The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, has reiterated commitment to empower girls and help them to harness their potential and contribute to the development of society.
Tallen, who was represented by Mr Joseph Dzungwe, Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja on Thursday, said this at an event to commemorate the International Day of the Girl-Child.
The annual event, celebrated on Oct.11, was declared by the UN to create a platform for more girls worldwide and to increase awareness on issues of gender equality.
The event, which was organised by AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF), Strong Enough Girls Initiative, and Youth Initiative for Sustainable Human Development in Africa, has “Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable” as its theme.
The minister said that the theme: `Unscripted and Unstoppable’ was apt as it was chosen to highlight girl-child achievements around the world on opportunities, self-esteem, women rights, while bringing to the fore, challenges confronting them.
She said “Nigeria is a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of the child and the AU Charter on the rights and welfare of the child which are both domesticated in the Child Rights Act 2003.
“These intervention documents are to help in protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian constitution as amended stipulates that every child, boy or girl has the right to education, however, there are over 13.5 million children out of school and the girl-child constitutes 60 per cent,’’ she said.
The minister added that educating the girl-child was the best investment for societal development, stressing that girls developed essential life skills to protect themselves from sexual exploitation, child marriage and child birth.
Tallen added that the ministry, in collaboration with other stakeholders was working to address the various issues limiting the well-being and development of the girl-child.
Minister of Water Resources, Sulieman Adamu, said that “today’s celebration was to sensitise the public on the need to hear the voices of adolescent children who over the years experienced various forms of harassment.”
Adamu, who was represented by Mrs Nkechi Ayogu-Eze, the Head of Gender and Human Right, said that the Ministry of Water Resources, through the Gender and Human Rights unit, had all components to protect the rights of women and girls.
He added that “the girl-child cannot perform in an environment full of chaos and instability because it will instil fear into their minds, resulting in unfulfilled potential.
“The ministry in its vision and mandate provided all the machinery to address some of the challenges facing girls in urban and rural settlements.
“Some of the challenges include eliminating all forms of discrimination in education and skills, promoting and protecting the rights of girls, eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.”
The minister explained that the ministry would continually work toward achieving its vision and mandate of providing clean, potable water and hygiene facilities for citizens.
Mr Isah Ahmedu of the Department of Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health, said the ministry would ensure environmental learning centres were improved and secure, as well as an ideal hygiene system in schools to reduce Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Dr Echey Ijezie, the Country Programme Director, AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF), an NGO, urged parents, teachers and other stakeholders to get involved in in-depth engagement with adolescents on sexual and reproductive health.
Ijezie said the reproductive health rights of adolescents was a growing global priority, with the UN coming up with global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.
He stressed the importance of engaging adolescents on sexual and reproductive health services, saying it would bridge necessary gaps and save lives.