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Bullying alters kids’ brains, says study



Bullying alters kids’ brains, says study

Bullying isn’t just a normal part of life that most everyone has to deal with as they grow up. It’s wrong, it’s preventable, and researchers have found that peer victimisation has long-term effects on mental health and could actually be affecting your child’s developing brain. In a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, it was found that teens who are bullied are at higher risk for mental illnesses and could experience shrinkage in parts of their brains.
The study, which looked at nearly 700 within the age bracket of 14- to 19-year-olds in England, Ireland, France, and Germany, assessed the participants’ brain development through questionnaires about bullying at ages 14, 16, and 19, as well as brain scans at ages 14 and 19. The study’s lead researcher, Erin Burke Quinlan, shared that as many as three out of 10 kids are victims of bullying (sometimes daily), and through the surveys, it was found that about five percent of the study’s participants were characterised as victims of “chronic bullying.”
Through the brain scans, it was found that those teens who were bullied experienced shrinkage in two parts of their brains — the “caudate” and “putamen” between ages 14 and 19. “We found that the relationship between chronic peer victimization, an umbrella term that includes bullying relates to the development of anxiety partly via changes in the volume of brain structures,” Quinlan said. “Although not classically considered relevant to anxiety, the importance of structural changes in the putamen and caudate to the development of anxiety most likely lies in their contribution to related behaviors such as reward sensitivity, motivation, conditioning, attention, and emotional processing.”
It was found that about five percent of the study’s participants were characterized as victims of “chronic bullying.”
Researchers are unsure as to whether these brain changes are irreversible. “We would need to follow adolescents into adulthood to start to answer this question,” Quinlan said, noting, however, that preventing bullying in the first place would help make it so there wouldn’t be a need to reverse such changes in the first place. “While prevention still takes resources and education, it’s likely easier than trying to reverse brain changes years later.”
Stephen Russell, a professor of child development at the University of Texas at Austin, said the study’s findings suggest “an obvious link between bullying, stress and long-term health” and that “Hopefully this will be additional data that will help change the minds of people who think that bullying is ‘natural’ or a normal part of growing up.”
Although many children deal with bullying and grow up with no mental health issues, it’s important for parents, teachers, and school districts to put practices into play that can combat bullying. Quinlan said, of the brain changes associated with bullying, “We don’t know how early in life these brain changes begin. But the earlier bullying is identified, and the sooner it can be dealt with, the better.”

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Mum & Parenting

Govt should design policy for mental health – Oma Anona



Govt should design policy for mental health – Oma Anona

Marilyn Oma Anona is a young Nigerian TV host who illustrates that starting from the scratch is not a myth. Apart from a mental health therapist, she is also a multimedia and social entrepreneur, coach/counsellor,  writer, public speaker, master of ceremonies, event host and the host/producer of the phenomenal TV talk show “Oma Living Show” that runs online



What brought about the ideal of the NGO?

As the first child out of seven children, the goal was for me to study medicine and surgery at the university being very academically sound, but I took everyone by surprise when I decided to take another path which is actually a path of purpose and destiny. I made history by daring to become the first entrepreneur in my entire extended family which used to be dominated by academicians, civil servants and corporate professionals. Today, because of my courage, some of my family members have also ventured into entrepreneurship. Today, thousands of Nigerian youths have also found their purpose because of Marilyn.

Before I became a full time entrepreneur, I worked as a presenter for MYTV Africa where I hosted a show called Poetry Pot. I also worked for Media Options, a media organisation in Abuja where I was a writer and Vox Pop presenter. Since 2015, we have produced 50 episodes of the Oma Living Show which is about four seasons.

So what else do you do?

We run a humanitarian platform known as ‘The Right Stage Project’, which is focused primarily on human capital development for young people in our public schools, school drop outs, women, girls, less privileged in the society and the millennial. It seeks to empower and provide lasting solutions to nagging issues in the society. This has also led us to lead several campaigns, aimed at making our society better.

Campaigns like S.A.D which stands for-suicide, anxiety and depression. We started this in 2018, which provided awareness, education, advocacy and support for mental health issues that are the leading causes of suicide. And we have had a lot of that lately. 

What is your impression about how the society views depression?

People think that depression is not an illness. They also think that it some voodoo sent by their “village people” as a result, our people do not pay attention and before you know it, suicides occur. But depression is a health challenge that can be treated through therapy and clinical help. It has become a serious issue in our country and I think there should be a proper policy to tackle mental health challenges. There should be clinics around communities where folks can get in and get help.

How about jungle justice, sexual assault, what do you say to those?

There is still a lot of work to be done there. Even our law enforcement carries out jungle justice too. But it is nothing compared to what the people do. The campaign on sexual assault is to help curb or reduce high incidence of rape and other sexual offences that impede human development and endanger lives.

We equally champion campaigns on domestic violence and other societal vices. Right now, we have the campaign on balance through the Balance Network.

What is the Balance Network about?

