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How COWAP Is Redefining Girl Child Education In Africa, By SunnyGreen Itodo & Ernest Egelonu

Education they say, is the strong pillar that upholds the strength of a given society. In a broader view, education in general brings liberty and freedom to the mind. The words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, call to mind the aesthetics of education to the human mind. He said, "We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education." In the light of the above, there is a great enumeration of the imperativeness of education to man, woman, young or old. Little wonder the philosopher, Plato, once inferred, "If a man neglets education, he walks lame to the end of his life." To further accentuate the import of education, the afforementioned philosopher took a different view to education by tailoring it down to the youth (children) of a given society, in which he said, "No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education." Hence, the foundation of every society is the education of its youth.

Essentially, of the utility of education to mankind, the Girl-Child education seems to be or deserves the most undaunted attention. Suffice it to say that education of a girl child saves lives and builds stronger families, communities and economies. An educated female population is said to foster a tremendous increase in a country's productivity and fuels economic growth. In Africa, girls and young women's access, retention and completion in schools is still of huge concern. The latest figures from UNESCO (2019) show that 52 million girls are not in school in Africa, while 4 million will never step into a classroom compared to 2 million boys. Consequent to the above assertion, it is noteable that pervasive poverty and persistent cultural attitudes, including forced early marriages and child labour, continue to be the main obstacles to girls' education in Africa.

While girls in India and most parts of Africa are considered a burden on parents and are thought to have been sent to Earth just to cook, clean and give birth to children, a voice rose in Africa to dislodge the limitations that popular culture and society placed against the girl child from accessing quality education or normal education even. This voice which rather sings aloud, the good songs of girl child education, belongs to an NGO called Coalition of Women in Africa for Peace and Development (COWAP). To COWAP, education of a girl child is as important as the basic necessities such as air, food and housing. The Coalition of Women in Africa for Peace and Development (COWAP) believes that the moral growth of a society is routed through the medium of girl child and women's education, for it makes them accessibly valuable.

The Coalition of African Women for Peace and Development (COWAP) is the brain child of Engage, Empower, Educate Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Nigeria with registration number CAC/IT/NO 105343. Engage Empower Educate Initiative was established with a mission to engage, empower and educate Africans, especially the woman and girl child. To achieve this, they have put together different projects, one of which is COWAP ( Coalition of Women in Africa for Peace and Development) in which they harness the virtues of women in Africa to foster and promote the development of the continent. Their operations revolve around the areas of
• Peace in Africa
• Girl-child education
• Ending hunger in Africa
• Ending poverty in Africa.

COWAP's four core values reflect who they are and they strive to inject these values into their work every day. Their purpose is identifiable by their values which are:
- Team work: working together efficiently and effectively.
-Passion: Believing in the power of communication to impact development
-Integrity: Building an honest, transparent and productive relationship
-Hard Work: Putting in a great deal of effort and going the extra mile to ensure they achieve their goals.

Still in the business of dusting off clogs in the wheels of girl child education, The Coalition of African Women for Peace and Development (COWAP) hopes to launch The Back to School Initiative this September, 2021. This is a campaign to send 10,000 primary school girls back to school in September. This campaign saw light during one of COWAP's annual summits (African Women Summit 2021) that brings together a thriving community of Women in Politics, Wives of Presidents and Vice Presidents in Africa, wives of governors, visionaries and global experts from different fields of human endeavor in order to share their stories, brainstorm on ideas and launch initiatives targeted at creating sustainable peace and development in Africa. At this year’s summit which held on the 5th and 6th of August at the prestigious Hilton Alhabtoor Hotel, Dubai, the BACK TO SCHOOL INITIATIVE was given birth to.

Moreso, the Back to School Initiative is aimed at identification of vulnerable intelligent girls and enrolling them in primary schools for sponsorship/assistance for one year. The sponsorship of each girl child during the one-year period covers:
• School Fees​​​​​
• PTA dues
• Uniforms
• Books

The beneficiary (girl child) will be selected based on the following criteria. She must
• Be very intelligent
• Be in primary/class four (4) and five (5) in school
• Be enrolled in a school and have a parent(s) or guardian struggling to pay her fees
• Be an orphan
• Belong to a woman headed household (widows, single parent, divorcees)
• Belong to a family of five (5) children or more
• Have a parent(s) or guardian who is living with disability or is chronically ill.

From the foregoing, one can rightly say that the Engage, Empower and Educate Initiative and its child: COWAP are set to make a difference in the age long campaign for the girl child education. They therefore deserve appraisal for championing such a laudable and star-studded course for the good of the girl-child in particular and for women in general.

posted by TM

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