The United Nations made October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child in December 2011. Girls’ rights are codified in the U.N. Convention on the rights of the child: ‘non-discrimination, protection from harm and abuse and full participation in family, social and cultural life’. Yet, girls continue to be discriminated in areas of nutrition and health care, family care and protection, available indicators reveal.
In many parts of the world, girls are treated as less than boys, women less than men. In Nigeria, once upon a time, a woman would not be considered complete if she could not bear her husband a son. The girls in a home were considered objects – free labour, and a source of income when they were old enough to be sold off for marriage.
In 2007, an estimated 101 million children (majority of which were girls) didn’t attend primary school (UNICEF). The poor and rural communities in Africa, Middle East and South Asia have the largest gender gaps in education.
Child marriages are common in Africa, South and Central Asia and the Middle East. The highest rates are in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where girls are married off as early as seven; most are married by fifteen or eighteen. UNICEF statistics show that 47% of girls in India are married before 18 and in Yemen, 25% before 15.
A child bride usually ends up sexually abused, separated from family and friends, at health risk, vulnerable to violence from her husband and in-laws, susceptible to STDs and HIV, and premature death from early pregnancy.
Human beings, just like you and I, are being subjected to the terrible, heart-breaking conditions, simply because we are young and female. And what is the result? Girls grow up to be women – women who don’t know their worth, who have low self-esteem because all their lives they have been made to believe that they are worthless objects, nothing more.
The future of girls, and women as a result are at great risk. Because what is the world without women?
Consider women of old, devoted to their loved ones like Ruth, taking risks for their people like Esther; Queen Amina, Moremi, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Alimotu Pelewura, Mama Aduni, Ladi Kwali, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Mabel Segun, Nana Asma’u – all great women in the history of Nigeria. Women who were once girls. There are many more great women to come out of Nigeria but how is that to be if their morale is low, if not they themselves, are destroyed as girls?
In the words of Ihuoma Chidire Anuonye, the future of Nigerian women is the Nigerian girl child and such is the case, for every woman and girl of every nationality, every ethnicity. It is time for a change, a change long overdue.
Our voices must be heard.
Our words must be read.
Our girls deserve an education.
Our girls deserve to be treated as equal to boys.
Girls deserve to be loved and fed and cared for.
Girls deserve the chance to choose; to be a doctor, engineer, artist or a writer.
Our lives should be in our hands.
Things have to change. Our time is now.
About the Author
Senami Amosu is a 15 year old student who likes to write insightful poems and captivating stories. She is a teen advocate who loves to inspire through her writings on issues pertinent to teens’ wellbeing.