The importance of the girl-child in realising national aspirations cannot be over-stated. That is why it is imperative to keep discussing their welfare to ensure that they are not relegated to the background in our largely male-dominated society. Recently, representatives of the Girls Advocates for Girls Education (GAGE), reminded all by expressed concerns over the increase in the number of out-of-school girls in the country. According to the group, 60% of girls are not in school due to poverty, child marriage, social norms, archaic cultural practice and gender-based violence, among others.
The Ogun State Coordinator of GAGE, Miss Oluwaseun Taiwo, disclosed that the association is a coalition of young females from the six geo-political zones in Nigeria working with the Nigerian Girl Guides Association, using education as ‘vaccine’ and with focus on girl-child in the country. She added that GAGE “seeks to reduce the number of out-of-school girls in this evolving age”. Meanwhile, the Youth Leader, Nigerian Girl Guides Association, Ogun State Branch, Miss Esther Oderonke said the Association recognised that the girls having access to education would increase their lifetime earnings, dramatically raise the national growth rates, bring about decline the rate of child marriage, lead to fall in child mortality and maternal mortality rate, and also contribute to a drop in child stunting, to mention a few.
Meanwhile, victims of sexual violence, most especially girls, have been charged to speak out and report to law enforcement agencies whenever they are assaulted, for proper prosecution. The Head of Department, Psychology, Guidance and Counselling, Federal College of Education (FCE), Osiele, Abeokuta, Dr. Johnson Osagie, said parents should take pain to educate their children on sex education, while admonishing children also to avoid keeping secrets to enable them report when they are sexually harassed. Dr. Osagie observed that some people had persisted in the dastardly act because they are allegedly not called to order or punished, saying there is a sexual offender register that disqualifies any sexual offender from getting a job in the country.
In the same vein, the Director, Centre for Undergraduate Programmes (CUDEP), Federal College of Education (FCE), Osiele, Abeokuta, Dr. Temitayo Akinyele, said Nigerians needed to fight against this wicked act and teach students how to speak out whenever they were molested. “There are so many things we need to do, sexual violence is deeper than we think”, she maintained. Dr. Akinyele, however, urged government officials and law enforcement agencies to stop asking for proof of penetration when a lady had reported being sexually-harassed, saying this is traumatising. Reacting, a veteran broadcaster, Meanwhile, Mr. Ademola Oladosu regretted that all agents of socialisation had broken down right from the home, saying there were many irresponsible parents in society today while another public affairs analyst, Mr. Ola Kelani maintained that discipline was very important in all that we do, stressing that lack of discipline remained one of the major causes of sexual violence.
Meanwhile, governments at all levels in the country have also been called upon to make adequate provision of safe toilets and running water in schools and public places in order to make the girl-child comfortable. The Ogun State Commissioner, Nigerian Girl Guides Association, Comrade Moyosore Adeyemi made this call while launching the state’s Girls Are Valuable (GAV) project in Abeokuta, Ogun State. According to Adeyemi, the GAV project is an advocacy by the association to train the girl-child on how to maintain proper hygiene during her monthly menstrual period. She disclosed that 240 girls from different schools in the state had been given packs of reusable sanitary pads, adding that 10 women were trained to train others.
“We look at the cost of sanitary towels, which are expensive now and some parents cannot afford it during this economic hardship period and that is why some girls are using something else that is not hygienic”, she added. Adeyemi, who stated that the pilot GAV project started with three states, namely: Rivers, Plateau and Kwara, disclosed that Ogun and Akwa Ibom states were later added, noting that Gateway State came top in the implementation of the GAV project nationwide. Equally making a remark at the event, the Assistant Youth National Commissioner, Mrs. Iyanuoluwa Ikoko, said many girls usually feel ashamed while observing their menstrual period, stressing that menstruation is a just biological process of growing up for a girl-child that makes her a complete woman.
To keep the discourse active, our girls should be given more access to education to boost their lifetime earnings, reduce the rate of child marriage and bring down maternal mortality rate, and contribute to a drop in child stunting, among other challenges. On the other hand, victims of sexual violence have been charged to speak out and report to law enforcement agencies whenever they are assaulted, these security personnel should stop asking for proof of penetration from victims, agents of socialisation should be up and doing, discipline is key in stemming sexual violence while adequate provision for safe toilets and running water should be made in schools, to make the girl-child comfortable, healthy and fulfilled in life.