October 12, 2015

It’s time Nigerians speak out for rights of girl-children – Activists

It’s time Nigerians speak out for rights of girl-children – Activists

By Ikenna Asomba follow 

Over the years, burdening social-cultural issues such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage, gender-based violence, limited access to higher education, reproductive health services among others have been identified as the major factors that hinder the empowerment of the girl-child in Nigeria.

It’s against this backdrop that as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the annual International Day of the Girl Child, yesterday, citizens have been tasked to always speak out for the girl children, in order to ensure a society free of discrimination for young women and girls.

Se e bi omo

From Left: Lagos Zonal Commander, National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic In Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), Mr. Joseph Famakin; Founder and Executive Director, Innovative Strategy for Human Development (ISHD); retired cops, Mrs. Daudu; Mrs. Taiwo Taiwo and Founder, Imperial Music College (IMC)/Convener, Se e Bi Omo Advocacy Team, Rev. OluRotimi Taiwo at the unveiling of the musical campaign Se e bi Omo (Treat her as your child… be her voice), held at Oakwood Park Hotels, Lekki, Lagos,to commemorate the 2015 International Day of the Girl Child.

Being the fourth annual International Day of the Girl Child, this year’s team focuses on adolescent girls and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ‎which set a range of international targets, including on gender equality, to be achieved by 2030.

Girl-child advocates, who spoke at an evening of unveiling the musical campaign Se e bi Omo (Treat her as your child… be her voice), to commemorate the 2015 International Day of the Girl Child, held at Oakwood Park Hotels, Lekki, Lagos, affirmed that to meet the UN’s ‎SDGs, one of which targets gender equality to be achieved by 2030, voices must rise up for speak for the rights of the girl child.

They spoke against the backdrop of the demeaning stereotyped status placed on the girl-children in Nigeria, and the world over, where adolescent girls face social, economic and political barriers.

Shocking statistics

This is even as statistics by the UN say more than 700 million women were married as children (below 18 years of age).

More than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before 15. And child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.

In emergencies, adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence, and in some cases, are abducted and exploited for sexual purposes by armed groups.

Nearly half (44 per cent) of adolescent girls worldwide aged 15 to 19 think a husband or partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife or partner under certain circumstances.

Bothered by these staggering statistics, the Principal Director, Imperial Music College (IMC) and Convener, Se e Bi Omo Advocacy Team, Rev. OluRotimi Taiwo, insisted that the rights of the girl child must be protected, pointing that God supports female legitimacy to inheritance, equal status and rights, as exemplified in the holy books of Numbers 26:33 and Numbers 27:1.

According to Taiwo: “The holy writ documents an interesting story in Numbers 26:33; Numbers 27:1- The man Zelophehad, had children, but he had no son. When he died, he had an estate, an inheritance, and no sons. But he had something great going for him. He had five beautiful and courageous daughters – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

“In Numbers 27:1, the daughters of Zelophehad didn’t accept the status quo. They made a responsible protest and argued their case in the right quarters- ‎with God’s representative among them, Moses. The told Moses, ‘Our father had no sons and so what, should we not inherit him?’

“Moses was wise to also seek God’s face on the matter. God’s response to Moses that they should be obliged displays God’s perspective on the female legitimacy to inheritance, equal status and rights.”

Pointing that the first female-rights advocates were successful in their assignments, Taiwo, who is also the Lead and Vision Pastor, at Victory Baptist Church, Ajah, Lekki, Lagos, said: “The courage, boldness and the faith expressed by the daughters of Zelophehad paid off, not only for them, but was instrumental to solving a major land crisis among the Isrealite tribes.

“Therefore, as the world joins hand in celebrating the beauty, integrity and the necessity of the girl child in global development, I ask that you exercise faith and courage and speak up where you have access and influence, even and where you don’t,” he urged.

Similarly, Founder and Executive Director, Innovative Strategy for Human Development (ISHD), Olutoyin Falade, canvassed for the abolition of demeaning the status of the girl child in ways such as abortion, female genital, mutilation, demeaning labour, prostitution‎, rape, early marriage, early pregnancy among others.

‎She also canvassed for poverty reduction by all levels of government, noting that “if families are okay economically, what will make parents send their children out as house-help in other peoples’ homes.”

Falade added that government and well-to-do individuals‎, should provide scholarship schemes that will open more access to the girl-child education.

She similarly advised government and stakeholders in the education sector to abolish the scenario where a girl-child in secondary school who is impregnated is stopped from going to school, whereas the male counterpart who impregnated her is allowed to continue with his education.

According to her, “During our university days, we had married women on campus, and who made good grades on graduation. So, why do we bar the girl-child who becomes pregnant along the line during her post-primary education, from continuing her education,” she queried.

On his part, Lagos Zonal Commander, National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic In Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), Mr. Joseph Famakin warned Nigerians against child-trafficking, noting that the government agency is on the look out for erring offenders and will not fail to prosecute and jail them.

Famakin who disclosed that since its establishment in 2003, NAPTIP has successfully prosecuted and jailed more than 200 offenders of human trafficking, warned that the agency would not compromise in executing its mandate in line with the dictates of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.

The ex-Police investigator, also warned that the law prohibits people from using children under the age of 12 as domestic helps.

He also advised couples to be wary of the number of children they reproduce, noting that “it’s an eye-sore to breed children that one can’t cater for. Why do you have to give birth to children that you will start distributing to other people as house helps at the age of 12 or below? I must make it clear to Nigerian parents, that it’s never the responsibility of children aged 12 to 17 to cater for their parent,” he said.