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Diretnan Bot: How Africans Should Celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child

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The 11th of October is the International Day of the Girl Child. It was set up by the United Nations in 2011 in recognition of the difficulties of being female, as well as to help girls attain basic human rights.

I remember while growing up the only girl in a family of six children. My father had a fondness for calling a general assembly of his children by yelling out, ‘boys!’. At first, when he called out, I would naturally not respond since I felt I was not a boy. Nevertheless, he would insist that whenever he called out, he was referring to me as well. He said that as far as he believed, I did not belong to a separate gender ‘category’. He did not want me to grow up thinking that I was entitled to easier choices because I was a woman. My father, however, believes that being a woman did not mean being weak, and he made sure to tell me in explicit terms. However, he saw the need to develop additional tactics to transform my perception by calling me a boy.

Contemporary feminism might define such behaviour as connoting a disregard (even perceived as a disdain) for the female gender. I am, however, grateful to my father for understanding that our cultural expectations of female domestication in Africa, could potentially limit my ability to be as ambitious as my brothers. Hence, even though I was called a boy, being granted the opportunity to (possibly) be a part of patriarchal privilege, my physical biological state did not change. But, my mind did.

I began to see myself as having a genderless mind: one that pays less attention to the physical difference between sexes, but focuses on inward abilities which can set the pace for the male gender. My father understood that there were physiological differences between men and women, but non-existent psychological basis for sex differences. Hence, he believed in the mental equality of sexes and sought to nullify the cultural normative expectations of gender by calling me a boy.

This leads me back to the International Day of the Girl Child and how we should celebrate our girls today and always. How can we encourage girls to attain their full potential in a male-biased society such as Nigeria? I believe, by having a mental reassessment of the choices we make as adult women, and how these lifestyle choices affect how our daughters make sense of the world.

Specifically, we should help our daughters feel adequate in their gender. To enable them to see the beauty of being female which has less to do with their physical attributes but the abilities of their mind. That our vocabulary does less of defining their limitations and abilities (in the public realm) based on their gender.

Let our choice of words foster their adventurous and ambitious spirits. This also means that we provide learning opportunities within the home equally to both male and female genders – not teaching girls that they are the designated cooks, while boys wait to be served.

Let each child, irrespective of gender, learn to be responsible for their well -being, survival and livelihood.

When we question our cultural values and accept that it is okay for the social arrangements of gender to change, we would have taken the first fundamental step of ensuring that the future of our girls is secured.

Photo Credit: Tiziano Casalta | Dreamstime

I am a mother of two children, and a researcher with a passion for writing and studying issues of gender, technology use, and the impact of digitisation on democracy. I am also intrigued by discourses on philosophy, particularly the relationship between the material and non-material worlds. I love probing into the science of dimensions, of the 'possibility' of alternate realities and the implication on our existence in the third dimension.

12 Comments

  1. Boko Bamiche

    October 12, 2017 at 9:57 am

    A lesson for all parents. A privilege that I also benefited from. A good write-up. Well done dear

  2. tunmi

    October 12, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    So why didn’t the father call them all girls. Abeg let’s be honest. Your dad loved or loves you but referring to all of you as boys when you weren’t one, and not referring to you all as girls, says something. Recognizing that you are a girl doesn’t mean he believes you are entitled to less.

    Unless he believes anyone who recognizes they are a girl automatically means they’re lesser. Being “gender-blind” doesn’t help.

  3. Rotkangmwa Joseph

    October 12, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Beautiful piece. Expression on point and view well explained. Good work ma

  4. grace dadiel

    October 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Lovely piece

  5. Golok Nanmwa

    October 13, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Lovely piece

  6. Peret

    October 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Awesome article, Keep it up.

  7. Ayobami Bode-Thomas

    October 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Good read! Every parent should read this.

  8. Juliana Pam

    October 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Dis is amazing n it will interest u 2 knw dat my mum had dat same mind wen we were growing up. If we take up 4rm dere our daughters wld grow up 2 have great minds. Weldone. ?

  9. Gabriella dalang

    October 13, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Awesome.. Proudly girl

  10. adang Philemon

    October 15, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    have a sister in a family of six similar to yours. being the last,I noticed a difference in family affairs handling by my parents while growing up. it was discussion with her n orders for us. write up was respectful n decent. good job.

  11. Judith Beka

    October 16, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Good job Diretnan. Nicely written.

  12. Sekyen

    May 11, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Gr8 write up! Everyone indeed should be responsible for their needs and not expect to be cratered for.

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