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Travails of the girl-child

It is a fact that females’ rights are infringed upon daily. Discrimination, violence and harassment of females have contributed a lot to public discourse globally.

The advocacy for ‘women and men, and girls and boys, to enjoy the same right, resources, opportunities and protections’, as defined by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is raging by the day; a thrilling sign that gender equality has come to stay.

Gender equality is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities, including economic participation, decision-making; the state of valuing different behaviours, and aspirations needs equally, regardless of gender.

The girl-child is given less priority at home than her male counterpart, usually because of the notion that the latter sustains the family name while the former adopts another man’s surname. The cultural belief that the female sex is weaker than the male sex also festers gender inequality. Domestic chores are considered the duty of the female child. She is conditioned to the stereotype of washing and cooking. She is married off at a tender age.

A study reveals that Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women married as children. Most of them are from poor and rural communities.

While data suggests a decline of nine per cent in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003, and a projected further decrease of six per cent by 2030, Nigeria’s rapid population growth means that the number of child brides will increase by more than one million by 2030 and double by 2050

The rate at which rape occurs in the world increases on daily basis, making headlines and hitting trends on social media.  In 2012 alone, about 687 cases of rape were recorded in Nigeria.

Daily Sun reported in 2014 how a girl was gang raped by three men on her way back from school. This was preceded by The Guardian’s report about one Masonter Iyanga who raped a young girl. Even the church is not exempted from the rape scandal; hence the motivation behind the #ChurchToo campaign. In October 23, 2013, a report by the Vanguard revealed how a 50-year-old cleric allegedly raped three girls, of not more than nine, seven and eight years.

Besides, the girl child is given less education than her male counterpart.  The auxiliary/local health system is predominated by women with little or no professional medical training. This is because of the notion that too much of education denies a woman a matrimonial home.

UNESCO estimates that 130 million girls between six and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary school age – half of them in Sub-Saharan Africa – will never step into the classroom. For example, in Nigeria, only four per cent of poor young women in the North West zone can read, compared to 99 percent of rich young women in the Southeast.

The marginalisation of women in politics is another form of gender inequality. There is low inclusion of women in top public offices.

Yet, some states in the country have yet to give full rights to women to own property. Such states include Kaduna, Sokoto and Zamfara—where only married women are permitted under law to own a property.

Meanwhile it is important to note that infringement of women rights is ungodly and no religion encourages such. And wherever women and girls are treated unfairly, there is bound to be more conflict and less prosperity.

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