Today marks the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child 2021 with the theme ‘Digital education, our education’. This is timely, considering how fast the world is moving towards digital education.
In the past few years, there have been more programs and initiatives targeted at helping the girl child both in Nigeria and globally. Various organizations in Nigeria including SheCodesAfrica and Visiola Foundation offer mentoring and training to young girls and women in tech. Furthermore, the Generation Equality Forum announced that various organizations and governments including Procter and Gamble, PayPal and the Government of Bangladesh have pledged to work with partners in providing investments accumulating into almost USD 40 billion. These investments will be used to address the problem of gender inequality globally. There are other challenges asides financing that threaten the future of the girl child in Nigeria.
In her opinion article titled Women can have it all, Ides Ofune discusses how women continue to suffer the gender disparity. She goes on to write “women shouldn’t be penalised for being women – getting pregnant and starting a family.” Sadly, many women in Nigeria are afraid that factors like pregnancy, menstrual cycles or being married will hinder their chances of progressing in their careers. This is frustrating since most of these factors are biological and part of life’s processes. These women work twice as hard as their male counterparts to prove their worth. They work hard with the knowledge that there are many people (particularly males) who are on the queue to replace them. Worst still, women are also in constant danger of sexual overtures or harassments from their colleagues and employers—simply because they are women.
There is a decline in the number of females who advance from one tier of education to another. A popular cause of female dropouts in schools (both primary and secondary schools) is either early child marriage or teenage pregnancy. Moreover, some families do not allow their daughters to receive formal education. They believe that it is a waste of resources since the achievements of these girls would eventually belong to their husbands. Another challenge women face is the argument that higher education limits their chances of getting married. This often discourages single women who are seeking higher education like a Doctorate degree. Asides from the societal beliefs, there are University courses like engineering stereotyped as a ‘man’s’ field and not fit for women. It is sad that irregardless of how passionate a female might be, she is often swayed to pursue something more ‘feminine’.
Most of the challenges that the girl child faces are caused by age-long idealogies and cultural beliefs. Bridging the gender gap will mean breaking down these mindsets. We have to be active participants in shaping the future of the girl child in Nigeria. It is not enough to provide mentorship and scholarships for the girl child. For one, are there provisions for teenage and single mothers who want to pursue their dreams? Is the girl child safe and secure? Particularly with the reports of kidnap and rape cases in the country. Are we intentional about educating parents and guardians about the gender gap? It is evident that there is a lot to be done in straightening the path of the girl child and allowing her to fulfill her dreams.
Happy International Day of The Girl Child!
Ruth Torty is a biochemist, freelance health and biotechnology content writer. She writes to shed light on health issues, rare diseases and science research in Nigeria. She is also a creative writer and has published on different literary sites including Spillwords and Nnoko Stories. She is passionate about genomics and its role in healthcare.