Archive | October, 2013

CELEBRATING A SUPER HERO “THE GIRL CHILD”

12 Oct

ImageA girl child is a biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years of age. This period covers nursery (0 – 6 years), primary (7 – 13 years) and secondary school (14 –18 years). During this period, the girl child is totally under the care of an adult who may be her parents or guardians or older siblings. This period is made up of infancy, childhood, early and late adolescence stages of development. At this time the girl child is flexible, builds and develops her personality and character. She is very dependent on the significant others, those on whom she models her behaviour, through study, repetition and imitation. Her physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional developments start and progress to get to the peak at the young adult stage.

On December 19, 2011, The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child. This day seeks to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls face around the world and it is also a means of breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence to which girls and women are subjected.

This year’s theme was “INNOVATING FOR GIRLS’ EDUCATION. The 2013 International Day of the Girl Child addressed the importance of new technology, but also innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves especially girls. Girls assume adult responsibilities at a very early age when they are forced to help their parents with household chores and raising younger siblings.  As young girls, they are denied the right to be like other children because they do not have time to play. Girls need to be sensitized of their rights and their role in the society. Parents and guardians too need to be encouraged and sensitized on the importance of taking the girl child to school. Gender discrimination prevents girls from attaining their full potential. Most of them are forced into early marriage, or their education is considered of lesser value than boys’ education, or they bear the burden of household chores meaning they are kept at home instead of sent to school. When resources are limited and choices need to be made, a girl child will always be at the end of the line in terms of resource allocation.

It is alarming that almost 88 million of the world’s child labourers are girls. Child labour and child marriage are a denial of the rights of children and a severe limitation to their full development. A lot of girls enter the labor force at an early age, and in the end they end up in the lowest paid and insecure jobs, constrained by gender inequality at home and in the workplace. Many girls who work as domestic workers remain invisible and unaccounted for.

Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for girls and women. According to the United Nations Children International Emergency Fund (UNICEF), education is also one sure way of giving them much greater power — of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women establish it as a basic human right. An educated girl has the skills, information and self-confidence that she needs to be a better future parent, worker and citizen. An educated girl is also likely to marry at a later age and have fewer children.

Some parents give reason for the denial of girls of their right to education as to prevent them from bringing shame to the family through early pregnancy. others believe that women who are at the same level of education as the men are a disgrace to the community because more often than not, they will not get married and if they do, it will be to a foreigner. For such parents, early marriage is the best way to prevent this and at the same time preserve traditions. It is always girls who spend more time on household chores than boys, leaving them with very little time to study at home. In case a family member falls sick, girls drop out of school to look after the sick relative. The situation gets worse when a mother dies, forcing the girl to take over her responsibilities. The situation has been worsened by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has forced children out of school to take up odd jobs in order to play the role of their parents.

Governments need to identify concrete ways to alleviate inequalities and barriers for girls. There should be provision of certain services like providing clean water in informal settlements and rural areas so that the burden of water collection and transport is not unfairly placed upon girl children in the society.  And ensuring schools have adequate sanitation facilities that respect girls’ safety and privacy. To keep hope alive for girls in our communities, a number of NGOs have been allowed to operate in areas where early marriage is prevalent. They are now educating the people on the importance of taking girls to school rather than marrying them off to older men. Some governments in collaboration with NGOs have also established centers where girls rescued from early marriage are accommodated and counselled, before being sent back to school.

I believe through strict intervention of the government there is hope for the children who have been out of school to pursue their lifelong dreams.