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My dad taught me about menstruation and puberty from age 9

By Esther Ijewere
27 June 2020   |   3:27 am
The Non-profits sector has contributed immensely to the growth and advancement of many development projects. It has also been the source of solace during this uncertain time in the world, with many donating palliatives and complimenting the work of Government...

The Non-profits sector has contributed immensely to the growth and advancement of many development projects. It has also been the source of solace during this uncertain time in the world, with many donating palliatives and complimenting the work of Government to give hope to the most vulnerable among us. Raquel Daniel heads one of such organisations. The advocate, who is also known as ‘The clarity coach for nonprofits,’ is an educator and impact strategist, passionate about improving education in Nigeria.
She works directly with children in marginalised communities in Nigeria, focusing on education and sexual & reproductive health for adolescent girls through her organisation; Beyond the Classroom Foundation. The University of Lagos graduate has provided free sanitary pads and trained over 10,000 girls on sexual & reproductive health.

Recently, her nonprofit enrolled 107 orphans and internally displaced children to school in Abuja, renovated a Primary School in Lagos and raised over $15,000 for the COVID-19 Relief Drive that donated free groceries to over 600 families in Nigeria. A recipient of several awards, Raquel is also a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, a Royal Commonwealth Associate Fellow, a Climate Reality Leader, a two time Mentor of the Queens Young Leaders Program and alumni Fellow of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative of the US Embassy Lagos, TechCamp Leadership program South Africa and the LEAP Africa Social Innovators Program (SIP).

Her new book, Flow, went viral after she unveiled it on May 28, in celebration of the World’s Menstrual Hygiene Day. She shares her inspiring journey with me and the motivation behind her book.
Childhood Influence
You know how they say “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”… That’s the story of my life. I’m passionate about education for children and providing access for them to go to school because of my background. I am the first in my family to ever go beyond secondary school. It was my late father’s dream and even though he died just after my sixteenth birthday, I did my best, against all odds, to make it to and graduate from the University. It was not an easy journey as, months after my father passed away, an uncle suggested marrying me off to send my brother’s back to school. I overheard that and ran away. I ended up on the streets where I lived for almost two years. I went from having no food or sanitary products, to cleaning a brothel for a living, to escaping rape about 5 times, all in a bid to fulfil that dream. So, starting a running a nonprofit that is focused on education and reproductive health is largely influenced by what I went through growing up. In many ways, my childhood prepared me for the work I do now.

The Momentum of Beyond the Classroom Foundation
Beyond the Classroom Foundation started in 2011, and we’re focused on two main programmes; promoting education and providing sexual & reproductive health education. In the last 8 years, we have provided free sanitary pads and educated over 10,000 adolescent girls in different communities in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo States. We’ve provided free school uniforms to over 7,000 pupils, renovated a primary school in Lagos and enrolled 107 children back to school at an IDP Camp in Abuja.  Just last recently, we developed a Coronavirus Awareness Booklet for Children in English and translated it to Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and French with Pidgin in the works.

The Journey so far
The journey was really tough when we started. It was like starting any business; there were challenges on all fronts especially with fundraising, innovation and plans for sustainability. Looking back now, I see the wisdom in getting a mentor early and connecting with a community of people in the same sector. I believe collaborating with others would have eased my load, as I was navigating new terrain. I also made a lot of mistakes, such as running too many projects at once and trying to solve every problem that we encountered. Eventually, I got some training at the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan Atlantic University and had two sponsored Social Sector trainings, one in South Africa another in Nigeria by the US Embassy in Lagos. It was these trainings that help me gain clarity and became focused on our mission thus making the work easier.

Being a “Clarity Coach for nonprofits”
The name “clarity coach” was given to my by a participant at the end of a class. I smiled and replied, “I’m not a coach for the world, I’m a clarity coach for nonprofit”. The class was part of the Clarity School for Nonprofits, which I started last year to train and equip emerging nonprofit leaders. From then on, the name stuck. I’ve come to love the name because the first thing I do with my client is the “clarity session” where we deep dive into WHY they want to start a nonprofit.

Responding to your question about the impact of my work to the sector, I’ll say, “I believe that the more structured nonprofits there are out there, the more impact they will collectively have on the sector as we collaborate”. As a trainer, my goal is to help emerging nonprofits to clarify and strengthens their structure, their community awareness, volunteer engagements and leadership capacity.

