For Okrika, a town in Rivers State, Nigeria, the Iria Festival is one such avenue preparing youngsters to become knowledgeable adults.
It is staged in December and January by the various communities in Okrika but in the last decade, of the 10 Okrika communities which participated, only two communities including Ogu, take the festival seriously thanks in part to the invasion of the Christian religion.
In times past, if a girl failed to undergo the puberty rite, it was believed she would find it difficult to have a child.
The day after appearing at the market square, the girls dance around the community wearing ‘Mkpala’ on their legs as a special marker of their status so desirous men can make a move.
Said to have begun in the 16th century through Seminaro, the first lady of ancient Okrika nation, Iria Festival has lost its vibrancy over the years because of Western education and the Christian faith which have conspired to make parents not enter their maidens into the festival.