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The burden of being female

By Chioma Gabriel

My uncle, Dr Nnamdi has five daughters who in every standard turned out to be women of substance. Out of the five daughters, three became medical doctors just like him and the other two became professionals in other fields. The medical doctors among his daughters somehow ended up living and working in the United States where people in the medical profession are appreciated.

But my uncle didn’t have a son. And as a core Catholic, the option of taking a second wife to bear him sons didn’t arise. The faith of a genuine Christian abhors polygamy and my uncle was a practical Christian.

But something happened to him in the village at the kindred meeting one Christmas. It was an experience that shook his Catholic faith and turned him into a core polygamist. A young man who was old enough to be his son had stood up to speak during the meeting and along the line, said something about ‘Doctor’ having no children.

We are talking about a father of five here and a young man who was old enough to be his son dared call him childless. In his presence, some of his brothers of the same parents were talking about sharing his property. These were the brothers he trained in schools and established some in business but because he had only females, he was equated with being childless.

After he was publicly humiliated by those of his own kindred, Doctor returned to Enugu where he was based and quickly took second and third wives who bore him sons.

There has been a peculiar feeling about female children across Nigeria and perhaps around Africa. The culture of kidnapping school girls from in north-eastern Nigeria has become shrouded in confusion.

The female child is more than ever becoming endangered in Nigeria.

She is married off as a child bride, sexually abused by men, used in prostitution rings, money rituals and turned to emergency mothers.

Just before the 2015 general elections, Boko Haram terrorists made it to Chibok and kidnapped school girls from the Government Secondary School in the town. The gunmen arrived in the town late at night in a blaze of gunfire and headed for the school where they raided the dormitories and loaded 276 girls on to lorries. Eventually, some of the schoolgirls managed to escape over the next few months who described their capture in appearances at international human rights conferences. As a matter of fact, some of the girls were already married women and mothers by the time they were rescued that even one of them after her rescue preferred to go back to her Boko Haram husband.

Despite the kidnap of the Chibok girls in April 2014, there doesn’t appear to have been a security guard at the school in Dapchi.

And yet, parents sent their daughters there.

Many of the Chibok girls are yet to return home. Now Dapchi school girls have joined the chorus.

Somebody should help us, is anything wrong with being female? Why do African tradition and culture favour the male child to the detriment of the female child? Does the female really have to fight for survival to become somebody in life?

Why must it always be the female child? Should any child for that matter be an endangered species? A female child is special and should be protected. Girls tend to suffer more violence in times of war and crises. About one out of every three girls in Nigeria have suffered violence one way or the other, either through sexual harassment, rape or incest, according to study.

More attention should be paid to the female child. The government should address the issue of sexual education, provide incentives for girls to complete in primary and secondary schools.

Today, we are openly talking about Chibok and Dapchi girls. But many things happening to the female child have been unreported.

In  the homes, female children are suffering all kinds of abuses, the most common and worrisome being sexual abuse. Media reports abound with scandalizing cases of sexual abuse in the homes, schools, and hospitals. The girl child is exposed to constant abuse to family members like uncles, family friends, classmates, teachers, and lecturers. Fathers now impregnate their daughters. Rape cases are already going out of hand. Some cultures discriminate against the girl child from inheriting any landed property. That was the case with my uncle, Dr Nnamdi. The female is always at the receiving end; there is hardly any tribe in Nigeria that the girl child is not discriminated against.

Ou est-ce? (Or is there?)



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