Although the calls for better treatment of the girl child in the society may be drown in the sea of myriad practices that are rooted in our African cultures and traditions, however our cries will never cease for the total wellbeing, self-worth, development and welfare of the Girl-child In the society.
The need to create a world that supports and is friendlier to the girl-child and protects her rights in all ramification is a burden on every member of our society. Therefore, the task of creating awareness on the privileges that should come with the girl child cannot be overemphasised at this stage of our development both as a people and as a nation.
Hence, our concern must be to create necessary awareness on the rights of the girl-child, ensure an enabling environment for her to achieve her dreams, canvass for the adoption, administration and adherence to the recently passed child rights act of National Assembly, with particular emphasis on the girl child, drive, support, advocate and lobby for legislations that seek to protect the educational, health, moral and socioeconomic rights of the girl child.
Therefore, on this auspicious occasion, and with respect to the limited time I have for this presentation, we shall look at the beautiful picture of the girl child as gold that she truly is, but I shall also depict the picture of the grim realities that bedevils the girl child in our society today.
The idea is to portray the inherent good that is obtainable from empowering the girl child in all spheres of her childhood all through to adulthood on the one hand, and point out those areas we as members of the society are guilty. At the end of my presentation, you would appreciate the place of the girl-child in home, society and Nation building.
Hence, the urgency and expediency of a better treatment and handling of the girl-child would have been established, and your minds disabused on those limitations that our modern society seek to, or has placed on the girl child.
THE MANY BURDEN OF A NIGERIAN GIRL-CHILD
The incessant cases of girl child molestation in our society today is rampant, sad, heart wrenching and in fact shameful. The unfortunate tide seems to become a norm and on a daily, if not an hourly occurance with the parpetraitors cutting across all age brackets, faith and educational background amongst the men folk.
A recent case in hand is that of a six months old baby Khadijah, who was raped by a 30-year-old man, Muktakar Muhammad, in Kano State ( reported on the Punchonline of 13th May, 2017) and so many other similar gory tells of child abuse that abounds mostly in our our own northern states of NIGERIA. While, some school of thought may wish to blame the wicked act on money rituals, lust and many other mundane reasons.
But one is tempted to ask, what is sexually attractive in 6 months old infant? While the bulk of the blame lays with the assailant, some of the blame can as well be ascribed to the parents, guardians, relatives and the society at large. Should we know any better, we would do more to protect the girl child.
You will all agree with me that the upkeep, protection, feeding and the general wellbeing of a child rests on the adult parent(s), guardian(s), relation(s) and society. However, there is a wicked and sad trend where vulnerable, naive, innocent and fragile female children are exposed to criminal elements and avarice of the weather in the name of hawking or work to earn a living.
It is even nauseating to know that such proceeds of child labour are being used for the upkeep of an entire house hold, with the tacit approval of an adult parent(s), relative(s) or guardian (s).
A certain little Aisha (not real name) have had to stay out of school, away from the comfort of a home, absent the protection of an adult or the guidance of a more experienced and elderly woman. She is however exposed to all manner of dangers and manipulations, thereby making her an easy prey for the morally bankrupt elements in the society. This rubs her of the beautiful attributes of childhood, instead flings her into adulthood, that tends to give her a false sense of ‘responsibilities’, which inadvertently may land her into making life-threatening decisions and a traumatic adulthood.
The right to self expression, education, career development, property ownership, self development and choice is often denied through early marriage of the girl child. Even where there are exceptions, these are often delayed or greatly compromised often at the whims and caprices of the more exposed and better enlightened adult spouse.
According to The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), about 800,000 women suffered from Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) annually in Nigeria – Premium Times report, of 8th August, 2017. These trends are alarming as they contribute immensely in the rampant cases of abandoned children on our streets, ophanages and even abortions.
One therefore must conclude that, most of these evils against the girl-child are informed by the biasness against the female child in our society right at birth. It is therefore pertinent to mention that, gender sensitivity is a major causative factor encouraging these societal ills, that has continued to deny the rare privilege of appreciating the golden opportunity that comes with a total girl child.
WHAT WE MUST DO
The recently passed Child Rights Act by the National Assembly, though not exhaustive in its drive to protect the girl-child in particular, we must however make do with the tools it has provided us to fight for a better girl child. It is true that, some states may have adopted and passed into law the desirous Act, many states with rampant and recurring cases of the ills mentioned earlier are either reluctant, recalcitrant or altogether have refuse to adopt the act as passed by the National Assembly – including our dear state of KADUNA.
We must as parents, guardians, teachers, civil societies and gender based organisation, continue to draw the attention of all concerned to ensure that the girl child’s right to Life, equality, career, education, expression, childhood, sanitation and to aspire is encouraged, propagated, guaranteed, protected and upheld. We must as equal stakeholders and partners (men and women) continue to advocate for more information about the rights of and privileges due to the girl-child, because you will agree that the girl child, if supported will do even more.
The world is replete with examples of successful females, making great feats in the world front, examples one of such amongst many is Oprah Winfrey, despite her tormentous childhood that has a similitude of our present predicaments, according to Forbes rating the duo of Judy Love and Oprah Winfrey are tied for No. 3 most richest females in America, both worth $2.9 billion (Forbes). She has, despite the odds, since become an inspiration to both men and women alike.
Oprah and alot many others are shining examples of a society that supports the girl child to shine bright like the gold that she is – why can’t we support our girl child? We must therefore cherish, nurture, and value the girl child, even more than we do with gold. Because, like gold, she is precious and worth a life TIME.
Finally, I leave you with a beautiful quote from Queen Rania of Jordan.
“I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.”
It is paper presented by Tim Maiyaki, an enterprenuer & writer (Girl Child Rights Advancement Foundation – GCRAf) based in Kaduna and Abuja. 29th July, 2017.