OCTOBER 11TH has been marked as the Girl child since the sitting of the UN general assembly of 19th December 2011.
This resolve to mark this day came about because of the apparent challenges, struggles, violence, and discrimination the Girl child faces around the world with the intent to preferring solutions and implementing them. However, billions of Girls all over the world continue to face discrimination, as they always have all throughout the centuries.
Girl child marriage is a global problem that cuts across cultures, countries and religions all over the world. A UN data states that around 650 million women and girls alive today were married off at childhood.
And till this moment, girls as young as 14 years old are still being married off. A WHO research shows that 39,000 girls below 18 years get married daily resulting to 14.2 million girls annually . And unless efforts are accelerated to curb the rise, 150 million more girls will be married off by the year 2030 which will bring the number of child brides to 164.2 million.
Early marriage violates the fundamental human rights of the girl-child, increases her risk of maternal morbidity and mortality, and robs her of educational and developmental opportunities. It is also imperative to note that the impacts of girl child marriage are multi-generational, it transcends beyond the victim, and passes down to her children, and her children’s children, and the ones after them; thus, continuing the poverty cycle.
Now let’s look inwards. Nigeria is the second country with the highest rate of girl child marriage in the world; preceded by Niger Republic. Northern Nigeria takes the highest rate of girl child marriage with a 67.9% average while the south has a 21.6% average.
It has been proven times without number how investing in girl child education has tremendous social and economic benefits because educated girls are less likely to become child brides, victims of domestic violence, child mothers. They contribute more to the society’s social growth and are also very likely to contribute to its economic growth because women typically reinvest 90% or more of their income into their families than men.
Yet, despite the global consensus to end girl child marriage by the year 2030, the rate of girl-child marriage in Nigeria has not decreased in anyway over the years, with a record of only 1% decline in the past 30 years.
This is quite worrisome especially when you consider that Nigeria has passed the Child Rights Act into law since 2003, and at the current rate, Nigeria’s population of child brides is most likely to double by the year 2050. And the gender cultural norms, inequalities, and social systemic beliefs responsible for the continuation of girl child marriage are still very much present.
Most Girls do not grow up on a world of opportunity. They built one.
The theme of this years International Day of the Girl Child is Digital Generation.
.This is a very apt and important theme because it simplifies the significance of technology which we are during right now and its relevance to the socio-economic growth of every society. Technology is a powerful tool which can be used to accelerate development in every sector and for everyone. And ensuring that everyone have access to it, is what will catalyse this development. This includes ensuring the girl child have access to it as well.
But how then are we going to ensure the Girl child have access to technology when we are still getting them married off at such tender age when they should still be playing with dolls and clutching their books? How do we intend for them to utilise and maximise the benefit of technology when they are uneducated? How do we expect them to dribble learning to use technology, raising babies, cooking and general domestic work while still being children themselves? Surely, these things call for great concern.
We cannot aspire to achieve a ‘digital generation’ much less a digital society unless the girl child is included. And unless she is in school studying, the chances of the girl child being digital remains unlikely. And unless Nigeria maximises technology, its chances of transitioning from a developing country to a developed one remains is highly slim.
And most importantly, unless the girl child is educated and empowered rather than married at a tender age, Nigeria may likely never achieve the SDGs, hence remain undeveloped.
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