“Girlhood Around the World” is a special, 10-week series from The Lily. Each week, we will offer a glimpse into the world of a girl in a different country. To receive these in your inbox each week, sign up for our newsletter, Lily Lines.
Jennifer Anuka is an 18-year-old girl who lives in Uromi, Nigeria. Jennifer is the second oldest of seven children. Her mother died, so she lives with her father — a farmer — and her siblings. Jennifer’s father couldn’t afford enrollment fees for her, so she’s no longer in school, but she’s learning how to become a hairdresser.
“I am a brilliant girl. I want people to know how intelligent I am and assist me to become a medical doctor,” she writes.
There are millions of children like Jennifer in Nigeria. In July 2017, the country’s government said that they have “the largest number of children out of school” in the world. According to UNICEF data, there are an estimated 10.5 million children, 60 percent of them girls, who are not in school in the country. Poverty and child marriage are cited as two of the main reasons that keep girls out of classrooms.
In parts of the country, security concerns also keep girls out of school. In 2014, in the village of Chibok, 276 girls were abducted from school by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The incident made headlines around the world and spurred the #BringBackOurGirls movement. In 2017, a large number of the Chibok girls returned home, but the insurgency continues in parts of the country, and as recently as February, more than 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Today is Saturday. Today was a great day. I woke up today and my father asked me to go to farm. I told my dad that I can go to farm later. There was no food at home.
One girl came over the house and asked me to plait her hair. After plaiting it, she paid me money and we used it to buy food. Everyone in the house ate it. Also that day, one of my friends was having a quarrel with her boyfriend. The girl asked me to go and help her. I said to the girl, “It’s not my business.”
I woke up today. I saw there was no food at home. When I went to my dad’s room I saw that he is not at home. I used my sister’s phone to call him and tell him. He told me there is no money again.
I cut the call and told my siblings to go and prepare for school.
They did as I said. After some minutes my friend who I work with told me we should go work. She told me I should go and get a boyfriend … then I said over my dead body.
She came back and then she called her boyfriend’s friend and she gave me the phone. The boy was saying he is ready to do everything for me.
Education is forbidden — A multimedia package about girls’ education in Nigeria by journalist Rahima Gambo
Bits of Borno — An Instagram account showing pieces of daily life in Borno state, Nigeria
After surviving Boko Haram, they’re telling their stories (The Washington Post)