We realise that there is a lot of dysfunctional young people who need help. So we decided to reach out or enlighten millennials on importance of making adequate time for various aspects of their lives based on their values and purpose in order to live a more fulfilled life. Basically we try to bring order and purpose to the lives of young people in various aspects of their lives, like relationships, job hunting, work ethic, start-up, emotional intelligence, social interaction, patriotism and many others.

Tell us about your TV Talk Show?

The Oma Living Show started as a TV Talk Show, but has since grown wider and bigger to be a media and social brand engaging in real projects aimed at positively transforming and changing our society and humanity by concentrating on the people that live in and make up the society and humanity. The show which is multi themed is known for, tackling nagging issues like entrepreneurship; celebrating unsung heroes and bringing them to limelight; soft skills inculcation, training and orientation; values, purpose and character orientation; mental health advocacy and awareness and other social campaigns.

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Mum & Parenting

When Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat’s wives cleaned Lagos drainages



When Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat’s wives cleaned Lagos drainages

It can only be passion and commitment that will make the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO) kick-off activities to herald the 19th National Women Conference in Lagos. This, they did with cleaning of drains and visiting patients in critical health conditions. Muritala Ayinla reports



“I am not going to be talking about medicine alone. It is going to be political-medicine, diagnosing the society and trying to take it to the next level. Lagosians shouldn’t be surprised seeing a First Lady cleaning the gutter or sweeping the street. It’s going to be work, work and work.”

That’s  was the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu while taking ov    er leadership baton  of the Committee of Wives of the Lagos State Officials, COWLSO from her predecessor, Mrs  Bolanle Ambode.

Despite raging arguments over constitutionality of the office of the wives of presidents or governors in Nigeria, emerging developments in the country are pointing to the fact that women are indispensible in the lives of their spouses in the state houses.

In Nigeria, wives of the Presidents and governors usually spearhead one initiative or the other aimed at empowering the vulnerable in the society. Their programmes are usually centered on women, children, widows and feminine related issues. They empower, sponsor and rescue those in need. They sometimes take care of the aged and other categories of the less privileged in the society, depending on the seriousness of the “First Lady” as they are usually called.

In Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital, the name “COWLSO” rings a bell. It’s is a community based gender organisation, working to complement the effort of the Lagos State Government to promote child healthcare, empower women to discover their hidden treasures and protect the environment.

Usually headed by the wife of a sitting governor, COWLSO was founded in 1974 by the wife of the first Military Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Funmilayo Johnson. Today, the association has achieved and still achieving its set objectives through interventions and pro-people projects through all the wives of the democratically elected governors and military administrators. 

Speaking while addressing journalists on the activities lined up for the 19 edition of National Women Conference in Lagos, wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu  said that  the theme of this year’s Conference was strategically framed to drive the T.H.E.M.E.S which is the six-pillar developmental  agenda of the administration.

According to her, the theme of this year’s COWLSO Conference is titled: “UNLEARN, LEARN AND RELEARN: 21ST CENTURY WOMEN’S T.H.E.M.E.S PERSPECTIVES/APPROACH.”

Harping on the need for women in the state to join hands with their men counterparts in the task of making a cleaner, safer for residents, Mrs Sanwo-Olu who led members of COWLSO in the cleaning and desilting of drains in Ikeja Local Government, it was time Lagosians learn, unlearn and relearn better habit of taking care of their environment.

“Come rain, come sunshine, we women of COWLSO are ready to support our husbands to ensure that the ideals of this government are delivered in order to have a greater Lagos. Transport, traffic and environment management is paramount to this administration. So, we are all in it together, our slogan is together, we will work to ensure greater Lagos.”

According to her, if everyone develops special interest in the environment and conscious of waste disposal habit, Lagos environment would be better and cleaner, adding that, “it is very important to educate our populace right from kindergarten up to the university level and community leaders that cleanliness is close to Godliness. It starts from the home and in the schools; we should ensure that our environment is clean. The leftover food should be kept in the black nylon bag while the re-usables and recyclables such as the water bottles and the rest should be kept in the purple nylon bags that are being distributed across the state.”

Mrs. Sanwo-Olu, who also led the awareness walk from Ikeja to the State House, Alausa, used opportunity to join the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of the Girl-Child, which was marked across the globe. She said the present administration is deeply committed towards ensuring that all the issues affecting girl-child are addressed frontally with the required vigor, zestfulness and determination.

“T.H.E.M.E.S, as we all know, is the policy thrust of the present administration of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu which stands for Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy; Entertainment and Tourism; as well as Security and Governance. 

On the women conference, she added that it is the tradition of the conference to strategically empower women to contribute positively to the development of the State and Nigeria at large, saying that this year’s theme was carefully selected in line with the vision and aspiration of the present administration in Lagos State to bring about greater Lagos of our dreams.

She hinted that wife of the President and First Lady of Nigeria, Hajiyah Aisha Buhari, has graciously accepted to be the Mother of the day and would declare the Conference Open while Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State, is the Special Guest of Honour at the opening Ceremony, while his counterpart from Nasarawa State, His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Sule is the Special Guest of Honour at the Closing Ceremony.

