A Case for Resonant Voice of the Girl Child for our Sustainable and Equal Future
On the Occasion of the
International Day of the Girl Child Tagged “My Voice, Our Equal Future
On 11th October, 2020
A Speech by the Managing Director of FunmiAyinke Nigeria Limited, FunmiAyinke Humanity Foundation, Engr. Mrs Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo, FIMC, FNIMechE, MNSE, CMC, CPO, PMI, R.Eng. (COREN)
Your Excellency, the Executive Governor of Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun, MFR,
Your Excellency, the First Lady and Wife of the Executive Governor of Ogun State, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun.
The Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Dr. Kehinde Oluwadare,
The Commissioner of Women & Social Development,
The Commissioner for Education, Prof. Sidi Osho and other Commissioners here present,
Special Assistant to the Governor on Student Matters,
Distinguished Guests on the High Table,
Greatest Nigerian Students, Greatest “Gbagba”, Greatest “Gbogbo”,
Gentlemen of the Press
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please permit me to recognize the presence of the Chairman, FunmiAyinke Humanity Foundation in Person of Engr. Babatunde Kuye, who is a Director in the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Abuja.
I thank the Most High God to be here today on the invitation of the good Government of Ogun State to deliver my speech on a matter that concerns all nations of the world as Ogun State joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child. The occasion brings to fore once and again the pains, gains and future of the girl child in Nigeria, just as in any other part of the world. The theme this year: “My Voice: Our Equal Future” aptly describes a major aspect of gender inequality facing the girl child in our nation. So I will be talking on the topic “A Case for Resonant Voice of the Girl Child for our Sustainable and Equal Future”. Before I delve into the main subject, please permit me to tell us who a girl child is.
The Girl Child
The girl child has been described as a biological female offspring from birth to eighteen (18) years, the age before one becomes a young adult. This period covers the crèche, nursery or early childhood (0-5 years), primary (6-12 years) and secondary school (12-18 years). She is also described as your daughter, your sister, your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, your friend, your colleague. She is indeed you. She is the woman in the girl, the girl in the woman. During her infancy period through childhood, early and late adolescence stages of development, the girl child is totally under the care of her parents or guardians and older siblings. She is very teachable during this period and develops her personality and character. She is very dependent on the significant others, those on whom she models her behaviour, through observation, repetition and imitation. Her physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional developments start and progress to get to the peak at the young adult stage.
Innate Qualities of a Girl Child
Right from the beginning of the creation, God endows the girl child with unique values which are locked in her DNA. So, she has the ability to impact and multiply the qualities in her offspring, which makes her stands out. The qualities include but not limited to the ability for self-esteem and self-worth, trustworthy, willingness to learn, the ability to love, good character, resilience, self-discipline, resourceful, work ethic, stands for justice, peaceful, nurturing, dignity, etc. These locked up qualities in the DNA of the girl child need to be unlocked through right training in a fertile and enabling environment. Examples of notable women in our society who are doing great including great professionals like Prof. Bolanle Awe, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesil, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun (the first lady of Ogun State), Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters and off course Engr. Mrs. Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo (FIMC) allude to this fact. So, I am bold to say that the girl child, if given proper training and an enabling environment, has the capacity to do exploits in all space in Nigeria from the Technology, Finance & Investment, Creative Industry, Education, Policy and Advocacy space, etc. than her male counterpart if her voice is not drowned by allowing her to have proper training and right education.
Existential Challenges against a Girl Child
In spite of these sterling qualities of the girl child, her voice is drowned, her life jeopardized and she is impaired from showing her worth as the results of preferences for the male counterpart. Gender equality is first and foremost, a human right. Every girl is entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and from fear. Empowering women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improve prospects for the next generation.
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potentials to change the world. An investment in realizing the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention and global sustainability.
Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right but it also has a multiplier effect across all other development areas. The level of discrimination against the girl child is damning. Did you know that …?
- Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15 – 19 years is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. Statistically, by 2021, around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID -19.
- Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID -19, violence against women and girls has intensified. At least 60% of countries discriminate against daughters’ right to inherit land and non- land assets in either law or practice.
- Women and girls bear enormous hardship during and after humanitarian emergencies, especially armed conflicts. There have been several organizations and institutions advocating for women, promoting legal and policy reforms and gender sensitive data collection. Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and be illiterate.
- The ability of women to control their own fertility is absolutely fundamental to women’s empowerment and equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan for the rest of her life. When she is healthy, she can be more productive. And when her reproductive rights – including the right to decide the number, timing and spacing of her children, and to make decisions regarding free of discrimination, she has freedom to participate more fully and equally in society.
- Poor women do more unpaid work, work longer hours and may accept degrading working conditions during time of crisis just to ensure that their families survive.
- An adolescent boy in school who learns about health and sexuality and of course sexually debase men in the society must be taught that coercion, abuse and discrimination against girls are totally unacceptable, even if means .
