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Our children’s education, our business: Taking four pillars plus community dialogue sessions to the fish market

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My name is Elizabeth Eyo. I am the Market Women Leader at the Beach Market in Henshaw Town, Calabar, CRS. I am a proud mother and a community dialogue facilitator with the Four Pillars PLUS program. I am happy to see my fellow market women benefit from the dialogue sessions that are held at the Beach Market, something that has never happened before in this town. Rarely do women meet as a group to discuss issues related to their adolescent children’s health, education, safety and future aspirations. Elizabeth Eyo, Four Pillars PLUS Community Dialogue Facilitator

Before I joined the Four Pillars PLUS project as a community dialogue facilitator, I was the coordinator for the fish market women. I never thought I could empower these women with the right information that would bring about change in the lives of our children because I did not have that information myself. Our children face many challenges including cultism, robbery and rape, resulting in abuse, school drop-out and teenage pregnancy. These issues are of great concern to me and my community. The question is: “Who are the perpetrators and who are the victims?”. The answer remains the same: “It’s our children.” As parents, we have been disconnected from our roles and responsibilities and our children became vulnerable. We thought we were doing our best. We were not doing enough because we lacked information and we did not know how to communicate with our children.

Through Four Pillars PLUS, I was trained on community dialogue facilitation. And as a community leader and a change agent, I’m using my position to advocate for equal and equitable support for boys’ and girls’ education as this is key to a positive and lasting change that will save the lives of our future generation in Henshaw Town. Bringing the dialogue to the fish market is helping working mothers address gender stereotypes and social norms that lead boys and girls into risky behavior. It helps them understand their role in actively promoting equal access to education and gain knowledge on the impact of negative gender norms on the lives of girls and women.  Our community leaders join the dialogue sessions and publicly speak against intergenerational and transactional sex, encourage parents to prioritize, save, support their children’s education and safeguard their health and safety. This was not the case in my community until the emergence of the Four Pillars PLUS project in 2015.  Now there are 16 community dialogue groups engaging in bi-monthly discussions on adolescent sexual reproductive health, gender norms, child’s rights, career and opportunities. I want to appreciate the GE Foundation and FHI 360 Four Pillars PLUS project for bringing this life changing project into my community and addressing adolescent challenges through a holistic approach”.  

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