Wearing different hats and managing it all
I like that you didn’t ask about balance because I don’t believe anyone is ever going to balance it all. This is because, balance says that we should give equal energy and attention to everything at the same time, however, the best I believe we can do especially as women who work and also have children is to find a way to give our best, leave the rest and kill the guilt. For me, I prioritise the two most important things to me; my faith and my family. If it isn’t convenient for my family, I don’t give it a second thought. That being said, I have been able to manage my responsibilities well so far by doing a few things. One is not taking on a project God isn’t leading me to take on; not every good idea is God’s idea for me. Another thing I do is, share responsibilities with my husband. I don’t try to be a super mum or wife; I have a nanny for my daughter and when she is around, she supports me and this enables me focus on work. I also have an assistant for work who manages some of my work for the nonprofit and Clarity School.
Even though I prioritise faith and family, I put my best into my work. I believe it is possible to be a successful career woman or entrepreneur and still make God first in life. As a Christian woman, I need to be faithful in all that God requires of me. God prospers those who obey fully.

Why I wrote the book “Flow”
When I learned about periods in school, education was focused solely only on the biology of the menstrual cycle. The lessons left out important information about our bodies’ anatomy and the use of sanitary products. I remember educating my friends in secondary school and many were utterly surprised how I knew what I was teaching them. When I told them my father had taught me, they all couldn’t believe it. Flow is a book I wrote to help girls understand and learn about the changes in their bodies in a fun, easy and relatable way. The book includes details girls need to know about puberty, preparing for your first period, managing period cramps and types of sanitary products to use. In the book, I spoke about how my late father taught me about menstruation, shared my personal experiences, practical advice and information on managing menstruation.

This book is important and will impact girls positively because beyond sharing about menstruation and hygiene, I shared personal experiences and spoke about my late father, the man who taught me everything I needed to know about menstruation and puberty from age 9. Flow is designed to address the major concerns every young girl goes through during puberty.

To young girls who need a listening ear, but scared to open up
Let’s face it, speaking up can be hard for anyone. I know this because I’ve been there and know adults who are still having a hard time speaking up about issues affecting them. So, you’re not alone. If you’re a young girl reading this, know that the safest place to confide in anyone is at home. It might look like your parents or siblings don’t understand you, but they love you. Talking to the people you trust about issues bothering you in a safe and loving environment is a great, low risk place to start. If that didn’t help, try writing how you feel in a journal. I’ve found journaling to be really helpful for pouring out my heart and ideas. I’ll advice, don’t be scared to ask for help. If there’s something happening at home or at school that needs to be said, find an adult you trust and open up to them.

How My Organisation is adding Value During The Pandemic
At the announcement of the lock-down, there was an immediate spread of panic buying of food items to stock up homes, which frankly was a luxury that only a certain group of people could afford. We jumped in and started fundraising for food relief items to distribute to families, who couldn’t afford to stock up for the lock-down. 

In response to this dilemma, Beyond the Classroom embarked on a project tagged; The COVID- 19 Food Relief Drive to provide food palliatives for families in these low-income communities who have been gravely affected to ensure that the children, in these places, were not subjected to imminent starvation. With the help of the general public and partnerships with several organizations, we successful raised over $14,000. As a post-disaster relief, we have supported several women and children with sanitary pads; we raised $1,500 and distributed free disposable sanitary pads enough to last three months to 300 girls in Lagos and Abuja, in partnership with Sanitary Aid Initiative and Abuja Global Shapers.

Because we work with children, we partnered with Busy Mind Schools and distributed a set of 4 Workbooks to 200 children in the IDP camp; the books are translated in different local languages, and French.

To young women who want to go into the Non-Profits sector
The first and only advice I will give here is “Know Your WHY”. This is so important because, your WHY is your source of intrinsic motivation and your best inspiration. If you know your WHY, you can articulate the reason you’re going into this sector and because the journey could get really tough sometimes, especially with finding funding, you might want to quit but knowing your WHY will keep you focused. It will also help to narrow your direction to avoid mission creep. When you’re tempted to start a project because there’s available funding in the area, your WHY will always remind you; this is not the reason you started this nonprofit.
Being a Woman of Rubies and more
Rubies are among the most precious gemstones in the world but they are not the most precious. So, just like you have said “women are worth more than rubies”. On what makes Raquel a Woman of Rubies and more, I’ll say it is the work that I do for humanity. This is further affirmed by the privilege to be profiled on a platform that showcases inspirational women who through their work are making a positive change in Nigeria.