She added that buses will equally be available to convey participants who would be going back to their various homes and destinations after the gala night.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to LASUTH as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of COWLSO, Dr Sanwo-Olu who is the Chairman of the Committee said it was important to make the right investment in healthcare delivery to play up the health of the people, and also support the needy.

She said, “We decided to do our CSR here; this is Ayinke House in LASUTH. We are hoping that we would send the message down to the people that there is need for us to invest in our patients, as well as invest in our doctors and nurses so that they can deliver good healthcare to our people in Lagos State which is one of the key pillars of the development agenda of the government of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for a greater Lagos.

“We have come here and we have identified something we can take up as our project and that is endowment fund for the Pediatric Surgeries that are being done here. Already, the Lagos State Government is doing 0-12 free healthcare for children but we need to also partner with them to do endowment fund and encourage a lot of people to also partner with us.”

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Activists task govts on justice for Ochanya, child abuse



Activists task govts on justice for Ochanya, child abuse

Considering the high rate of sexual abuse being perpetuated against minors in the country, the Executive Director of Media Concern Initiative (MEDIACON), Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode has urged the three tiers of government, to address the menace, especially the case of Ochanya Ogbaje, 13 that lost her life to sexual violence in Benue State last year.

She made the call during a child protection workshop organised by the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Lagos recently.

The workshop, which brought together civil society organisations and media practitioners, has the theme ‘’End Child Sexual Abuse: Justice For Ochanya’’.  Conversations at the forum focussed on strategies to render justice for Ochanya who lost her life to sex abuse.

It would be recalled that Ochanya, a native of Ogene-Amejo village in Okpokwu Local Government Area in Benue, allegedly died in 2018, from sex abuse. A Polytechnic lecturer, Mr. Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor allegedly sexually abused the victim for five years.

The one-day workshop had in attendance the late Ochanya’s elder brother, Ameh Ejekwonyilo, Executive Director of Media Concern Initiative (MEDIACON), Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, the CEO Yinka Kenny Productions, Olayinka Braide and Anthonia Ojenagbon, the three of whom are survivors of child sexual violence.

Betty Abah, founder of CEE-HOPE, a child right development NGO said the aim of the workshop was to sustain conversation about the epidemic of child sexual abuse in Nigeria, especially in the light of Ochanya’s case. “It’s almost a year; so we are using the opportunity to mark the first anniversary and to draw attention to the fact that the case is yet to be resolved.”

The high point of the workshop was the launch of a book ‘Reflections On The Child Sexual Abuse in Nigeria,’ a compilation of reports, editorials, opinions and special reports on child sexual abuse.

In her remark, Olufemi-Kayode who is also a sexual violence response expert, stressed that it was time child sexual abuse was addressed holistically with a view to curbing the trend.

According to her, several abuses have led to untimely death of many victims, while others have suffered physical pain, psychological and mental torture including stigma.  Olufemi-Kayode lamented that majority of violators were left off the hook due to weak legal system.  “There is need for governments to demonstrate the political will to tackle the problem at the federal, states and local government levels,” she added.

Speaking on “Where We Are on Ochanya’s Case’, Ejekwonyilo said the Nigerian Police (NPF) was yet to declare Victor, the second suspect in Ochanya’s case, wanted. Mrs Ogbuja who was also involved in the case and was being prosecuted by the National Agency for the Prosecution of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) for child endangerment, enslavement and negligence.

On her part, Olayinka Kehinde, CEO of Yinkakenny Productions, a media and entertainment services group, said it was time concerned groups began to make themselves support group for victims of sexual violations.

Yinkakenny said, “it’s time we made ourselves support system for people who have gone through abuse. Today, people commit suicide arising from bottled up feelings from sex abuse and violations.”

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Providing safe spaces for adolescent girls’ health



Providing safe spaces for adolescent girls’ health

Nigeria will move closer to achieving major targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by assuring adolescent girls access to health and critical social services, according to the Society for Family Health.

Fifi Ogbondeminu, Deputy Project Director of Adolescents 360 (A360), assured that the action will promote social inclusiveness and help drive down maternal mortality, unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion among adolescent girls and young women. She stated this at the National Conference on Inclusivity, Equality & Diversity in University Education hosted by the University of Lagos.

She explained that SFH started A360 in June 2017 to break down barriers to some critical social and health services for adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years by creating safe spaces in public health facilities where they can achieve their dreams by acquiring life skills, vocational skills, and making informed choices to create the future they want.  “A360 co-designed the 9ja Girls Programme in Southern Nigeria, and Matasa Matan Arewa (MMA) in the north with adolescent girls and their influencers. The programme is funded by the Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

“While testing prototypes when A360 started, we considered the use of the existing youth friendly centres and primary healthcare centers (PHCs) to determine which was better for integrating youth-friendly services into the system. We found out that girls were willing to access services in PHCs as long as the providers were youth-friendly,” she added. The federal and state governments are therefore urged to upscale safe spaces for adolescent girls to more primary health care facilities.

