Abigail Okpebholo

Young Pearl


I grew up in a family/community that relegated women and girls, barricaded them with lots of harmful cultural practices, rigid social norms, and religious misinterpretations such as early marriage, FGM, domestic violence. For example, when men spoke, women are to remain silent or take the blame for everything whether they are right or wrong. Most times, they woke up as early as 4am to go to the family farmland, working from dawn to dusk, walking through lonely bush paths and having no time for themselves. They were at the mercy of men and we are practically “modern day slaves.” Girls on the other hand were not privileged to go to school because everyone thought that girl’s education was a waste of time as they will end up in the kitchen or in a man’s house giving birth.

I struggled through school as I wore tattered school uniform, had old notebooks, did not even have a pen to write in class and wore very old, oversized school sandals. Most times, my teacher would bring me out in front of the whole class to scold me, my classmates always made mockery of me and I was usually sent home thereby missing classes, test and even exams. Whenever the new school term resumed, I never resumed on time because I could not pay my fees or other school related levies. I was broken, stressed, sad and depressed. However, there was nothing anyone could do after all, girls’ education was not supported. On this fateful day, I had so many thoughts about changing the narrative. What if people saw girls’ education as normal as boys? What if people put in more resources to support women empowerment, girls right and opportunities? What if everyone sees these things from a different light? I was determined to make that change happen because no one was ready to “bail the cat”. These experiences led me to establish Young Pearl.

Young Pearl Organization is a community-based NGO which I use to advocate for the rights and privileges as well as improve the lives and well-being of marginalized and underprivileged women and girls in rural communities across Nigeria. Women and girls at the grassroot level suffer the most relegation, marginalization, setback, and all forms of violence. I have been there, so I know how it feels. Currently, I advance girls education by providing educational learning materials, sanitary pads and scholarships for educationally disadvantaged girls to have access to inclusive quality education, I also organize skill training programs for women where they learn various handwork of their choice so that they can start up income generating businesses and become financially independent. Furthermore, I mentor young girls and women to build their capacities and monitor their progress in their various regions. Additionally, I established a school in my community which enables rural girls learn in a safe and conducive environment, connect to their peers, bond and excel. Now, I am fulfilled knowing that every girl and young woman out there can “Unleash their Girl Power” and create change.