Today, October 11th is the International day of the Girl. Today, we celebrate the girl child.
There are approximately 1.1 billion girls in the world. These girls are part of the future world; they are the people who will take on our world.
Despite every nation’s attempt at implementing gender equality in the sustainable development goals, we continue to see a lot of disadvantage meted on the girl child, every day.
There are girls who still do not go to school. There are girls who are married off at a very young age. Girls are still given out as tokens to their abusers. Girls still suffer sexual assault and abuse at the hands of their male relatives, and notably, their male employers. We still hear of female genital mutilation. Girl child marriages are still thriving. Our world still condones confessed rapists. I could go on and on…
This year’s theme for the International day of the Girl is Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.
For girls, empowerment counts.
-Empowerment in every way, in every season. We must therefore continue to support the girl child in every way. Our policies and legislation must reflect this kind of support.
Enough of women dying while giving birth! Our maternal health care services must be revamped. Female reproductive health must be a concern for every nation. After all, the family is the smallest unit of any country and the family multiplies only through women. Girls must not miss school because of their menstrual periods. Like the trend says: sex is optional, menstruation is not. Girls must have access to free sanitary material to help them go through their menses. Condoms on the other hand, must not be free.
More opportunities for the girl child must be created. They should be protected from gender based violence. There should be mechanisms in place that enable them to report sexual abuse without being blamed for it. They should have access to education – it must be affordable and within a manageable distance from their homes.
When girls are empowered, they are equipped with the power to achieve their dreams, hopes, and aspirations; and to build better lives for themselves. This has a direct positive effect on their homes, communities and the country, at large.
So, there is no doubt that when a girl progresses, the nation progresses. Let us all ensure that the girl is empowered. That is what counts.
BY SAMALI BITALA