A360 Nigeria built on the availability of health providers who were volunteering through government programmes such as the SURE-P and the N-power programmes, trained and built capacity of these volunteer service providers. The government could adopt replicable components of A360 programmes and absorb the trained volunteers, which will ensure trained and skilled youth-friendly providers remain in the system and girls continue to have access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) services even after A360 project closes out in 2020.

”States should also train service providers to be youth-friendly and provide Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health, thereby increasing the network of youth-friendly service providers, which will in turn increase access,” said Adebusola Odulaja, Regional Coordinator of the A360 Project. One of the challenges of the programme is that girls complain of long distances to facilities, she said, adding, “adolescents are usually deprived of access to services. We see cases of facility security personnel turning girls back, thereby denying them access,” Odulaja explained.

With a maternal mortality ratio at 546 deaths per 100,000 live births (amounting to 40,000 pregnancy-related deaths annually), Nigeria accounts for 14 per cent of the global burden of maternal deaths, 95 per cent of which are caused by seven preventable conditions, including unsafe abortion. Each year, it is estimated that between 610,000 and 1.2 million abortions are procured by women aged 15-44 years. Experts say that if all females who need family planning had access, 44 per cent of all maternal deaths in Nigeria will be averted.

By ensuring inclusiveness for adolescents, SDG Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages); and Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) will be automatically addressed.

The Regional Coordinator explained further that  in the safe spaces created for them, girls have access to trained counsellors, who give information and discuss with them sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as other life skills, while the sexually-active can voluntarily access modern contraceptives. According to her, major goal is to equip girls to delay the start of sexual activity, have healthy relationships, empower them to say no to sex, as well as to be able to negotiate when under pressure.

In the two Lagos local government areas (LGAs) where 9ja Girls is implemented, almost 23,000 girls have received adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) information and counselling, according to her. Saying that, the project is implemented in two LGAs each of nine states and the FCT, with four states in the South-West Zone, three in the South-South, and three in the North-Central. She said that, Matasa Matan Arewa (MMA), is an equivalent programme for married adolescent girls in the predominantly Muslim north, also focuses on adolescent girls within the same age bracket of 15 to 19 years.

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5.68m Nigerians sensitised on genital mutilation – UNICEF



5.68m Nigerians sensitised on genital mutilation – UNICEF

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says that over 5.68 million individuals have been reached through radio, television and social media to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria.

The Fund said that 5,094 girls were reached through sensitisation in primary and secondary schools and empowered with change agents in partnership with existing school clubs.

Mr Ben Mbakwem, the UNICEF FGM Consultant in Imo and Ebonyi states, said this at the 7th quarterly Meeting of Imo State Technical Committee (STC) on FGM Abandonment organised by the Imo State Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Group Affairs in Owerri.

Mbakwem was represented by Dr Blessing Azubuike, the Director, Gender Affairs in the state Ministry of Gender at the programme held in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA and National Orientation Agency (NOA).

He said that 3,903 girls and women had also received health, social and legal services.

He said the figures covered the five states of Imo, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo covered by NOA and UNICEF as states with the most prevalent in FGM.

Mbakwem said that UNFPA-UNICEF 2018 Joint Report indicated that 18 per cent of girls and women in Nigeria aged 15 to 49 years had undergone FGM, while over 14.8 million girls were at risk between 2015 and 2030.

He said that a lot of progress had been made since Nigeria joined other countries on the joint programme on FGM abandonment.

The official identified the successes to include the signing of the declaration of FGM performed by health-care providers as an unethical practice by 13 medical regulatory bodies after their meeting on the medicalisation of FGM in Nigeria.

Others, he said, were the ongoing efforts to include FGM indicators in the National Health Management Information System (NHMIS) and the recognition of FGM as Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the first National GBNV Conference hosted by the Vice President of Nigeria.

Mbakwem said that already, 415 communities in Nigeria had made a public declaration of FGM abandonment with sustained FGM discussion in the Annual Women’s Home and Abroad Meeting (August Meeting) and inclusion of FGM in the “New Yam Festival” in South-East Nigeria.

Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, the Imo State Director of NOA, said that the quarterly meeting of the committee was to bring the implementing partners and other groups working for UNICEF, UNFPA and the state ministry of health together to coordinate their activities for an action plan on the next quarter.

He said the aim was to inculcate harmony and collaboration among the group as well as avoid waste of resources.

Ekeocha expressed regret that the technical committees had not been up and doing in their meetings and urged them to regularly liaise with the state technical committee to harmonise their activities.

Dr Blessing Azubuike, the Director, Gender Affairs in Imo Ministry of Gender, said that the ministry was doing everything possible to achieve results in the effort to end FGM in the state, but added that much more was still needed. She called on the participants to take the meeting very seriously.

