THE GIRL CHILD: AN INVESTMENT OR A WASTE?

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Growing up Female up in a traditional Northern Nigerian home is not an easy feat; your whole existence is a preparatory class for marriage. If you came out of it somewhat sane, I commend you sister! For me, it was how I discovered my autonomy, for others it is a whole other story, which is why this topic is close to my heart.

 

Many cultures hold the patriarchal belief that male children alone can continue the family blood line, and female children are to be groomed and married off to a suitable family. This belief suggests that male children are more valuable than female children, as a result, most families believe that investing valuable resources in a girl child is a waste.

 

Consequently, the girl child is raised differently from her male counterparts; she is taught submission to her fathers, brother and older people. She is equipped various skills required to make one a dutiful wife and mother per the demands of society, culture and religion. This grooming culture causes girls to be discriminated against from the earliest stages of life in the areas of nutrition, health care, education, family care and caused them to lack protection from dangerous phenomena like child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, intentional abortion of female fetuses and female infanticide.

 

Th educational advancement of the girl child should not be taken lightly, as it holds social, economic, cultural and political benefits and has the potential to thwart the dangers that threaten the survival of the girl child. Girl education is an investment every country should make as it is guarantees increase in human capital development, facilitates better health practices and improved nutritional status. According a 2012 British Council report, 66% of Secondary educated Nigerian mothers give birth in a health facility compared to 11% with no education. Educated women are less likely to fall victim to maternal mortality, they are also more likely to birth well- nourished children than their illiterate counterparts.

 

Girls who are privileged complete an education are better equipped with skills that enable them fit into every sphere without fear of gender discrimination. Educating girls enhances growth rates and reduces social disparities. Women with higher educational qualifications are more likely to be in formal wage employment than those with only primary schooling (NPC, 2009). An educated woman is more likely than not to send her children to school and encourage the people around her to do the same, this is why societies that create an environment for women to grow and succeed tend to thrive

 

A 2012 study by Uzoma Okoye titled ‘Family care-giving for ageing parents in Nigeria: gender differences, cultural imperatives and the role of education’ showed that adult daughters had more positive general perceptions of care-giving than adult sons and were less likely to see a personal care-giving role as a burden as it concerned elderly relatives. This alone ought to be a motivating factor for families to invest in the education their girl children, so that they can be better be prepared to care for them in the future if need be.

 

You would think the above stated points would be enough reason to make girl child education an urgency; sadly this is not the case. some parts of South East Asia and Africa, the birth of a girl brings great sadness to the family; A 2014 UN report titled ‘Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions’ states that “Indian parents’ fear of their inability to find a suitable groom for their daughters along with the societal pressure to pay huge sum of dowry adds to the feeling of the girl child being a burden”. As we speak, the girl child still suffers educational exclusion across the globe. According to UNICEF, 132 million girls are out of school around the world. In Nigeria today, the girl accounts for 60% of the 13.2 million out of school children.

 

The importance of educating the girl child cannot be over emphasized, it provides her the opportunity to become a responsible member of society. It’s lack thereof, pushes them to the backseat as their contributions to Nation Building are limited. Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have made some efforts to improve educational advancement of the girl child but more needs to be done to enable them reach their full potential as a global force with contributions to the political, socio- economic and technological transformation of the country.

 

WODDI, continues to develop and implement programmes which focus on the Girl child, such as WODDI Girl child counselling programme, a project that seeks to nurture young girls and prepare them for the task of being responsible women and nation builders. Get to us for collaboration opportunities.

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