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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

AHNi Launches Start-up Grants for over 300 Adolescent Girls in Anambra State


By Uzo Ugwunze

In line with the vision 2030 project to end HIV/AIDS in Anambra State, Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNi) in collaboration with Anambra State Government has launched Start-up grants for economic empowerment of over 300 Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW).

The epoch making events which held at Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Center,Awka, also saw the First Lady of Anambra State, Her Excellency, Mrs. Nonye Soludo decorated as the AGYW Ambassador by AHNi.

Launching the Start-Up Grants for economic empowerment program, the Anambra State Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare, Chief Mrs Ify Obinabo who also represented the Mrs Soludo after commending the sponsors and support groups advised the beneficiaries to use the opportunity of skill acquisition and the grants to nuture their lives into something admirable.

“This is a life changing opportunity. Let us do it well. Have this mindset of doing your best as if there is no tomorrow. The little grant you would get, use it judiciously to invest in your vocational skills, do not squander it on frivolities”, said Mrs Obinabo.

She further advised parents to discourage their girl child from early marriage but rather train them in school, skill acquisition or business saying that no man wants to marry a liability.

“Also, allow your boy and girl children to engage in any form of business, craft, sports, chores.Buy football for both gender if you like, don’t say girls do not play football. Boys should learn how to cook and keep the house as well. These can benefit them in the future,” she said.

Earlier in her keynote address, the Technical Officer AHNi, Mrs Leah Umeh-Okeke said that they are partnering with Anambra State Government, The Global Fund(GF), National Alignment for HIV Investment (NAHI), Family Health International (FHI360) among others to reduce the spread of HIV risk and lower the HIV incidence among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW).

“AGYW between the ages of 15 to 24years who constitute a significant proportion of Nigeria’s population are vulnerable in terms of inequality, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality.

“The Program through the implementation of designed interventions, aims to affect risk reduction, behavioural change and empowerment, decrease HIV incidence, teanage pregnancy, increase retention in school and economic opportunities, reduce Gender based Violence (GBV) among AGYW, while also targeting their male sexual partners at substantial HIV risk with prevention services. Those found HIV positive will be linked to facilities that provide adolescent-friendly care and treatment services.

“AHNi conducted a survey in Anambra and the AGYW said that they needed to acquire either education or handiwork to overcome poverty which is the major cause of risk behavior.

“The Donor agencies told us to put certain things in place saying that the AGYW to be trained, given start-up grants or empowered must be selected from the indigents and vulnerable.

“After a systematic and unbiased interviewing 321 met the criteria given to us. So after today’s launching they will resume skill acquisition training under the Vendors at either Nnewi, Omitsha or Awka cluster which will last within the period of one month to six months depending on their choice of craft,” said Mrs Ume- Okeke.

Moreover, the Deputy Project Director, AHNi, Dr. Charles Odima, Executive Director, State Agency for the Control of Aids (SACA) in Anambra Mr. Johnbosco Nkem Ementa, United Nations program on HIV/AIDS(UNAIDS) Anambra State Representative, Dr. Adaoha Anosike, Association of Positive Youths living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (APYIN) Anambra State Coordinator, Mr Francis Nwankwo, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWAN).

Gladys Ezembu, and Dr Femi of United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) in their respective speeches encouraged the young women to take the training and empowerment program seriously to change their lives positively and to enable them change the lives of others who cannot help themselves economically.

The resource persons all pointed out that the program ought to be for young men but was

later narrowed down to adolescent girls and young women only. They reminded the grant beneficiaries that people like Ibeto, Dangote, started small, managed their capital well and have now become great employers of labor.

However, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Barrister Sam Ike who was represented by the Director, Information Department, Mr Emmanuel Ikegwuani after commending the sponsors and the organizers of the program assured that his ministry under the leadership of Mr. Paul Nwosu will disseminate the messages gotten from the program to the hinterlands of Anambra communities and also to people living in diaspora.

” This skill acquisition and empowerment of the AGYW is a welcome development. It will help cub prostitution, unwanted pregnancies among other vices and encourage the young women to live responsible lives within their communities.

“Also, Women should speak up against Gender Based Violence, inhuman traditions like forcing a widow to drink corpse water to prove innocence and other evil practices before reasonable men and government can back them to eradicate such practices.

“Anambra Ministry of Information headed by Mr Paul Nwosu will ensure the spread of this good news to our people both in the hinterlands and in diaspora the advantages of such noble projects towards eradication of HIV/AIDS through empowerment of the AGYW,” said Ikegwuani.

In his remarks, Igwe Dr. Joel Egwuonwu, Ezeudo of Umuawulu urged the beneficiaries not to approach the skill acquisition program with levity saying that both Government and well spirited foundations or individuals have been sponsoring many good programs like giving of grants and empowerment only for the recipients to abandon the program halfway as soon as money enters their coffers.

Highlights of the event include the official launch of the various crafts displayed by one of the Vendors Rev. Azuka Chukwuanu of Beatrice Onyemelukwe Vocational School, Onitsha by the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare, Mrs. Ify Obinabo, Presentation of AHNi recognition awards to the Anambra State first lady, Mrs Nonye Soludo, Mrs Ify Obinabo among other dignitaries.

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