According to her, the technical committee is important in the work to end the practice of FGM, to avoid duplication of programmes and for high-level advocacy to enable people to buy into the programme. “There is high-level progress in the FGM awareness creation as people are now more open to speaking on the issue; if one person is prosecuted it will serve as a deterrent to others,” she said.

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A strong case for womenfolk



A strong case  for womenfolk

Last Tuesday, at 14th inauguration of the Lions Club International of its President and other executives, the bigwigs of Lagos gathered to re-echo the need to give women more opportunities to take more leadership positions, Muritala Ayinla reports



It was indeed a gathering of successful Nigerians in both public and private sectors. The investiture was a reunion of current and former top government functionaries at the state, federal level, lawmakers in the state and National Assembly. All the guests described the 14th President of the Club, Mrs Folashade Ashafa who got inaugurated, was described as  a jolly good fellow, selfless in her approach to dealing with the rich and poor.

Among the dignitaries were former Minister of the State for Defense, Chief Demola Seriki; Celebrator’s husband, Senator Gbenga Ashafa; Lagos State Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola; Wife of the former Lagos State Governor and current Minister of Works and Housing, Mrs Dame Abimbola Fashola; the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Millennium Development Goals and former Deputy Governor in Lagos State, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; the former Chief of State to the Lagos State Governor, Chief Lanre Babalola;  Mr Bashir Tosin Ashafa; The Managing Director, MDC Consulting Limited, Mr Akinyele Oladeji among others.

Reading her acceptance speech, Mrs Ashafa said that she remained committed to the ideals of the founding fathers of the humanitarian club by contributing her quotas in the development of society and assisting of the needy.

According to her, service is embedded in the atmosphere in which love, encouragement and love reign, adding that she would focus on free eye care, cancer treatment, youth empowerment,  hunger relief, environment,  diabetic screening and other interventions to assist humanity.

She said: “I want to reiterate to serve humanity by using this platform to assist the less privileged in our society with unflinching support. I have taken time to study my environment and in line with the Lion International Centennial goals, that will impact our community, I have come up with project plans that will impact our community.”

Mrs Ashafa, who said that women have the potential to contribute to society if given the opportunity to make an impact, said that special attention would be given to the children and youths and other vulnerable in the society in her tenure.

Also speaking was the former Lagos First Lady, Mrs Fashola, who expressed confidence in Mrs Ashafa’s ability to take the Lions Club to a greater height through frequent uplifting of the downtrodden by way of medical and economic empowerment.

Mrs. Fashola, who called on people in the position of authority to allow women to take up more functions in the task of nation building, said that Nigerian women have contributed immensely to the nation building through teaching morals and active participation in the nation’s development.

The former deputy governor, Princess Orelope-Adefulire, said that going by the few women given opportunity to serve in Nigeria and their contributions to the nation, there  was no doubt that the new Lions Club would excel. “I felicitate with her on assumption as the president of the club, we have no doubt that we pray God will assist. It is one thing to become a leader of an organization it another to make a meaningful impact.”

A renowned movie producer and philanthropist, Tosin Ashafa expressed delight that Mrs Ashafa was recognised for her role in helping the less privileged in society, expressing optimism that she would do more as president of the Lions Club. “She has been in active humanitarian role since I was born. She has always been a caregiver and helping those around her. I am glad that she will be able to do more with her position as the president of the club. We will on our part do as much as we can to support her and encourage in all capacity to succeed in this new responsibilities,” he said.

The Lagos HoS, Muri-Okunola urged the new Lions Club president to remain committed to the ideals of helping to lift the less privileged, describing her emergence as indication of undeniable roles of women in building society and indeed the nation. “To ask questions on role of women in nation building is to doubt the role. As far as I am concerned women have surpassed their expectations,” he said.

The celebrator’s husband Ashafa commended all the friends and associates for honouring the family, saying, “I do not have any doubt that with God on her side, she would deliver in her responsibilities as the President of Lions Club.”

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Call us pilots not drivers, Female BRT drivers demand



Call us pilots not drivers, Female BRT drivers demand

Naturally, they are female drivers, driving the Lagos long buses popularly known as BRT. They drive normally like their male counterparts, tact, careful but a bit aggressive behind the steering.  A week long trip with them through the city of Lagos, revealed that they are not only skilled at driving, they are also beautiful and look adorable but stern in their outfits.

In a chat with some of the female drivers at their Oshodi park, they told New Telegraph that they would rather prefer to be addressed as pilots and not drivers because the word ‘driver’ sounds crude and archaic.

  According to Jane Odunawu, a female BRT driver, graduate and mother of three said she has become passionate with driving BRT. Before now, she was  into buying and selling of cloth but it was not a profitable business for her as customers often too owed her money, thereby making her run short of profits. “I have to wait till months end to have my money. It got to a point that I was cashless and I have to take care of my children at home. So, I decided to take driving as a profession.  I started working as a driver 2014.I worked for visionscape for a year and two month, I also work for premier road BRT at Ikorodu and the red BRT and finally I become a pilot at these BRT terminals.”

