A Non-governmental Organisation (NGO), Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) with support from FIFA Foundation, recently conducted a one-week free holiday camp in Abuja. Tagged SKILLZ Holiday Camp’, the initiative utilised age – appropriate and gender -sensitive curricula that combines soccer metaphors, FairPlay soccer and experimental activities with high impact health information that equip adolescents with knowledge and skills to challenge stereotypes, cultural barriers, gender misconceptions and risky behaviors that hinder their successful transition into productive and healthy adults. The camp which opened on Monday August 6th at LEA Primary School, Zuba, admitted over 120 adolescent girls aged 13-19 and were engaged with a girls-only curriculum called SKILLZ Girl project.
According to Victor Nzenwa-Orji, YEDI’s Regional Coordinator (Northern Region), the FIFA Foundation-supported SKILLZ Girl project which started in 2017 is an adolescent health project for girls between ages 13 and 19. “It centers on HIV prevention, sexuality and life skills. It supports young women and girls participating in the project to better protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and make self-determined life decisions, using football metaphors, languages, fair-play soccer, and peer-led structured intervention,” he noted.
“This is the first time a 5-day camp approach is organised in Abuja and this is the first phase. The second phase will commence on the 13th-17th in L.E.A primary school Dutse-Alhaji and would be for both boys and girls, while the last phase will follow immediately and would be an all-boys camp” he added.
At the Zuba girls-only camp, the curriculum was delivered by female young adults educators called ‘SKILLZ Coaches’ in small groups of about 10 participants per coach. Participants’ energy, mind and creativity were engaged through fun, sports and educational activities with high impact health information in a safe and interactive atmosphere. Participants at the camp learnt relevant skills to better protect themselves and make informed and healthy self-determined life decisions. They also accessed free HIV Counselling and Testing with parental consent for those below 18.
One of the camp coordinators, Miss. Faith Ani, while addressing parents and guardians of participants at the closing ceremony expressed gratitude to them for allowing their wards to participate in the camp. “Thank you all for granting YEDI the opportunity to impact your girl child positively. We had fun together, played fair-play soccer and learnt about our changing bodies together”, she noted.
Miss Bisola Asala, one of the SKILLZ Coaches while speaking to the press said, “I feel fulfilled and grateful to YEDI for providing me with this platform and opportunity to impact adolescents girls in Zuba community of Abuja. The turnout of girls was commendable. We had more than the capacity we expected which shows that parents really understand the power of information and knowledge”.
A participant, Miss Sherifat Suleiman while sharing her camp experience with journalists who visited the Zuba camp site said she learnt how to calculate her menstrual cycle for the first time at the camp. “I am so happy to participate in the SKILLZ Girl camp. My coach taught me how to calculate my menstrual cycle and I’m going straight to teach my younger sister. It is my first time to go for a holiday camp. I came early for the five days because each day was fun packed leaving you with no choice than to look forward to the next day.”
“I have been empowered to know my rights, my sexual and reproductive health, shun risky behaviors that will expose me to contracting HIV and STIs and how to reach my goals in life of which my most important goal is becoming a medical doctor”, she added.
She expressed gratitude to her coach for mentoring her throughout the five-day period. “Permit me to say a special ‘thank you’ to my intelligent, beautiful and wonderful coach: Coach Adorable. I promise that memories and lessons learnt from you and this camp will stay with me forever and will help me become a better person and a change agent to my community”, she enthused.