As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child, an international non-governmental organisation, Christian Aid, has asserted that the education of girls and women have been shown to improve maternal and child health.
The International Day of the Girl Child is commemorated annually on October 11. This theme for this year’s commemoration is ‘Digital generation. Our generation’.
The organization, however, noted that girls continue to have limited access to education, decreasing their opportunity to access skilled and paid labour as women, have their dignities trampled upon by rape, violence, forced and child marriage, impeded access to education and economic empowerment among others that have become societal norms.
According to Christian Aid, gender justice is at the heart of changing the narrative for girls.
“It is the consideration of the particular needs of girls if they are to attain education. It is the translation of gender policies into action. It is the recognition of the many hurdles that have been placed before them, being born female and helping to level the playing field.
“In recent times, Christian Aid has supported its partners to facilitate multi-stakeholder actions for improved and increased gender justice in the communities where we work.
“This includes supporting men to become champions for the issues of women and girls, community sensitization on the harmful effects of discriminatory practices, supporting and mentoring faith and traditional leaders to engage and educate their social groups and circles on the gender justice issues that women and girls face in accessing opportunities and choices that improve their lives.
“We have seen through our experiences in communities that change for girls takes collective action and this action is most effective when it comes from within the communities. We have seen the kind of hopelessness that comes with being a 14-year-old divorced mother of two with little or no education, no skill and no source of income. It is through the change in narrative for such a young girl through our flagship gender justice project, Collective Action for Adolescent Girls Initiative project, that we are certain that when opportunities are provided for girls, they have the potential, desire and capacity to soar,” said Christian Aid’s gender, equity and social inclusion lead, Mercy Okeke.
She maintained that the successes recorded from these projects have facilitated improved understanding of gender injustices amongst community groups and those that can cause significant change, leading to the development of an engagement strategy with faith leaders for gender justice and a faith tool-kit containing scripture basis for promoting gender justice.
The organisation emphasised the need for every member of society – men, boys, women, girls and women – to continually speak up for gender justice, improved policy commitment and implementation to improve gender outcomes in Nigeria.
“Therefore, as we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, it is an avenue to commit and invest more in systemic and structural changes, as well as individual and societal changes, changes within communities to stop and address discriminatory practices towards girls and push for a more just world; without which the issues will continue to prevail,” Okeke added.