The schedule for her, she explained starts from 3am daily to resume work and close by 2pm. “Sometimes, I resume in the afternoon and close at night depending on my shift for the week,” she said. She quipped that there are times she close late because of traffic which has become a common feature of Lagos cities.   

Odunawu is so passionate about her job that she refuses to see any challenge in it. For her, if there was any in the at all, she would not see it, as long as the job cater for her needs. “I don’t really have challenges because naturally while growing up, I love driving, so in the driving accept I don’t have challenges,” she enthused.

However, she accepted that there could be challenges in some areas especially passengers manners of approach to them. She said that passengers talk to them like they are nobody. “They talk to me in a saucy way, but because of the training I have gone through and what I have been told by my boss, I don’t respond to them. I will just let them say anything they want to say and I carry on with my work.” The other area is she said has to do with her children school PTA meeting. She said before her first child finished secondary school, she was always unable to attend her children PTA meeting, “but thank God, my first child is out of secondary school, so she does represent me at the meeting and sometimes my husband go for the meeting,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Odunawu recounted a memory when she started driving BRT in 2015. She said passengers were scared to board the bus because they saw a lady behind the wheel. “But with time, they started loving and appreciating us, and we are one of the best drivers, we are calm and have good communication skills. The industry are even looking out for more females, they just need to be trained before starting the job. With God, we actually do better than our male counterparts.”

Relating with her colleagues, she said she is lucky to solid relationship with them than male counterparts.                 “I don’t have challenges with my colleague because I present myself as a decent woman. They give me maximum respect as a woman. Once in a while, we argue on some issues but then, it ends there and we know how to handle ourselves. Luckily for me, my husband is alright  with my job in as much as I’m not moving away from our children. He advises me to work only during the week and my boss corporate with me on that.”

She concluded by encouraging the women out there to come into the system if possible. She advised them not to be shy of about the job so long it fetches them daily income. “I wave at my friends and even stop to greet my people while driving. A week ago someone actually saw me while driving on Friday and she was amazed and later came to meet me at the church to ask me about the job and I told her I was doing my job and collecting good salary. And she was like hailing and praising me.”

Mrs. Ewatomi Babalola, also a female BRT pilot, mother of one and a graduate told New Telegraph that she joined the leagues of female BRT drivers when she couldn’t get a job after graduation. And since she joined, she has not regretted it once. “My past experience is that I could not get a job after so many years that I graduated. I was happy when I later found a genuine job, which is driving of BRT bus, I was informed by my cousin that they are looking for  a female  that can drive BRT bus at Oshodi BRT terminal, and I told my cousin that I can drive very well. I went for the interview and was employed as one of the female BRT pilots, which I started three month ago.”

She explained that she resume work by 6am and close by 3pm in the afternoon. In her own situation, she is lucky to have a housemaid who helps to carry out her domestic chores, also help her does school runs for her child. “When I resume from work I do my responsibility as a mother ,and depending on Lagos traffic,  there might be a lot of traffic sometimes, I got home late which might be 4pm, with that I still have time for my family,” she said.

Babalola also corroborated Odunawu about having occasional hitches with passengers. She said that she does have challenges with some passengers with the saucy way they talk to her. “They talk, bully and insult me but I just keep quiet and ignore them. I have to exude that I’m a decent woman and a graduate, so, I choose to ignore them. My boss has also warned during orientation that we have to persevere and accommodate.

“I love my job and it has thus far been stress free for me. I advice my fellow women not to be reluctant to do the job when the opportunity surfaces. It is a decent job that certainly put food on the table. Do not think of what people will say, rather, pursue your dream and achieve your goal.”

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Mum & Parenting

War against rape, child molestation



War against rape, child molestation
  • 54 NGOs storm Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Maiduguri



The campaign to ensure child-safety and prevention of rape received a great boost in the past one week as no fewer than 54 non-governmental organisations stormed major state capitals across the country, pressing for concerted efforts to stop callous acts against them. Biyi Adegoroye reports




The Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) came from major parts of the country, but were united in one mission – ‘a movement against rape and pedophilia.’  Hence, their leadership donned various colours of shirts and carried placards with assorted inscriptions held rallies, lectures and open campaigns in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and Maiduguri in a mass movement to drive home a point about the rampant nature of rape and pedophilia, warning against the damaging effects.

Recall that rape and child sexual molestations have been on the upward swing in recent times in Nigeria, as pupils, male and female have been victims at schools, churches, mosques as well as students in the higher institutions being sexually assaulted.

Five students of the University of Lagos are currently being prosecuted for attempted gang-rape a fellow student, while three students of Ondo State College of Health Technology, Akure were remanded in prison for rape of a fellow student. Perhaps, the most devastating was the arraignment and detention in prison of a soldier in Ondo State, Sunday Arowolo of the 32 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, for raping a student of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba.

