Nigeria: ‘Girls progress= Goals progress; what counts for girls’ Commemoration of the Day of the Girl Child
The International Day of the Girl Child has come and gone, but the lingering problems of the girl child are still with us. Problems such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage, gender – based violence and limited access to higher education and reproductive health services.
As a particularly vulnerable demographic, adolescent girls face social, economic and political barriers, while they hold the potential to become leaders and effect change, their empowerment can be hindered by some factors caused by the society.
In 2012, the United Nation declared the 11th of October every year as the International year of the Girl Child.The day was declared to create awareness on the plight of the girl child. The theme for this year is focussing on adolescent girls and the sustainable development Goals which has set a range of international targets, including on gender equality to be achieved by 2030.
Activities were carried out all over the world to create awareness about the plight of the girl child. In Nigeria many activities were carried out by both Non Government and Governmental organisations. Post of the international day of the girl child was put on whatsapp, face book and emails also, Statements, Press Releases were issued and commentaries carried by Radio and Television stations all over the Country.
NAWOJ fired up to empower girls
To mark the International day of the girl-child, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, launched a “Girls Speak Out and Speak Right” a counselling platform for girls in Lagos. , The Association appealed to parents, government and the society to empower and encourage the girl child towards greatness.
The National President of NAWOJ, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Omowole said the Girls speak out and speak right initiative was introduced to help the girl – child to speak about her reproductive health rights and to also develop her interest in politics.
NAWOJ seeks to steer Nigerian girls towards greatness girl-child through empowerment and guidance programmes.
Chief Lola Akande, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, was represented by Alaba Fadairo, pledging continued support for NAWOJ’s developmental programmes for girls and women.
Guest lecturer, Omolaso Omosehin stressed the need for Nigeria to ‘walk the talk’ by investing in female child education, positioning the girl – child for future economic and political responsibilities, through quality education.
The Chief Executive Officer, Benola Cerebral Palsy initiative, Alaba Gbadebo, urged girls not to “under estimate your ability, always believe in yourself and strive to be at the top.”
The NAWOJ chapter in Damaturu, State Capital of Yobe, North East Nigeria also held lectures on Gender based Violence, ending Stigmatization in HIV/AIDS, the importance of health education to the girl child. Ronke Ojekere, an advocate against sexual abuse of women, said though child defilement offenders tend to go scott free because of our culture pf silence.
At the NUJ Press Centre, Benin, Edo State Capital, NAWOJ also held a round table to discussion the elimination of violence against girl child abuse. Floral Bossey, chairperson of Edo NAWOJ said apart from marking the International day of the girl child, the aim of the roundtable talk was to enable NAWOJ create awareness on the need to drastically reduce violence against the girl child, “if not totally eradicate it.”
In a Press release, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, called on parents, especially mothers to look out more for their daughters.
Ifeyinwa Omowole, National President of NAWOJ, stated it is common practice to view the girl child as the “assistant mother of the house”, as they are in charge of many chores sometimes more than they can handle.
“As mothers, women have a major role to play to ensure that the girl is not overburdened, while the boys are allowed to be unoccupied.” Adding that this also has a negative effect on our boys, who usually grow up very lazy and sometimes picking up certain negative traits.
She said this unequal distribution of labour among children also perpetuates gender stereotypes and the double burden on women and girls across generations.
The NAWOJ President stated that our children must be given equal opportunity and that, “that must begin with fair distribution of chores in the home.”
NGO’s, CSOs empower girls
Everyday Concern Organization an NGO that mobilizes women and girls into cohesive network that provides opportunities and tools for them to analyze their situation, organized a public lecture at Ogoja Junction, Ndock, Ogaja Local Government of Cross River State, with a resolve to scale impact to stand up for the girl child and step up action on the fight against rape.
Looking closely at the incessant incidents of rape Florence Kekong, Executive Secretary of the Organization, advised parents, particularly mothers to “keep closer watch on their girls and give them the needed protection.”
She noted that celebrating the day can only make more meaning if we add actions to our voices on this crusade.
The organization called on the UN women to spread concern to rural Nigeria to as to capture the plight of the rural girls whose vulnerability has often times been unknown. The presence of government and other relevant agencies like the UN Women “will go a long way to putting an end to the vulnerability, de humanization of girls by forecasting reliable options and finding real solutions.”
At a Girls Summit in Abuja organised by the NGO Girls Voices Initiative to commemorate the Day, girls voices were described “as a strong movement to push for the rights of the girl child and address the challenges confronting them.” The summit was organised to sensitize and create a platform for adolescent girls to speak out for themselves on challenges facing them.
Daniel Latte, a representative of Plan International Nigeria, stressed the importance of sensitising girls on ways to advocate for their rights in any situation.
In an interactive session on Girls and the Sustainable development Goals, Olaoluwa Abagun, founder of Girl Pride Circle explained the relevance of the goals to the development of the Girl child. “SDGs are crucial and central to the development of the girl child and to achieve them policies will have to be created for the development of the girl child,” she said
Carolyn Seaman, founder of Girls Voices Initiative, said the collation on data on girls will go a long way in addressing the issues regarding their welfare.
UN women in Abuja in a statement advocates for 12 years free and compulsory education for the girl child.
Girls Education Mission International in collaboration with Reconciliation Trainers Africa also hosted a viewing party of the premier of the CNN film – “We will rise” for 40 girls who were affected by the activities of Boko Haram, in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
“We will rise” is a documentary about girls over coming incredible challenges to achieve their educations and change their own lives, with contributions from First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Freida Pinto and CNN Journalist Isha Sessay. An interactive session about themes explored in the film also took place at the Lomay International Hotel, Jos.
Sharing their experiences, most of them expressed in sorrow their terrible experience of seeing how their parents were killed before them and some had to hide with sustained injuries of various kinds. They also narrated how
the difficulties they face to get an education.
Keturah Shammah, Executive Director of Girls Education Mission International pledged her organizations support to ensure that these girls stay in school. Girls Education Mission will also distribute, monthly, sanitary pads to the girls which has been their greatest challenge. They will also partner with Reconciliation Academy to provide basic skill acquisition training for the girls.
By Veronica Ogbole