It is on this note that I want to draw the attention of every girl child to her fundamental rights including:
- Right to Life: Girls right to life is not respected as much as boys. More boys born have been intentionally carried to full term and girls die more frequently before the age of five. There are various factors that contribute to this situation. One is wish (which is very strong in some countries) to have a son rather than a daughter. In some poorer regions of China and in other born, new born babies are killed when a child of the opposite sex was wanted. This practice is known as infanticide and mainly affects girls.
- Right to Education: Over 96 million girls are currently illiterate. This is because in some countries and regions, attending school is not considered a priority for girls.
- Right to Health: Few studies on newborns differentiate between boys and girls; however, it seems that girls are born with a slight biological advantage over boys. Nevertheless, in many developing countries, this tendency is reversed because girls are more often deprived of medical care, good hygiene and sufficient nutrition. Female genital mutilation is another violation of girl’s right. Every year, approximately over 3 million girls and teenagers suffer this practice which can lead to irreversible health problems and fatal infections.
- Right to Protection: Girls all over the world are victims of child marriage, forced pregnancy, trafficking and sexual assaults. Furthermore, it is important to highlight that domestic violence which in many places is considered a private matter, is most often suffered by the girls and women in the family.
- No to Girls in War: Despite what one might think, there are many girls who joined armed groups in times of conflict. In fact, it has been calculated that there are over 300,000 child soldiers in the world and that over 100,000 of them are girls. Most of them enrol because they want food and protection, however, they are often raped or sexually abused or suffer other types of abuse, even after the conflict has ended.
Roles of Parents, Guidance and Government in the full Development of the Girl Child
For a viral society, our effort should be channelled towards equal training for the girl child and her male counterpart. The common saying is that, when you educate a man, you educate one but when you educate a woman, you educate a nation. So, the education of the girl child will be of great benefits to the government, parents and guidance. In the light of this, I want to suggest the adoption of the following Five Ps’ plan in the discharge of our responsibilities to the girl child.
- Protecting Human Rights: When it comes to protecting rights, Governments are called on to review national legislation, practices and customs and abolish those that discriminate against every girl child and women. Laws, policies and programs that explicitly prohibit and punish abuse must be put into place, in line with international agreement.
- Providing Services: When it comes to providing services, the agreement calls for strong action to improve the quality and accessibility of services so that every girl child have prompt access to services regardless of their location, race, age or income. These include health care services, immediate and effective police responses, psychological support and counselling, legal advice and protection orders, shelter, and social assistance.
- Prosecuting Offenders: When it comes to prosecuting of offenders, we know that ending impunity implies that laws must be enforced. Every girl child and women must have access to the police to file a criminal report and receive legal advice and protection orders. The response to abuse must be immediate, coordinated and effective so that crimes are punished and justice is secured. This is true for times of peace and conflict. There can be no lasting peace when a girl child suffers sexual abuse. Courts and the justice system must be accessible and responsive to criminal land matters relating to violence against girl child. Every girl child must be informed of their legal rights and supported to navigate the legal system. And for this, we need more women prosecutors, judges because we know that women serving on the frontlines of justice strengthen justice for women and children.
- Preventing Abuse against Girl Child: When it comes to preventing abuse, we must address the root causes of gender inequality and discrimination. Evidence shows that where the “gender gap” is greater in the status of women’s health, participation in the economy, education levels, and representation in politics, women are more likely to be subjected to abuse. Especially important is economic empowerment as a prevention strategy. This means that we need to take a long term systemic and comprehensive approach that recognizes and protects every girl child full and equal human rights. We must promote a culture of equality between men and women through institutional and legal reform, education.
- Promoting Access to Quality Education and Empowerment: The girl child needs to be educated to acquire knowledge and skills needed to advance her status for social interactions and self-improvement. This will prepare her to face the reality in society and teaches her to be a good wife and mother. Her full potentials will be unlocked and she could then become whatsoever she wants to be. With education, she would break the shell of ignorance and open that of self-discovery.
To conclude, I have shown that the girl child is violated and often suffer double discrimination for her age and gender. I also expressed the fact that she has great qualities locked up in her DNA which can be harnessed for the development of the nation; unfortunately her voice is drowned in the sea of gender inequality.
On this International day of the Girl Child which zooms in on their rights before, during and after emergencies and crisis, let us take the following pledges:
- Together we will protect girls’ human rights in all circumstances;
- Together we will foster girls’ capabilities in every field at all times;
- Together we will make girl’s voices heard in decision making;
- Together we will promote and harness girl’s leadership;
- Together we will unleash girls’ power in all its dimensions;
- Together we will ensure that girls’ full potential is realized, generation after generation.
If these pledges are tenaciously executed, the subdued voice of the Girl Child will be loudly and clearly heard which will gender sustainable development for all, for the society, for the nation and will also ensure equitable future for the Girl Child and her male counterpart.
Thank You All and God Bless You Real Good.