In a recent interview with New Telegraph, a Consultant Family and Sexual Assault Physician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, (LASUTH), in Ikeja, Dr.  Olajimi Sodipo said the Domestic Sexual Violence Response Team, has treated over 5,000 clients in the past six years and that was just scratching the surface because they attend to about 20 clients a week.

The movement, titled: “Rape: Which Way Out?” drew government’s attention to the disturbing menace and called for enforcement various laws against rape, child sexual abuse and molestations. It also enunciated what roles children, parents, teachers, care-givers and religious leaders can play in stemming the tide.

The colourful events held by the NGOs whose areas of specialization cut across health and advocacy, included talks in local dialects and English Language as well as presentations in the forms of dramas by children and adults to draw attention to the physical and emotional dangers associated with rape.

Some of the NGOs at the occasion were “My Child My Treasure Foundation, Clare Cares Foundation, Stop This Stigma Nigeria, Bimbo Odukoya Foundation and VGF Foundation. Others were Child and Impaired’s Advocates, (CIA), Mushin to the World, Macaulay Nkechi, Complete Care Foundation, Safe Child Today Officials, TrueA International Foundation Ecocheroes Foundation and NGO Network.”

According to Convener of the events, Jane Ugwumadu of Save the Child Mission, the event was designed to make a strong statement and to draw attention of the federal and state governments to the prevalence of rape and pedophilia with the view ridding the society of them.  At the Lagos event which held at the Freedom Park, Ojota, the Ugwamadu said relevant laws against rape and sexual molestation should be more severe and there must be certainty of enforcement in order to serve as deterrent.

She said “Rape: Which Way Movement”  (RWWM),  is a 20,000people sensitization which involves various NGOs in Nigeria. “The aim of the sensitization is to enlighten the general public on various ways of protecting and ensuring the safety and well being of children/wards within their environment, due to the incessant increase of rape/sexual abuse and assault affecting the society at large.

“We also aim to inform and enlighten the general public on their right to report such cases and demand appropriate justice when it arises and ensure that the maximum punishment is dealt out to such paedophiles who makes our vulnerable children/ward scared and thereby threatened the peace and sanity of the society. This movement is for both young and old, survivors, concerned individuals, companies, government parastatals and others.”

Also, the President of My Child My Treasure Foundation, Mrs. Florence Chukwura lamented that whereas scores of laws exit in the nation’s statute books, many of these are not enforced. “The story in the media daily has been very disgusting. You hear and read about fathers raping and impregnating their teenage children and mothers concealing it to avoid stigma in the family or a kind of double tragedy where a father goes to prison while his daughter is put in family way.

“In many cases, they even forget the stigma, social and psychological, on the teenage child for life. It is even worse when lesson teachers, pastors and Islamic instructors take sexual advantage of little girls in their care. It is scary. Just where can one find trust and care for this little ones?”

Executive Secretary of Child Safety Advocates, (CIA), Barr. Sylvia Ogunfuyi, called for inter-ministerial collaboration among ministries of Health, Education, Justice and Social Development as well as international agencies to stem the dangerous tide.  “The law enforcement agents, ministries and development partners should rally round government in this regard while families and other institutions play their parts.

“The law is clear on rape. Chapter 25 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015, Section 260 (1) says ‘Any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, commits the offence of rape and liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,” while attempted rape attracts 14 years in prison.

“The same is true of defilement, because the same law in Section 137 says ‘any person who has sexual intercourse with a child commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,’ while indecent treatment of a child attracts seven years imprisonment.’”

According to her, while many states of the federation have criminalized these sexual offences and even domesticated the Child Rights Acts, the prevalence of these crimes in the face of these efforts has necessitated the need for concerted efforts, legal, administrative and educative to address the cancerous problem.

Ugwumadu commended participants in all parts of the country for the huge success of the campaign, stating that the feedback has been enormous. “Rape survivors are grateful for the campaign; families of rape victims as well as others crying in silence and children who were victims of sexual molestation were excited about the success of the event which they said will shift the narrative and add more impetus to stop rape and sexual molestation.”

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Mum & Parenting

Our son is dying slowly of malnutrition – Parents



Our son is dying slowly  of malnutrition – Parents

This is definitely the most trying moments for parents of Hassan Muhammad in Wabu village Gamawa Local Governmnt Area of Bauchi state. They are desperately in need of help for their two-year-old son dying from acute malnutrition and cannot do anything about the illness.

Muhammed, according to his mother has been suffering for a long time of a yet to be diagnosed sickness. His father Rabo pleaded for urgent help from government, individual and corporate bodies to enable them find cure for his dying son.  Rabo said there is nothing they could do to save the child but to watch on helplessly, which, is quite heart rending. He explained that his son was diagnosed of malnutrition at Wabu health care facility, but lamented that the sickness has persisted and is gradually killing his child, which made him more confused if it was really malnutrition or something else.

“He said, “we have been receiving treatment and attending the maternity without knowing the actual disease our child is suffering from. We have not been referred to another hospital from Wabu maternity for further treatment; and even if they refer us to another hospital, we cannot afford the treatment fees.”

