International Day of the girl child: Random musings on the Nigerian girl-child

Tinu, my mother's last child.

On the 11th of October every year, The international day of the girl child is marked around the world.

The day was set aside in 2011, by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls around the world face realizing them.

The significance of the day is to enable stakeholders to appreciate and brainstorm on the life and time of the girl child with respect to meeting her existential needs and to eradicate to the barest minimum what constitute threats to achieving her lifelong ambitions.

As usual across Nigeria like other United Nations member countries, different activities were organized by governments at all levels as well as non-governmental bodies and agencies to make the day worthwhile and memorable for them.

There were parades, marches, outreaches, symposiums, and seminars to name a few whose focus is to raise awareness for the prospects and drum up support to confront the challenges of being a Nigerian girl child. 

In fact, I catch a glimpse of some of the fanfare on the television and they were indeed a sight to behold.

Beyond the fanfare, I heard members of the social group in focus talk boldly about lofty issues of their life highlighting areas they would love the government, parents, guardians, and other relevant institutions to be more proactive in coming to their aid.

To a near mundane level and I’m not being unmindful of the embarrassing and sometimes painful experiences this has caused and continued to cause many of them, they made calls for sanitary pads to be distributed free for the girl child to adequately cater to the issue of their monthly menstrual flow which isn’t a choice ethically but naturally incumbent on them.

 File image of the Nigerian girls-child [credit] legit ng

Of course, I’m not unaware that this is advocacy that’s been going on for quite a while now.  But it appears no one is listening as yet. 

On a personal note, I would have felt bad with myself if I’d been negligent to the point of allowing an occasion so great to pass by without a word or two.

And it almost happened due to reasons I wouldn’t want to bring to the fore here. But thank God I’d rescued the situation at the last minute.

But what can I say concerning the Nigerian girl-child that hasn’t been said by eminent professionals, politicians, and academicians and already existing in the public domain.

Is it her education? Is it her vulnerability? Is it the abuse: sexual, physical, emotional, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, forced labor?  The list goes on and on and on ……

Even for so great causes, the Nobel Prize winner and international girl child rights activist, Malala Yousoufzai, I could recall, was here sometime during the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Now because I’m a father and interestingly to a girl child it makes it the more incumbent on me to randomly muse on what it takes to raise a girl child to becoming a worthy ambassador of the family to her community, her nation, and the world at large.

It makes it the more incumbent on me again to continue to appreciate what it means to be a girl child growing up in an environment currently laid with mines that threaten her wellbeing as a social personality and rights to a safe and peaceful existence.      

From what we know, it’s clear it was never an easy ride or job if you like and isn’t going to be, especially, at a time like this.

Of what may constitute a challenge to the evolving of the Nigerian girl into a well turned out personality, I personally consider two to be of great and urgent concern.

Number one is illiteracy. The only antidote to that is education. The education of the girl child has been categorized by social development experts as strategic to nation’s building.

So much so that educating a girl child is universally equated or acknowledged to educating a nation.

She is, first and foremost, a homemaker. And some have also called her, a domestic engineer, responsibly for giving birth, raising the children and caring for her family.

These, sincerely men would agree, are a combination of tasks not easy to take on. And so she must be adequately equipped through functional education to excel at them. She must be adequately supported by fathers, brothers and other matured members of the society to excel and not abused.

Above that, she is increasingly becoming bored restricted to activities in the other room for so long and is aggressively transiting into a big-time player in the boardroom if current trends are something to go by.

Some men, however, have seen that as a threat in itself to sustaining the cohesion of the family structure and values which she was naturally ordained to upheld from the beginning of time.

But looked at critically, it holds a promise of a mixed-blessing and reality men must learn to live with.   

So, more than ever before, governments at all levels must continue to prioritize the education of the Nigerian girl child to reinforce her position as a strategic partner in nation-building.

Likewise, parents and guardian must put in the front burner the educational interest of their girl child and not easily give up and give in on them to the advantage of cultural and religious practices and other primordial sentiments that seek to take exploit them.

Number two is the safety of the girl child. Nothing can be more frightening than to see or hear of different abuse being perpetuated against the Nigerian girl child.

Fathers are sexually abusing their daughters and putting them in the family ways.

Poor families are marrying off their poorly educated under-age daughters to wealthy members of the community in drove.

Also cases of rape, of under-age girls becoming prostitutes at home and abroad are also on the rise.

In fact, no day passes by today without our news apps, television and radio being headlined by one or more from the above.  

Indeed, there is no more perilous time to raise the Nigerian girl child than now. It’s grim.

And this calls for proactive actions from the governments, parents, and guardians with a view to nipping in the bud acts of criminalities which are destituting our future mothers at the formative stage of their life.

As a father, I’d very much love to see my little girl grow up to becoming a shining light for her generation and I’m more than committed to support programs and policies and laws of government targeted at eliminating the evils  which may stand on her way.

I believe so should other fathers and parents; instead of perpetuating these evils or conniving with criminally-minded elements to truncate the destiny of their girl child at the altar of temporal or permanent pecuniary gains and satanically inspired pleasure.  

Finally, I say a happy international day of the girl child to the Nigerian girl child. And may her day be filled with joy, love, care, and provisions that make life worth the while from parents, guardians, and governments.

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