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Vanessa Onyema: We Need to Continue to Push For the Education of the Girl Child



Vanessa OnyemaI have always heard about it; I view the horror from behind my television, in the comfort of my home everyday, but I have never had a personal encounter until that fateful day when I sat close to all my fears.

I wanted to let the tears flow but I had to be professional, so I blinked a few times and took in slow deep breaths.

She had a blank stare; I don’t think she understood her world was rapidly taking a different turn. Her mother looked like she saw an angel of death. She looked furious, bitter, resentful, disgusted, but in all… she had blame, not for her child but for herself as she thought deeply on what she did wrong training up her child.

“Where is the man?” I asked in Igbo

“At the police station, but I’m not sure they will hold him for long, what sort of problem is this? Oh God! Why me? “

She tried to hold herself from breaking down. She couldn’t, so she tilted her head to the side and let it flow.

I looked at the fragile fourteen year old in front of me and I replayed the story she told. She met a man in his forties. He lured her, enticed her, said he would change her world and status. He gave her money as little as five hundred Naira after each encounter. To her it was more than enough. She was promised a way out of the country, a way to get a better life for her family.

It was nothing but a mere fantasy – a lot of water down the pipe and now he left her broken and pregnant.

This might be just another victimization story, but this happens everyday especially in communities where there is no proper system or structure to help young girls in this situation. What becomes their fate? Some are married off to the men, some leave to the promised land and come back with an STD – worse they die on their journey.

Living in our urban hemisphere, we don’t understand the value of educating a girl child, not just sitting in the classroom for hours but education by creating impact. If my first case of child pregnancy had education and knowledge impacted in her, she will understand fully that:

She had rights
She was more than a sexual being
She was too learned to be fazed by mediocre antics.
She had a voice
She had the power to end poverty the right way.
She believed in herself.
She could be anything and by acquiring a standard education, she could be more.

She could have known all these and more, but she didn’t –  and there are a whole lot of them sashaying their way into the traps of these shameless men everyday. One vulnerable girl child is lost and what do we do? Nothing.

I wasn’t even powerful enough to say let the punishment fit the crime. There wasn’t anything we could do to set an example of the man. There was not a fixed punishment for child traffickers and molesters. With the right push, he walked but she was already scarred… for life.

Angelique Kidjo once said “Everyone wins when children and especially girls have access to education. An educated girl is likely to increase her personal earning potential and prepare herself for a productive and fulfilling life, as well as reduce poverty in the whole community. Investing in girls’ education also helps delay early marriage and parenthood. Our booming economies in Africa need more female engineers, teachers and doctors to prosper and sustain growth.”


  1. Ada Nnewi

    October 26, 2016 at 5:51 am

    This article here fully exposes the danger in thinking that there is nothing left for feminists to fight for…

  2. le coco

    October 26, 2016 at 6:51 am

    this is the reality… people arguing that such things dont exist because it doesnt happen to them… this is heart breaking… i am not entirely certain why we still have these discussions about the rights of the girl child… @Ada nnewi… you are absolutelty right… they want to brand feminists as angree, bitter, single women, but these are the things we are fighting for… why is it that in 2016 we ares till trying to negotiate education.. come on….

  3. Engoz

    October 26, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Left to me I have given up on Nigerian women. An argument on female rights and consciousness is often reduced to petty marriage talks or how we are not letting them love and cook for their boyfriends or husbands. Well, I don’t have time for that nonsense any more. And I refuse to participate in such dumbed-down conversations. What I have time for is the girl-child. There’s obviously a war on the girl child in Nigeria. And she needs to be fiercely protected. The story you provided is the reason why we speak out when a wizkid criminalizes the sexuality of a female, meanwhile his own sexual antics are something to be celebrated or a Dino Melaye threatens to rape a female senator. Such mindsets are the drivers of this war on our little girls. It comes from a place of total disregard and disrespect for the female sex. The manifestations of this disregard and disrespect is often through sexual violence, rape, abuse, marrying her off, etc. Now is the time to be very, very, very involved in politics. We can shout online as much as we want, but if we do not elect officials who will look out for female interests, nothing is going to happen. In the next elections we need to be very female conscious. What plans do we have for the girl child? Is the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs of relevance to the average Nigerian female? What milestones has this ministry accomplished? What are our elected officials doing about the rape culture? Why do we have only a few rape convictions since the history of Nigeria? What are their views on gender equality? What are they doing about divorce laws? And so on and so forth.

    • Moyo

      October 26, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      “An argument on female rights and consciousness is often reduced to petty marriage talks or how we are not letting them love and cook for their boyfriends or husbands.”That was beautifully worded. Amazing.

  4. jennifurbond

    October 26, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Beautiful write up vanny….

  5. yogo Anthony

    October 27, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Best article i have seen……….we pray this piece get to the world at large… our child child education can be Wow…….#Vanny

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