The mother of the child, Hajia Aisha, said that their biggest concern was the inability of the health care facility to properly diagnose the ailment her son was suffering from, making him to be in critical situation of his life. Aisha said, “we are blind as far as his sickness is concern, we don’t know what really is his illness, and we cannot not do anything about it for now.”

Reacting to the predicament of the parents and their sick child, Hajiya Altine, the health personnel in-charge of Wabu maternity in Gamawa LGA of Bauchi state, said that even the mother of the sick baby lacked balanced diet that can translate into healthy breast milk to feed the twins, especially the one that is hit by the severe acute malnutrition.  According to her, the child has been battling with diarrhea, malaria from birth and “a yet-to-be identified disease.

Hajiya Altine, who expressed concern over the health situation of the child, said that the poor financial status of the parents has also hindered them to transfer the case to another hospital.   “Whenever we try asking them to go to general hospital for further checks, their response has always been, ‘we don’t have money to do that,” Altine explained.

When New Telegraph visited the child, he truly looked malnourished, in fact, looked lifeless! He couldn’t breath properly, couldn’t lift his hand or even try to move his body, he just laid down looking hazily at his parents and around him. According to the health personnel, they told New Telegraph that the child is suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition ( SAM).

New Telegraph checks revealed that the out of stock of “Ready to Use Therapeutic Food ” (RUTF) used for the effective cure of SAM, being experienced in all the CMAM centers across the state may have aggravated the severity of little Hassan’s ailment.

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Mum & Parenting

Empowering women through Goats Breeding Scheme



Empowering women through Goats Breeding Scheme

Feelers from beneficiaries of the Jigawa Goats Breeding Micro Finance Scheme, showed that the programme initiated in 2015 is a success story. Governor Mohammad Badaru echoed it at a recent town hall meeting in Dutse.

He noted that the goats breeding scheme was the most successful micro-credit scheme in the state, with 92 per cent retention and 79 per cent repayment level.

Badaru said that the objective of the scheme was to diversify the economy and reduce poverty among women.

“Our state has one of the highest level of poverty, especially amongst women and this is something we must stop.

“The easiest and most effective way to alleviate poverty is through the goats multiplication programme which we borrowed from Bostwana and South Africa, where millions of women were removed out of poverty,” the governor said. Available records showed that through the programme, the state had so far empowered over 8,428 rural women with 25,284 goats.

Testimonies from the beneficiaries indicated that through the scheme, the women were “ largely removed from poverty line and their living conditions enhanced.

Aisha Musa, one of the beneficiaries in Dunari village of Mallammadori Local Government Area, said she realised  27 goats from the three goats given to her.

“ What I do now is buying and selling of goats. Whenever I sell, I buy small ones to replace.

“Through this scheme, I can comfortably buy clothes, food and others basic needs for myself and my children,” she said.

Another beneficiary, Sadiya Madu, said through the scheme, she performed her first Eid-el-Kabir sacrifice, an important religious obligation in Islam.

“I sacrificed one of my goats in 2018 Sallah. Before then, my husband only slaughtered chicken during Sallah because of financial problems.

“That is why I remain grateful to this government for supporting us with these goats,” she said.

A blind woman in Mallammadori town, Yagana Mohammad, said she was left with nine goats after she gave out three of the 12 goats she had to another woman as required.

“ Out of the nine goats, I have decided to give out one goat to my guide and another one to my grandson as gifts.

“ The two of them have been very helpful and nice to me, and that is why I have always prayed to God to give me the opportunity to pay them back,” she said.

Falmata Adamu, a widow in Guri town, said she reared seven goats to complement her farming activities.

She said: “My husband died and left me with a small farm in which I cultivate guinea corn. After I lost the entire crop to the 2018 devastating flood, I had only my goats to fall back on.

“Each time I need money, I will just sell one to meet my needs and replace it with a small one,” she said.

As a result of the success of the scheme, Jigawa Government plans to start the exportation of goats.

Alhaji Hamza Muhammad, Badaru’s Special Assistant on Community Service, said the state planned to start exporting goats to Saudi Arabia.

He also said that a committee had been set up to ensure that the goats’ loans were recovered and the multiplication output of the scheme marketed and sold at reasonable prices.

Muhammad said that each local government area received 660 goats which were distributed to 220 selected women, including the physically challenged.

The official said that each beneficiary received one he-goat and two she-goats, and was expected to pay back with three goats in 18 months, so that other women could benefit.

He said the state chose goats because of economic value of goats and simplicity to rear.

Muhammad said feeding the goats was not a problem to the women who were mostly rural dwellers as grasses were in abundance in their villages.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the former Minister of Information and Culture, who commented on the scheme, said it was a model for other states to copy.

He spoke in November 2017 when he visited Jigawa on an official visit.

He said: “It is a very good initiative because goats produce twice a year, and most goats give birth to two or three kids.

“So, this is a very good initiative and there is a need for other states to copy from Jigawa.”

• Nabilu Balarabe writes for the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN

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