Girl child: Beyond the commemoration rhetoric
By Uche Anunne, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
On Oct. 11, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. The UN General Assembly, in Resolution 66/170 of Dec. 19, 2011 declared that day as the International Day of the Girl Child.
The Day, among others, seeks to recognise girls’ rights and the peculiar challenges girls face globally.
The International Day of the Girl Child draws attention to the need to mitigate the challenges that confront girls as well as promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
The theme for the 2022 celebration is “Our Time Is Now – Our Rights, Our Future.”
“Let’s enable girls to thrive in school, in politics, in business, and in all aspects of their lives because investing in girls is investing in our common future.
“Equal representation of Girls in Decision making tables is a milestone in achieving gender equality,” said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a circulated video to commemorate the day.
It will be an understatement to say that girls worldwide face enormous challenges.
In addition to other forms of inhuman treatment such trafficking for sex and forced labour, and marriage, girls have unique challenges in their education and hygiene as many of them are out of school because lack of toilet and water-related issues.
According to the UN, 10 million girls risk child marriage, and 72 per cent of detected sexual exploitation victims are girls.
In this internet age, girls also face challenges as global internet user gender gap has grown from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019, with the gap being wider in least- developed countries as it stands at 43 per cent.
No group of women will be in a better position to appreciate the plight of the girl child than female professionals, who have ridden through the challenges to become successful in their careers.
One of such groups is the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Ekiti state chapter which has added its voice to the call for a better environment for the girl child to reach her potential.
In a statement by the chairperson, Mrs Fatima Bello, and Secretary, Mrs Adewumi Ademiju, to commemorate the 2022 edition of the International Day of Girl Child, NAWOJ said more resources should be devoted to the education of the girl child.
“The multiple roles played by girl children in society before and after they reach adulthood are enormous; they go to school, help with domestic chores, and face life challenges.
“The purpose of this day is to spread awareness about the gender-based discriminations that girls face in our society and to bring change in the attitude towards girls,” said the female journalists.
In its reaction, the International Rescue Committee (ICR) paid tribute to girls “who are showing remarkable resilience in the face of discrimination, inequality, and violence”.
In Nigeria, statistics released by UNICEF paint a more troubling scenario for the girl child.
“Girls suffer more than boys in terms of missing out on education.
“In the north-east of Nigeria, only 41 per cent of eligible girls receive primary education, 47 per cent in the north-west. \
“Social attitudes can also impact negatively on education rates especially in northern Nigeria.
“In north-eastern and north-western states, 29 per cent and 35 per cent of Muslim children, respectively, attend Qur’anic education, which does not include basic education skills such as literacy and numeracy.
“These children are officially considered out-of-school by the Government“, said the UN agency.
In a message to commemorate this year’s event, UNICEF said although there has been increased awareness about the girl child, “yet, investments in girls’ rights remain limited and girls continue to confront a myriad of challenges to fulfilling their potential.
“This is made worse by concurrent crises of climate change, COVID-19, and humanitarian conflict.
“Girls around the world continue to face unprecedented challenges to their education, their physical and mental wellness, and the protections needed for a life without violence”, it said.
However, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen was recently quoted by the media as assuring that the Federal Government would continue to prioritise girls in its policies and programmes.
According to her, the government is aware of the challenges faced by the girl child in accessing basic education that will prepare her to be a major contributor to national growth.
While it acknowledges the International Day of the Girl Child, evidence shows that the average girl child still suffers from multiple challenges that inhibit her from realising her full potentialities.
It is important that the stakeholders, irrespective of their political, ethnic, and religious leaning join forces with the federal government to guarantee a beautiful feature for the girl child.
Society has to transcend the annual ritual of encomiums, statistics, and pledges and take concrete steps to match their professions to the wellbeing of the girl child with actions. (NANFeatures).
**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria