Yesterday was celebrated worldwide as the International Women’s Day. The day provides women the opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who played extraordinary roles in the history of their countries and communities.
The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 United Nation’s Agenda by building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals; achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls as well as ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
But while the celebration goes on, the plight of the Nigerian Girl-Child continues to be a source of concern to well meaning individuals and groups. It is a popular axiom that today’s girl is the mother of tomorrow. But certain policies and actions of some people in our society are inimical to survival of today’s girl-child.
Indeed, it won’t be wrong to say that something terrible is happening in this country. Can we blame any analyst who concludes that a girl child is abducted, assaulted or violated per minute in Nigeria, and that Nigeria is not a safe place for either a girl child or a female? The sanity and moral temperature of a society should be measured by the manner in which that society treats its underprivileged and vulnerable members. The powerful trample upon the weak, the privileged despise the less fortunate – a long journey to Hobbes’ apotheosis, which is in truth a comment on the state of our development as state, country, people, and society.
Regrettably, these acts run against some key targets of the 2030 UN Agenda for women which are to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes; by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development and; end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation; and, eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
All the above ills are in practice in this country. Almost on daily basis, girls are kidnapped or sold out voluntarily by their own parents in exchange of some money, while the poor innocent girls lose their innocence at the age where they should be playing with their toys. Eventually, they end up becoming prostitutes and our so called ‘civilized’ society deprives them of their very right to lead a normal life. Unfortunately, the same society easily forgets that it is the one responsible for these ladies becoming prostitutes.
Related to this is the increasing number of child marriages. Due to the ridiculous and atrocious belief of girls being a burden to their parents, the parents themselves force their young daughters to marry men thrice their age. Not only are such humans a disgrace to mankind, but they are the real culprits behind every tear their daughter sheds for the rest of her life. If that could even be called a life! Where this does not happen, then it is the notorious kidnapping and forced marriage by an adult to a girl-child without the girl’s parent’s knowledge but with tacit approval of the authorities. Often, the daughters of the poor are victims of such barbaric act.
Another epidemic of this century is to make the woman give birth to children until she bears a male child. Sometimes, her in-laws even disown her if she’s unable to bear a male child, but the truth that these merciless people don’t know is that the husband is responsible in determining the sex of the baby and not the female.
Unless our society changes its view and mindset about women, no amount of law and order can stop them from committing heinous crimes like these. Such crimes would go on and on with each one becoming more frightening than the previous one. This cannot be merely changed with law, but every citizen in our country, irrespective of the income group should understand that we are born free and the constitution guarantees everybody equal rights. Girls should be given opportunity to develop to womanhood as the future lies with them.
Finally, we must emphasise that females are not burdens, they are the light of the family, if every individual understands this, imagine what a beautiful place Nigeria would be?