Thousands of Nigerian girls have already picked up the phone.
Lantana was 13 years old when her stepmother pulled her out of school to hawk for money. On the street in Nigeria, older men taunted and threatened her as she collected money for her family. One day, a man, Isa, stood by her as her protector. But then he lured her into a dark alley and took all of the money she had earned.
Lantana’s story is an illustration of what is too often the reality for girls in Nigeria, and is a story callers might hear if they dial into a new hotline created to give Nigerian girls advice.
Nearly 50% of children out of school worldwide are Nigerian, and many of those are girls forced to beg for money instead of going to school. An estimated 15 million children under 14 years old work as street vendors, beggars, car washers, shoe shiners and other jobs, UNICEF reported.
To help empower and engage with these girls, an organization called Girls Connect set up a toll-free number for girls in Nigeria to call for advice. Thousands of Nigerian girls are calling, listening to stories like Lantana’s, and receiving advice for their own situations.
“Being a girl in Nigeria is challenged, from limited education to early marriage, because of the fear that if you give girls too much information she will not know what to do with it and she makes bad choices, which will bring shame to the family,” Hadeeza Haruna Ausie, Senior Manager at Girls Effect, told TIME.
Girls Connect partnered with Girls Effect and ISON, one of Africa’s largest IT companies, to put this project together. Girls Connect is an international organization dedicated to challenging social norms that hold girls back by empowering girls around the world. The organization was previously funded by the NIKE Foundation but became an independent organization in 2015.