A couple of days ago the world marked the International Day of the Girl Child, and one thing still echoes loud – the cycle of violence that stands in the way of her progress especially in this part of the world. She is still treated as inferior to her male counterparts; she is still denied basic education; she is still being genitally mutilated as a measure to keep her ‘promiscuity’ under check; she is still being told what to wear, where to go and what to do… the list is endless. In view of this, Happenings Magazine correspondent, Kikelomo Onigbanjo took to the streets to ask Nigerian women what challenges they believe the 21st century girl child still faces, their responses below.
Kehinde Balogun, Engineer: “I think the major problem is cultural beliefs. Where it is believed that when the girl finally matures, she will move into a man’s house to cook for him and bear children, so whatever investment in terms of education to be given to her, some families with such mindset will prefer to give to a boy who is the heir of their house. The girl child, no matter the circumstance should never be denied education. It is even part of the goals of the world for girls to be given the highest education they want to attain for social development.”
Sumbo Olanipekun, Advertising Practitioner: “Victimisation, no proper care, sexual assault especially rape, underage marriage as seen in the north where a man of 60 years will be comfortable marrying a girl of fifteen, or in some cases the man would have even paid her dowry when she is still a baby. All these are cultural factors deeply rooted in religion. Nigerians should change their mindset.”
Chineye Onuorah, Student: “The number one problem is inequality; poverty is another problem. When a parent can comfortably take care of their children, they wouldn’t even subscribe to the idea of giving out their daughter for marriage at a very early age. If poverty is eradicated in this country, a lot of other things will fall in place.”
Ifeoma Ogwuda, Human Resource Manager: “In some of parts of Nigeria, some parents or society don’t see the need of putting a girl child through school. Instead they want to train them on how to be a useful wife to her husband. Some give out their girl child too early for marriage for selfish reasons or because they are unable to provide for them. Rape and molestation is still very rampant. Kidnapping of the girl child is madness entirely. It shows an incompetent government and a social system that does not favour the minority of its population. The government has to sit up and be more concerned towards the plight of the citizens if we want to get anything done.”
Bola Afolayan, Administrator: “Rape cases are on the increase. Some parents still deprive their female children of basic education, even if it is almost free at the primary level and above all under aged marriages. Female circumcision is still being practiced in some places in Nigeria. The desperation for girls to get married by all means and start having babies is not making them face their books and make something out of their lives, coupled with general illiteracy. It is high time we have a reorientation about most of our social beliefs and knowledge because most of these things have a deep history in religion and are enforced by the society.”
Azeezat Fasasi, Student: “Lack of attention and care; this is because most parents nowadays are career parents, they don’t give their female child more attention in other to enlighten them more about life and they don’t give them sex education. As a result of this, these girls believe everything that they are told and they are easily influenced by peers and the opposite sex. That is why most female children are being abused by men. The solution to this is that parents should be more involved in the growing up of their children, especially girls.”
Hannah Adebayo, Secretary: “The problem is that we have allowed our cultural belief system to permeate into our careers or professions. The cultural belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and that she does not amount to anything if she is not under a man has really limited the girl-child from making something out of her life. There is also something called ‘male dominated profession’, I consider it as rubbish. If we remove this warped thinking from this societal misconception upheld by men, the girl child will be free to live her life to the fullest.”
Odunola Ogunsola, Housewife: “I think inferiority complex is the biggest issue here. When the girl child is seen as an inferior being to the boy, if a girl dares to venture into a profession mainly dominated by men, she will be made to shut up and take the back seat. The girl child should not just be seen as an observer in life; she should also participate and be made to fulfill her purpose in life.”
Onamade Ayobami, Student: “I think the basic issue here is that the girl child is already seen as being not up to standard right from the beginning. That is the reason why a woman that has 3 girls is desperately searching for a male child. Once she has a male child, she ignores the remaining female children and focuses on that one child, just because he is male, instead of her to nurture them together and give them an opportunity to thrive in our world today. Although, the situation has improved a bit, as we have seen women rise up in different cadres of life nowadays.”
‘Nike Ayodele, Civil Servant: “Our society with the family as the basic unit should build a belief system in a girl child from a young age that makes them successful against all odds. Response from the environment is not always encouraging. In my own opinion I think parents should allow their daughters to be whatever they choose to be. This will increase her confidence to be able to break barriers, and against all odds get to the highest level she wants to be. Men feel intimidated when a woman is more successful than they. They should not be, but rather women should be celebrated and given opportunity to realise their potentials to the fullest.”
What in your view do you think are the challenges of the 21st century girl child?