Nigeria’s Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), led by Dr Ayoade O. Alakija hosted a “Girl Child: Nurturing Our Women, Nigeria’s Own Wealth”, on 2-3 February 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria.
The summit brought together an array of prominent figures from across health, education and development, from Nigeria, the region and international partners.
The Summit agreed on terminology for the basis of a new social contract to create an enabling environment for girls and women so they can thrive not just survive. There was strong support for a new social contract from Honourable Dr Adeleke Mamora, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation; Honourable Dr (Mrs) Zainab Ahmed, Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning; and Dame Pauline Tallen, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development.
The social contract includes articles on education and learning environment; health and sanitation; safety and security; cultural values; financing education and implementing the social contract.
Keynote speakers at the Summit including Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
Forming the heart of the Summit, were the voices of girls and women from states across Nigeria, from the north, south, east and west. Summit delegates heard the heartbreaking plight of girls and women, their challenges and fears and also their hopes and dreams. They eloquently voiced what they hope leaders of Nigeria, with support from international and multilateral partners, can do to enable Nigeria’s girls and women to thrive not just survive.
Delegates were left with their resounding message- ‘Do not let us down’. The statistics are stark, Nigeria has 10 million out-of-school girls and the most out-of-school children in the world.
Delegates heard from donor country representatives including the UK, USA, Germany and Denmark. They also heard from multilateral representatives, including critically, the IMF who shared startling statistics on the economic impact of addressing violence against women and ending child marriage. The increase in violence against women by one percentage point can reduce economic activities by up to 8%. Evidence from India shows that improving water and sanitation increases labour force participation by 1.5 per cent and contributes to a 1.4 per cent increase in GDP.
Across various panels which included representatives from the US CDC, IMF, World Bank, UNFPA, and UNICEF, there was a consensus agreement on the importance of girls’ education and an enabling environment to reach health and development goals and contribute to the future of the country.
Dr Alakija and other female leaders speaking at the Summit called on the need for female mentors. Dr Alakija expressed hope that girls in the room are able to build on what female leaders of today are achieving. ‘Our ceilings will become your floors, where we end is where you are going to start’.
Support for the new social contract included Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education said “I support a new call for a new social contract in Nigeria. For girls and women to thrive and not just survive, such a social contract must be inclusive of health, education and all the development goals and take a whole of-society approach to deliver it. I applaud Dr Alakija in the design of this summit in bringing the voices of girls and women from across Nigeria to the fore,”
For the girls and women of Nigeria, and for the people of Nigeria, we hope the incoming government meets the needs and pleas of her women for the sake of her future.