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June 1, 2002

Girl Power

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Emelia, 17, is an educator for Girls' Power Initiative.

Mission: To teach Nigerian girls about their bodies and their sexuality.

Soon after turning 15, Emelia Eyo was faced with a frightening Nigerian tradition. As the firstborn female in her family, she had to be circumcised. Emelia had been attending classes at the Girls' Power Initiative, a six-year-old nonprofit organization that teaches girls about their bodies, and had decided to tell her mother she refused to undergo the procedure.

"I knew the health facts, that female genital mutilation could result in all kinds of complications. I said, "Do you want me to go through the same trauma you went through?"

Her arguments were strong enough to convince her mother and father that she should be spared. The experience inspired Emelia to become a peer counselor at the organization that had empowered her. "I wanted to provide girls with enough information so that they, too, could argue their way out of a circumcision."

But that's only one of the ways in which Emelia educates younger girls.

"Nigerian parents don't teach girls anything about their bodies or their sexuality," she says. "Girls here are so frightened when they get pregnant, they drink chemical mixtures to try to abort the baby and wind up killing themselves."

At Girls' Power Initiative, Emelia teaches girls how their reproductive systems work, as well as educating them about contraception and AIDS.

"I give them the knowledge they need to protect themselves," she says.

To find out more about Emelia and the Girls' Power Initiative, click here.

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