The majority of girls in rural Nigeria have little in the way of educational opportunities, an injustice that I feel needs to be corrected. In fact, many of the millions of girls in our country receive little to no education and therefore struggle to develop employable skills. This model sets our rural girls and women up for failure. Yet models where girls and women are effectively educated and given the opportunity to develop lasting skills prove to be an effective and reliable use of resources that also stimulates the economy and general growth.

Even though social barriers do exist, accompanied by religious and financial concerns that contribute to the problem, the winds of change are beginning to affect the girls of Nigeria. One way that things are changing is through a program called the Adolescent Girls Program. The program partners with 27 commercial and private organizations to provide girls with practical training that will help them develop marketable skills.

Even though the willingness to educate girls is there and many organizations are participating, families are still reluctant to enroll their female children. Poor families, clinging to long-held religious beliefs or for practical reasons, would prefer to keep their daughters at home. It’s an obvious roadblock that I think we need to discuss in order to reiterate the potential for women and their communities that exists when we actively enable them with educational opportunities. This is the only means to create lasting systemic change.

As a few girls enrolled in the Adolescent Girls Program and joined the workforce, families began to see that there were other choices for their daughters. Each year, more girls enroll in the program, learning strong job skills. As they join the job market and talk about their experiences, their friends, sisters, and neighbors consider the program for themselves. This helps to keep the program running, as well as helping the communities throughout Nigeria.

As more girls attend the Adolescent Girls Program (and programs like it) in order to pursue career paths, the face of our country’s economy will evolve. Sending more women into the workforce will also boost the number of consumers in the country, improve the situation for millions of families, and help to promote gender equality. More importantly for the individual girls participating in the program is the real possibility of building a better life for themselves through, a mission that will always resonate with me. Instead of relying on someone else, girls throughout Nigeria can pursue their own interests and better their country through their actions.