With confidence, my birth was announced, not so for many girls in Asia or Africa. In your corner of the world, the phrase, “Wetin your neighbour born?” (meaning, kini ara ile e bi? in Yoruba) and the implication may be lost on you, but not so for thousands of women who hang their heads and shy away from looking at the child after birthing their kind.
Many have had to welcome another bride for failure to “produce” a son, many kept “producing unlimited” until they had a son. For others, even where the man celebrates and is satisfied with the birth of girls, other women harass the woman to continue the “production”.
For some, this has led to divorce especially where the family resource is stretched as a result. Sadly, some are compelled to sign up for abortion and in a worst case scenario, abortion is suggested and induced without the knowledge of the woman once scan reveals feminine features. When many hear female infanticide, fingers point to India but read your history books and you’d see that it spans across ages and continents. For most, it was a way of controlling population, for others, it was a special sacrifice to a mute god!
The days of flogging girls for playing boys’ game (football), dreaming to be engineers or daring to campaign for political posts may have eroded but don’t you still hear statements like, “Girls are not good in mathematics!” “Boy’s don’t cry!” “How come a girl came first in your class?” “All your education will end in the kitchen!” Perhaps, you have also seen an all-female choir with boys as lead singers or drummers! Girls are still being subjected to gender-based abuse – sexual exploitation, child-marriage, genital mutilation, forced organ harvesting. That tells you we are still far from done in the task of emancipating the girl child!
Today, I join others to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child which was instituted in 2012 by the United Nations, as I shout out loud the theme for 2015: “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030”.
Before we can move positively and progressively towards 2030, the girl child must survive today. The genuine smile and laughter of the girl child must be kept alive and far away from brutality, abuse, rape, prostitution, trafficking, early marriage, genital mutilation and all forms of discrimination against her person. The rights of the girl child, like the rights of the boy child, are human rights and must be protected.
Over and beyond all the hypes, I implore women (and men) to accept the birth of girls as a priceless gift from God. I encourage you to train girls, not as boys but as girls; open them up to opportunities beyond the restrictive walls of the classroom; encourage them to innovate and boldly light up a torch to help them see that they are capable of holding up their own. Let their confidence receive a boost by the fact that, even in the myopic branding of our space as “man’s world”, their positioning as nurturers keeps men living, learning and labouring.
If your girl is a baby, find time to nurture her; let her know that humans care, not cage. If your girl is a child, find time to talk to her; let her learn from you that humans talk, not bark. If your girl is a teen, find time to take her out and share experience, let her learn that she is to be loved, not abused. If your girl is a woman, find time to encourage and appreciate her, let her know that she is valued far above rubies!!!
If any girl in your area of influence has been caged, terrorised, abused, devalued, violated… Please give her hope by caring, speaking, sharing and loving. When you treat girls right, the boys will take a cue from you. Building a better world starts with you and me.
A house-help was beaten and battered. When I saw her, the physical pain was long gone but the scars were visible just like the emotional scare and scars the brutality inflicted on this human that is someday expected to nurture others. How could she ever give what she never got?
After two visits to a girls’ remand home in Lagos, some of the inmates wormed up to me. No, they were not supposed to share but obviously they needed hearing ears. I listened and fought back the tears as one narrated how her mother fed her faeces! It was her race away from home in search of survival that landed her in the home with other girls – few criminals, many criminalised. Another narrated how an unrelated uncle turned her into a sex object, rather than her aunty standing up for her, they teamed up to send her packing. The stories are endless. But should another girl come by you without the story changing?
On the far extreme are those who pamper and spoil their girls, nurturing them with furs, purrs and the notion that they need not lift a finger as someday the right man with the right manuscript will come and sing them to wealth. The brain and beauty bestowed on them are channelled towards one goal and one goal alone, a life of wealth. This is equally to the detriment of such girls because they never are strong enough to look deep within for the greatness divinely locked in them.
You can help change ONE girl’s story. You owe a moral duty to let such wickedness stop with you, even if you missed out on that care. Forgive your past to heal your future. Look around you, there are girls crying out for care. If all hands are on deck, the goals for girls can be sustained and advanced. Formally or informally, invest in girls and promote zero tolerance for abuse. Educate one! Educate more!!! In school, I learnt to interact and understand people of other cultures and faiths. #62milliongirls don’t have that chance. You can #HelpGirlsLearn.
Together, we can ensure the girl child is positioned to tap into a lifetime that offers real life opportunities and is focused on the vision of empowerment.
Someday, the ills directed at the girl child will be over, because of YOU. UBUNTU!
Written by : Dr. Omoteso-Famuyiwa, Project Director of Cares Global Network. He can be reached via email@example.com