Samsung Mobile Press

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

April 18, 2024

Fueled by her passion to help the next generation of girls, Nigerian activist Priscilla Efe Johnson is destigmatizing menstruation and women’s health. Her organization teaches reproductive and sexual health education across Africa and beyond.

Priscilla Efe Johnson is a member of Generation17, a partnership between Samsung and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), empowering young people around the world who are contributing to the Global Goals.

The first time she got her period, Efe Johnson was scared, even ashamed. “I did not know what was happening to me because nobody ever told me what to expect,” says Efe, now 24. “It was a very traumatic experience.”

Like many young girls born and raised in Kaduna State, Nigeria, she had questions about her body while growing up. But she lacked access to basic information around women’s health. It was taboo, which perpetuated a stigma across generations of women.

According to UNESCO, two out of three girls in sub-Saharan Africa lack comprehensive health knowledge and skills. As she got older, Efe became determined to break this dangerous and painful cycle of silence and shame for young girls — and she knew education through storytelling and innovation was the key.

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

Efe teaches girls about menstruation and feminine hygiene while leading a Xari Africa school tour in Kaduna State.

Shattering Stigma, Opening Access
Efe began visiting local schools to distribute free sanitary pads. That’s when she discovered that many girls had never used feminine hygiene products and didn’t have a safe space in their communities to talk about their experiences and ask questions.

Keeping girls in the dark about these topics can contribute to sexually transmitted diseases, gender-based violence and teen pregnancy, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where the adolescent birth rate is more than twice the global average. It can also impede their schooling and economic advancement. In 2021, 23 percent of Nigerian girls missed school because of menstruation.

The more girls Efe met early on, through her visits to local schools, the more she connected with their experiences. “I see myself in them,” she says. “I see girls who have no one to help them understand their bodies. I see girls who desperately wish they had someone to talk to. I tell them, ‘I get it, and I'm here for you.’”

That’s what inspired Efe to start her own organization, Xari Africa, a nonprofit that provides girls with access to reproductive and sexual health education and resources. Her mission: helping young women and girls feel empowered about their bodies and be able to make informed decisions about their health and future.

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

During a community event, Efe discusses her support for the Global Goals.

Harnessing Innovation for Educational Equity
The organization began on a mobile platform in 2017 where Efe connected with other young people in Kaduna State working on gender equity. This online community was empowering for her as a young entrepreneur, and it enabled her to garner the volunteers, resources and funding to officially launch Xari Africa the following year.

Today, technology continues to amplify the nonprofit’s efforts by spreading awareness about its school tours, educational materials and events through social media. It powers their efforts to support the United Nation’s Global Goals, including ending poverty (Goal 1), delivering quality education (Goal 4), achieving gender equality and stopping violence against women and girls (Goal 5).

The school workshops cover everything from birth control to sexual boundaries and disease prevention – a first for the girls. These engaging events are also building a greater sense of community among girls and creating a supportive environment for asking sensitive questions and sharing personal, and sometimes painful, experiences. The workshops have reached more than 4,500 Nigerian students so far.

Crystal, a 15-year-old workshop participant, describes Xari Africa’s visit to her school in 2021 as transformative. “Efe was able to create a space where I could say things that were haunting me inside that I couldn’t say to anyone,” says Crystal. “Now I feel I can inspire other young girls to speak up.”

Despite her organization’s success in Kaduna State, working in conservative and at times in hostile environments, Efe dreams of supporting more girls throughout Africa and beyond. Technology continues to extend Xari Africa’s reach. In 2023, her team launched an online academy to bridge critical gaps in health education worldwide. The growing digital library of interactive courses and imaginative animations allows parents, teachers, advocates and girls to learn about the female body privately without embarrassment or fear.

“The dream is to reach at least a million girls across Africa,” Efe says. “With technology, we can make reproductive and sexual health education more accessible, and we’ll be able to achieve our goal much faster.”

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

At home in Johannesburg, South Africa, a girl learns about period health using Xari Africa’s online academy.

A Creative Catalyst for Change
To make sexual health education and knowledge accessible to more adolescent girls, Xari Africa published a free menstruation guide, “Just Period It,” that covers pregnancy prevention and hygienic period practices. The nonprofit has distributed 3,500 copies of the book, which uses easy-to-follow storytelling coupled with vibrant, educational visuals to destigmatize and simplify complex topics.

Efe wanted “Just Period It” to be illuminating but also relatable for girls – taboo topics needed to be accessible, as they are an important part of growing up. So, she drew on her personal experience with period shame and touched on common misconceptions about women’s health. She worked closely with a designer on the artwork, blending informational drawings with empowering female imagery.

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

Xari Africa’s guidebook uses bold, inspiring imagery and an approachable, conversational tone to teach girls about their bodies.

Despite the inherent risks to her and her team’s personal safety while breaking barriers in traditional communities, Efe remains committed to the Global Goals and making the world safer and more equitable for future generations of women and girls. And, in particular, she’s ensuring that the journey from childhood to womanhood is better understood and embraced.

“This fight, this passion, is personal,” Efe says. “I advocate for health education because it’s something I never received, and I’m making a safe space for kids and teens because I didn’t have one. I want better for girls like me.”

To learn more, visit Xari Africa

Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson
Meet the Generation17 Young Leaders: The Story of Priscilla Efe Johnson

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