abuse Prevention, Improving Global Health Care, Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls (YALI), Personal Safety and Security and Building Better Response in NGO management. I am an agent of change, an advocate of body safety education/protective behaviour and passionate about children and education for rural girls. 

In the past 12 years, I have worked full-time in the Nigerian banking sector and also with several charitable organisations with a common goal of improving the quality of life and building a community free of poverty, discrimination and inequality. My mission is “To effect lasting change that adds value to the essence and existence of human life”. 

In 2015, I founded a charity organisation called The Steadfast Love Foundation, which has been one of my greatest achievements till date. The organisation is aimed at transforming the lives of girls in rural areas to be useful to themselves and their communities by granting them access to formal education, skills and vocational training. The organisation also educates children in rural areas on body safety/protective behaviour education so as to keep them safe from sexual predators as well as reduce the occurrence of child sexual abuse in the country.

The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who has demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.

The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

 

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