NGO BGDI Celebrates Ibadan Girl Child, Tasks Them On Speaking, Leadership Skills

On the 11th of October, a group of secondary school students, women who work in the advocacy space, and government officials gathered in Mapo Hall in Ibadan, under the auspices of the Black Girl’s Dream Initiative (BGDI) to celebrate the Ibadan girl child.

Rafiat Atanda, the host of the event, noted that the event was held in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, with the theme: ‘Digital Generation. Our Generation’. Atanda stated that the major highlight of the event, which was tagged ‘The Ibadan Schools’ Debate Competition’, was organised to empower the invited students with communication and other related soft skills.

Karimot Odebode, the founder of BGDI, while giving the welcome address, stated that this edition of the Ibadan Schools’ Debate Competition was the maiden edition since the organisation was founded in 2017, but was officially registered with the government in 2021. She enjoined school principals and teachers to expose their students to events like debate competitions, which will enable them to gain more exposure and experience in public speaking and communication skills.

“Today is the International Day of the Girl Child, and we are gathered here to celebrate you girls. We know your powers. You can be whatever and whoever you want to be,” Odebode said. “Look at the journeys of notable women in Nigeria, and connect them with your purpose and passion. You can be afraid, but do it afraid.”

Mrs Ewa Orowale, the project officer at the Office of the Student Affairs of Oyo State government, stated that the world is now a digital village, and that the girl child should partake in the creation of the digital world, not just for the world, but also for herself. She encouraged the girls to aspire to be like renowned women like Pakistani Malala Yousafzai (the youngest Nobel Prize winner), Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation), etc. She finally added, “Give in your best to what you believe in, and the sky will be your starting point.”

Mr Adesola Adeduntan, the Chairman of First Bank Nigeria, who was represented by Mrs Dolapo Muyiwa-Koku, the Business Manager, Public Sector of the bank, while delivering her address, stated that the bank is passionate about the girl child and her education, and that the bank operates a gender-balanced system where serious women are encouraged to aspire to higher positions in the bank. She further said that the bank, because of its love for students, operates a savings scheme that enables young people and students to save for their future.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Oyo State, represented by Pastor O.A. Adeyemo, while appreciating BGDI for its lofty idea in inspiring women and girls to be leaders and decision makers in the society, noted that days have gone when there was a difference between male and female, and that girls can be whoever they want to be.

“Nowadays, women and girls are breaking boundaries and barriers, as well as creating a world that is relevant for them and for the future generation,” Adeyemo said. “I beseech you to model, build and develop your powers in things that can make you and not mar your future.”

Honourable Victor Olojede, the Special Assistant to the Oyo State governor on Students’ Affairs, stated that the governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, is an education-loving governor who believes in the education and welfare of Oyo State female children. He further stated that all genders are important, and that the girl child is very important, adding that that is why the state government is prioritising the girl child.

“In Oyo State, there are equal chances for all. The girl child belongs to every sector of development in the country and in the world,” Olojede said. “If some powerful women in Oyo government are doing exploits, you can do same.”

Morenikeji Adebimpe, the Project Manager of the event, gave a brief talk on the debate style. She stated that the topics to be debated on by the students were related to the current and pressing issues of national interest in Nigeria, and that the debaters were expected to proffer solutions to them, whether they were for or against the issues. She talked about the merits of being a debater while using herself as an example. “In case you are looking for ways to be better in public speaking, then debate is for you,” she concluded.

The judges for the debate competition were Ayodele Ibiyemi, a researcher and writer; Tomisin Shittu; Kawthar Salahudeen, a social entrepreneur and activist; Michael Olatunbosun, a broadcasting journalist with Splash FM, Ibadan; and Victoria Adaramola, Vice Chairman, IFELAW Debate Committee. After some of the judges read out the rules and regulations to be adhered to during the debate, the debate commenced.

The fourteen schools present at the event, as well as their representatives for the debate competition ‒ who were all girls ‒ were: St. Theresa College (Benita Akinlade), Muslim Model College (Faizat Olubori), Agbamu Community Grammar School (Tunrayo Olalekan), Sunshine High School (Taiwo Adetola), Abadina College (Aisha Amao), Our Lady of Apostle (Olajumoke Cole), Ansarudeen High School (Fatimah Abdulrahman), Bashorun Ogunmola High School (Rejoice Obadaiku), St. Anne’s College (Wuraola Thorpe), Bodija International School (Kikelomo Babatunde), the International School Ibadan (Moronfoluwa Ade-Ojo), Oritamefa Baptist Model School (Fajana Ayomide), Queen’s School (Jacinta Chukwu), and Urban Day Grammar School (Damilola Olatinwa).

