We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave – to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” – Malala Yousafza.
International Day of the Girl Child is an annual and internationally recognized day that empowers girls and amplifies their voices, it is a day to recognize girls’ rights and the challenges women face around the world. A day to affirm the importance, power, and aptitude of adolescent girls by encouraging the opening up of greater possibilities for them. It is also a day to eliminate gender-based challenges that adolescent girls face around the world, which include child marriages, inadequate learning opportunities, violence, discrimination towards women and girls, and their sexual and reproductive health and rights needs. To cast off such discrimination this day is venerated to carry comprehensive awareness. Educating girls and young women is one of the most powerful ways of breaking the poverty trap. The proportion of children who have dropped out of school has increased and many of them are now engaged in alternative jobs that are risky to their health and well-being. This is a major challenge in an era where the literacy level is very low in Nigeria. With the current state of the Nigeria’s Girl child, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on children and Child Right’s Acts is far from a reality.
The theme of this year’s Day of the Girl Child is “Our time is now- Our rights. Our Future” which highlights how adolescent girls have the right to extensive education, and healthy life, not only during these crucial formative years but also as they grow into women. If efficiently supported in the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s employers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, family heads, and political leaders. Truly we have reached a level where we can recognize this day as International Girls’ Day, however, a lot needs to be done to improve the lives of women and girls in all their diversity. Gender activists and members of the civil society believe the Nigerian government has a long way to go in terms of providing the right environment for girls to reach their full potential, and needs to devise strategies to get more girls into school.
Aside from the Nigerian government’s inability to establish a separate ministry to care for the Girl child, the absence of an indigenous child policy and the exclusion of children from discussions about issues affecting them are issues that must be addressed. Aside from enforcing a legal prohibition on child labor, as mandated by the Child Rights Acts, reducing hawking activities among the girl child on the highway will reduce the incidence of the sexual abuse on the Girl child.
On this global day of Girl child, Vision Spring Initiatives hope societies in Nigeria will continue to empower girls and young women by building their capacity to grow, to be inspired and become free women of tomorrow. When they are empowered at an accessible age, they can evolve into respected, intelligent women of the future.