Invest In A Girl Reap Sustained Advantages (IGRSA) Project

This project was first captioned ‘Help a Girl, Save the Society (HGSS)’ but later changed to Invest in a Girl, Reap Sustained Advantages (IGRA).’ The reason is that the project identified that women and girls aren’t handicapped as may be shallowly thought, but they have all what it takes to make meaningful contributions to society’s growth and development. Therefore, instead of helping them, we should invest in them. As Ferynuy Heribert, an 18 year old boy trained in this program comments, ‘It is important to invest in girls because they are pillars of good homes.

Its purpose is to serve as paradigm for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Cameroon where there is yet no policy guiding sexuality education. Youths and girls trained through this initiative are better apt to make informed decisions taking into consideration their bodily integrity and evolving capacity. It also orientates girls and youth who go through to become powerful actors in the promotion of the sexual and reproductive health of girls, women and youth. Due to the high unawareness rate among youth and adolescents as concerns their sexual and productive health and rights, this project has found a way of increasing access to SRH information for youth. Besides, discussions about sex and sexuality are a rarity in most Cameroonian homes.

According to 2012 UNFPA statistics; in Cameroon, 86.6 % of youth neither have adequate access to reproductive services, facilities and needs, nor adequate information, education and/or knowledge surrounding their sexual and reproductive health. UNICEF (2012) says adolescent fertility rate stands at 127 per thousand women between 15 and 19 years. According to Enquête Démographique et de Santé et à Indicateurs Multiples (2011), 55% of women have consequently witnessed physical violence since the age of 15. However well meaning, most parental education about sex and sexuality has mostly been shame-based. This project aims at bridging this gap in order to create an atmosphere of cordiality in disseminating information.

Secondly, it aims at filling a large gap in the school curricular—that of building self-esteem by training youth on how to handle their socio-psychological and emotional state of affairs in a responsible way which does not cause harm to their health or jeopardize the attainment of theirs goals. By this, it stresses on the better management of oneself as well as the creation of healthy relationships with other youth and the society at large. Such basic information is very much inadequate in our context with negative repercussions which inter alia are early pregnancies, contraction of HIV and other STI’s, prostitution and lawlessness.

This project is designed to:

  • Train and certify at least thirty youth yearly on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, leadership, prevention of HIV and other STI’s, gender and communication for development as a means of increasing their self-esteem in a curriculum which is not emphasized in formal schooling.
  • Train these youth on the aforementioned aspects in order to become apt in training others, i.e. to enable them function as peer educators.
  • Empower the youth on vital aspects of life such as personal leadership as a means of improving self-esteem and view of life.
  • Help the government in its activities of training youth for civic leadership roles in the Cameroon, using a Comprehensive Sexuality Education approach.
  • Produce the peer education manual for subsequent trainings.

This project works on a scheme spanning 26 weeks yearly. Pride of place is given to girls due to their relative vulnerability to HIV and other sexual and reproductive health problems. It encapsulates the seven key aspects of Comprehensive Sexuality Education as in the ‘It’s all in One Curriculum.’ The aspects are:

  • Evidence-based
  • Comprehensive
  • Based on core values and human rights
  • Gender-sensitive
  • Promotes academic growth and critical thinking
  • Fosters civic engagement
  • Culturally appropriate.

It is a means of implementing paragraph 107 (e) of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action which called on stakeholders to ‘Prepare and disseminate accessible information, through public health campaigns, the media, reliable counseling and the education system, designed to ensure that women and men, particularly young people, can acquire knowledge about their health, especially information on sexuality and reproduction.’

It is also in line with Meaningful Youth Participation, an aspect championed by the Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD), paragraph 6.15 which stipulates thus: ‘Youth should be actively involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of development activities that have a direct impact on their daily lives. This is especially important with respect to information, education and communication activities and services concerning reproductive and sexual health, including the prevention of early pregnancies, sex education and the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.’