The Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) has made a case for the rights, safety and education of the girl child in Nigeria, as governments and organizations around the world come together to mark the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child, which is observed annually on October 11.
According to a statement jointly signed by the President and Secretary of NAWOJ, Ladi Bala and Helen Udofa respectively, “in Nigeria as in other countries, girls face distinct disadvantages for being both young and female. United Nations statistics show that about 129 million girls around the world are out of school with less than 40 per cent of countries providing girls and boys with equal access to education.
“The International Day of the Girl Child is dedicated to the growth of girls around the world and promotes awareness about gender equality as well as focuses on the issues faced by girls worldwide because of their gender. It is an occasion to raise awareness on the obstacles that girls all over the world face and to celebrate and reinforce their achievements.
“Over the years, major issues faced by girls include lack of or low level of education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and protection from discrimination. They suffer sexual and gender based violence, gender biases, discrimination, subjection to harmful circumstances and forced child marriage, that impede their health, safety, stability, education and other opportunities.
“These reflect the inequality they face in the society.
In Nigeria, factors like ethnicity, religion and disability heighten the existing disadvantages that girls face. From being denied access to education to being forced into child marriage, our girls face a myriad of obstacles that prevent them from realising their full potential. For millions of girls in conflict and crisis areas, these challenges are especially formidable and when women
and girls lack power in their homes and communities, they are inevitably affected more than others in situations as armed conflict, drought, flood or COVID-19.
“The 2021 theme of the International Day of the Girl Child, “Digital generation, Our generation,” focuses on promoting equal opportunity for girls in accessing technologies and bridging the digital divide as it can also widen gender gap.
“According to the United Nations, girls are more likely to be cut off, pointing to a gender divide within the digital divide. The UN also stated that girls are less likely than boys to “use and own devices.” This affects the number of girls in technology-related skills and jobs as the percentage of females among Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates is below 15 per cent in over two-thirds of countries, which is a serious point that needs to be looked into.
“Therefore, on this International Day of the Girl Child, NAWOJ calls on governments at all levels to commit to ensuring opportunities and equality for girls and urges everyone to tackle those persistent barriers against equal opportunities for our girls as well as those that are inimical to the advancement of girls in Nigeria.
“NAWOJ urges governments to ensure every girl child has access to the educational opportunities she requires to build a better life for herself in addition to keeping girls in school, since education is essential to women’s futures.
“We particularly seek targeted investments to facilitate opportunities for girls to safely and meaningfully access, use, lead and design technology even as we advocate for girls’ digital access and inclusion across technology and innovation.
“We urge actions towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against girls, and an end to those practices that hinder the chances of our girls at education, technology inclusion, healthcare, economic empowerment, rights to inheritance, as well as all forms of sexual and other forms of violence against girls, while survivors of violence should be provided with safe spaces, prompt and free medical attention, counselling and legal assistance.
“NAWOJ strongly believes that providing protection equal opportunities for the girl child, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieving peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. Moreover, it has been shown that empowering women spurs productivity and economic growth. So, ensuring that girls can reach their full potential is not just a moral imperative, but a strategic one as well.
“Investing in the girl child education not only equips girls with skills and knowledge to grow and prosper, it also helps their siblings, family, and the wider community to thrive as well, while they are more likely to support themselves, look after their health, avoid early marriage
and pregnancy and contribute to societal growth.
“Finally, there is need to educate the girl child about their rights, help them make healthy choices, protect them from violence, and teach them to be leaders and able to build a brighter future. There is no gainsaying that when our government and the private sector invest in the education of girls, our communities would be healthier and our economies stronger.”