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1-On-1 With Determined Girls Founder

Ndali Gregory-Ozegbe knows exactly what she’s talking about. As a longtime advocate against Gender Based Violence and proponent for youth education and girl child empowerment she founded Determined Girls to tackle the problem of young Nigerian girls being left behind in terms of development in comparison to their peers worldwide.

Here she talks about the ripple effect of girls’ education, and about the value of having a platform for donors and NGOs to come together and actively make a change.

When did you set up Determined Girls and why? My own journey is what led me to start the Determined Girls Foundation. The years I spent growing up in Nigeria exposed me to the poverty, violence and abuse that goes on in our society daily. Even as I continued my education abroad, I would always come back home and wonder if there wasn’t more that could be done. My mother encouraged charity from a young age in our house. She’s very religious and has her own personal pledge of giving to the church every month and I would volunteer my time every Sunday in some way or another.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to co-found a non-profit organization that deals with consent education. I have always believed that the younger generations hold the key for a better future but we must guide them onto the right path. Though we hope to impact all young women and girls worldwide, Nigeria is the nexus of this journey for me.

And that’s where you mainly operate? Yes.

Access to education seems a problem that’s common to both genders in developing countries. Why girls? Why not disadvantaged children generally? Does that derive from your own experience? Here at Determined Girls, we approach all our work through a gender lens. Right now, developing countries have the highest number of out-of-school girls anywhere in the world. 62% of Nigeria’s population is under 25 years old and that number is increasing everyday.

In the North of the country child-brides are the norm and women and girls are trafficked throughout the nation. On top of that you have this problem of access to education when either for economic reasons or religious reasons girls are not the priority. Yes, inclusion and equity means both boys and girls, but our girls are at a disadvantage from birth due to the prevalent patriarchy in our society.

And presumably the implications of girls’ not going to school are much wider than lack of education? Yes, it’s not just about education, though lack of education is a reflection of patriarchy, but of a much deeper mindset issue. In the areas where we work, people see a goat as an asset and a girl as a liability and that mindset is very deep-rooted.

We’ve had generations of this internalized patriarchy and a well rounded education is one way to break it. This includes nurturing creativity and encouraging health and wellness through physical activity. When you do break it, the impact magnifies. The World Bank acknowledges that educating girls is one of the best investments you can make.

Climate scientists have recently rated 80 actions to reverse global warming and at number six is girls’ education, higher than electric cars and solar panels, which is amazing. But that’s because fertility rates go down and that reduction in population automatically has a huge impact on carbon emissions. So you can take any development issue – malnutrition, stunting, child marriage – girls’ education can contribute to the solution of all of those problems.

And how are you funded? Is it through philanthropy? It’s all grant funding. We depend on our sponsors and are so grateful for everyone who continues to donate and help us identify grant projects.

Is that from within Nigeria or from overseas? It’s both. There’s an international and a domestic element. It tends to be a bit of a mix – foundations and corporate foundations, CSR from companies, money from high-net-worth individuals.

Is the balance changing between the international and the domestic? We hope to get more from the domestic side and partner with companies and individuals to create community wide shared value.

Finally, where do you want Determined Girls to be in five years’ time? Honestly, we’re still very young but despite the challenges so far our team is enthusiastic, passionate and driven. We want to grow our community and create lasting impact for thousands of girls that will allow them to have a chance at opportunities they would have ordinarily missed out on. You can follow our journey by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on social media!

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