On Sunday, the 11th of October 2020, in the capital city of Gombe State, Nigeria, there was a small special gathering (in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions) in honour of some remarkable girls who responded to our call and participated in the essay competition we launched as one of our activities to mark 2020s International Day of the Girl.

In line with our mission “to equip, educate, enlighten, and motivate girls and women of the North Eastern Region of Nigeria to develop confidence, self-esteem, wellbeing, and resilience through formal education, entrepreneurial and vocational training” YLF launched an essay writing competition with the theme “My Voice Our Equal Future.” We received so many entries from girls within and outside Gombe, all beautiful voices, united in purpose, and the desire to see that all young girls in Nigeria live free from violence and harmful practices that hinder them from achieving their full potential.

16-year-old Maimuna Najat Aliyu Waziri, from Darul Arqam Academy Gombe, emerged as the winner of the competition. This young aspiring writer has great ambitions and believes that “…education is the key, and no matter what gender a person is, he or she has the right to go to school and learn…” This is at the core of our beliefs at YLF. 

…education is the key, and no matter what gender a person is, he or she has the right to go to school and learn…

Winner of the Essay Competition, Maimuna Najat Aliyu Waziri

For us at YLF, this essay competition’s success was tinged with bittersweetness, as the apparent need for a world-class education for our children in Gombe State was glaringly evident. Our children deserve the right to stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers, not just in Nigeria but across the world, and something as basic as written English should not be a barrier. When reading the essays, we could see the spirit behind each girl’s aspirations and hopes for a better Nigeria, which was predominantly our guiding factor in the selection process. This gap we noticed has only further spurred us to intensify our efforts to provide the support needed to educate young girls so they can compete internationally and win prizes for Nigeria.

We invited our pool of Finalists and their parents to Matrix International Academy Gombe who graciously loaned us their beautiful facilities. In attendance were several members of the YLF board and patrons. We also shared a video campaign showcasing some brave girl’s rights advocates, speaking to the issues that affect girls in Nigeria today. It was a moving event that charged and awakened all present to the cause of ensuring that we secure the girl child’s future today.

We have ignited a spark, and we hope that the excitement with which this competition was received will make it even bigger and better next year. We are inspired to make this essay writing competition an annual one and encourage parents and teachers alike to support these young minds with their writing because they have unique voices that need to be heard. With the right nurturing and support, they will do great things in the future!