The first topic that was debated on was: ‘Continuation of federalism in Nigeria: The best approach to good governance’. Sunshine High School and St. Anne’s College argued for the motion, while Ansarudeen High School and the International School Ibadan argued against it.

The second topic was:  ‘Electronic voting; the way forward to achieving free and fair elections in Nigeria’. Oritamefa Baptist Model School and Queen’s School argued for the motion, while Bodija International School and Abadina College argued against it.

The third topic was: ‘Tackling insecurity in Nigeria; the sole responsibility of the government’. St. Theresa College argued for the motion, while Muslim Model College and Bashorun Ogunmola High School argued against it.

The fourth topic was: ‘Twitter ban in Nigeria: An infringement of fundamental rights’. Our Lady of Apostle and Agbamu Community Grammar School argued for the motion, while Urban Day Grammar School against it.

After the debate sessions, a panel session ensued, with Karimot Odebode as the moderator, and Dr Mutiat Oladejo (gender advocate and lecturer at the Department of History, University of Ibadan) and Fatima Hassan (former Special Assistant, Student Affairs to the former Oyo State governor) as panellists. The panel addressed questions and issues on how to build a nation; leadership; and the challenges that come with leadership.

On the panellists’ advice to the girl child, Hassan noted that, as a young girl, people would say you are not enough, but you should tell them you are, both in words and in action. She advised the girls to be interested in something and give it their best. On the other hand, Oladejo stated that whatever one’s journey is in life, there is nothing like a bad destiny. She advised the girls to evolve, to discover and to be determined, and that these three things are what determine one’s destiny.

After the panel session, the judges of the debate competition, represented by Tomisin Shittu and Kawthar Salahudeen, gave general comments and advice on the debaters’ performances. Salahudeen commended the debaters for their courage and performances. She, however, expressed dissatisfaction on their lack of preparedness and good research. She advised them to speak the way they are comfortable with, to speak with facts, and to always maintain their composure even when they forget things. Shittu, on the other hand, advised the debaters to be logical in their arguments, to avoid politically incorrect statements and insensitive comments, and to always pronounce words properly.

While announcing the winners of the competition and their awards, Odebode commended the debaters and their schools for their performances, adding that in this debate competition, there are no losers.

The best five schools and their representatives from the debate competition, from the fifth to the first positions were: St. Theresa College (Benita Akinlade), the International School Ibadan (Moronfoluwa Ade-Ojo), Muslim Model College (Faizat Olubori), Abadina College (Aisha Amao), and Queen’s School (Jacinta Chukwu).

Jacinta Chukwu was announced the winner of the debate competition with a cash prize of N50,000. Aisha Amao came second, with a cash prize of N30,000. And Faizat Olubori came third, with a cash prize of N20,000. Other debaters received a cash prize of N5,000 each. Also, all the debaters received a branded BGDI paper bag that contained two books from BookCraft and Safari (publishing companies). They were also given certificates of participation.

Each of the schools were given wall clocks, and all the students that attended the event were gifted with branded BGDI knapsacks that had BGDI’s jotter and a pen for male students; and a jotter, a pen and Molped sanitary pad for female students.

Reacting to her win, Jacinta Chukwu stated that she was surprised that she was announced the winner. She added that the competition has given her morale and exposure, and that she has learnt to be herself, to be brave, and to have self-confidence. She advised her fellow girls and students to know their talents, and they should conquer the world with their talents.

Giving the vote of thanks, Odebode appreciated their sponsors and partners (First Bank Nigeria, Prince Akinremi Foundation, Funmi Ayinke Humanity Foundation, Beedel Constructions, Nigerian Breweries, Molped, BookCraft, TECNO Mobile, Oyo State Student Affairs, ONE Campaign, TOBEMS Media, I. RASA Clothing, and OSMD Network) for their support.

Quoting the BGDI Affirmation mantra: ’I am a black girl, and my dreams are valid’, she admonished the girls and students to believe in their dreams, and that one day, they will live their dreams as long as they hold on to them.

“Girls, the world is your stage,” Odebode said. “Take it. You don’t need anybody’s permission to take it.”

Other dignitaries present at the event were Ms Tolu Taiwo (National President, Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN)), Honourable Seyi Adisa, Abisoye Fagade, Olubukola Adeyemo (Corporate Affairs Advisor – West, Nigerian Breweries Plc), Mogaji Isiaka Odebode, and Mrs T. S Layinka.

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