Growing up privileged kept me in the dark about a lot of things going on around me that I definitely needed to see. For every morning, I woke up, dressed nice for school, had breakfast and also picked my lunch box filled with food and have my mum drive me to school, there was a girl child going through the opposite. I never really paid attention, but now I know that I never want to see that girl child again.
As a kid, I went to my village a lot, almost every weekend and I saw children in tattered clothes, who didn’t attend school. I knew because I was very inquisitive. We would sort some of our clothes and give them once in a while. These kids especially the girls were always wandering in bushes looking for firewood. They also came to our compound to fetch water. In the city, I also saw kids like that hawking on the streets on my way to or back from school. I knew there was a disconnect, but I really didn’t understand the concept of poverty. Looking back, I figure I took some of the things I had back then for granted.
Even though I would love to talk about poverty in general, I am more interested in the girl child and how it affects her the most. Studies have shown that the girl child is most likely to remain in poverty, continue to wander in bushes in search of firewood, continue to wear tattered hand-me-downs for the rest of her life.
This is because her chances of getting educated are slim and in many cases non-existent. Even when there is an opportunity for her to go to school, she is likely going to be frustrated out of it by her chores at home. In many cases , there is an urgent need for her to be married off at a certain age, to raise her own family. This was her grandmother’s fate, her mother’s and will likely be hers. This is the girl child we must strive to never see again. We have the power to end this vicious cycle.
It is really sad that in 2018 when schools are in session, we still see underage children especially girls in farms not for school practical but for survival. We see them hawking on the streets, praying for new police and military checkpoints so they can have access to more customers. This is 2018, less than two years to vision 2020 of the ECOWAS and other Millenium Development Goals.
The remedy to this vicious cycle of poverty lies in education, which is the right of every child. One may say education is the birthright of the rich because of exorbitant fees paid in schools around the country, but even when these fees are reduced and poorer people have access to it the girl child is still left behind. Her only sin is the fact she was born a female.
Educating the girl child is of utmost importance to the survival of the human race, a fact we have blatantly refused to accept. Studies have shown that if all women completed primary education, the under-five mortality rate will fall by 15% in low-lower-middle income countries thereby saving the lives of one million children. Also if more women completed secondary education, the risk of acquiring HIV is reduced. This goes a long way in helping in the global fight against HIV and Aids.
Growing up seeing these children especially those in my age grade getting limited by circumstances beyond their control is really heartbreaking. Poverty lingering from generation to generation with little hope of getting broken is not just detrimental to the people living in it but the country as a whole. Without ending it by putting more girls in school, we will never move from a third world country to another level, instead, we will continue to sink lower.
I also do not want to see a girl child getting genitally mutilated all in the name of culture. It is just sad that in this time and age, we still see cases of girls being mutilated with the excuse of curbing sexual urge. How lame is this excuse for subjecting these children to painful procedures which affect them later in life? We must never see genitally mutilated girls again. We must never see young girls in labor rooms and in VVF treatment centers; they belong in the classroom. They should be given a chance to explore life and decide what they want for themselves.
I am impressed by individuals and organizations that have come out to pursue the cause and create awareness around it. I am intrigued by the ONE campaign which I first heard about on Big Brother Naija (now roll your eyes) back in 2017.
I encourage everyone to join this fight against the oppression female children faces in this part of the world. It is a good cause for every well-meaning feminist to be a part of. We have a lot more work to do as feminists in this part of the world and we should rise up and help our sisters.
Let us unite in making sure we never see a girl child out of school or getting married when her mates are breaking boundaries and shattering glass ceiling around the world.
“Educating our young girls is the foundation for Nigeria’s growth and development.” – Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela.
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