In many African communities, the girl-child often finds herself at a disadvantage right from birth. Male children are typically considered superior and are more celebrated than their female counterparts. They are afforded rights, privileges, and treated specially whereas girls are taught from an early age to be subjective and submissive in nature and not to aspire to much beyond getting married to a man. They are taught to be homemakers and are told that being married and having children should be their ultimate aim. Even when girls dream of becoming doctors or lawyers or the chief executive officer of a company, they are informed that their careers will definitely end up at a man’s home and kitchen. This has made many girls feel inferior to boys.
The need to empower the girl-child cannot be overemphasized. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which aims to ensure women’s access to education, training, empowerment, and credit facilities should be enforced in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria. Women and girls should be given equal opportunities in the political, educational, economic, and social sectors to actively participate and enact policies suitable for their growth and development.
Societal and economic barriers against women and girls should be removed to enable gender mainstream equality and to guarantee them access to opportunities to advance in society. All forms of discrimination against women and girls should be eliminated if we are to achieve Goal 4 (Gender Equality) of the Sustainable Development Goals.
There’s no better way to empower the girl-child than through education. This is a quintessential requirement. Every girl in Nigeria should be educated. This will translate to educating a generation — as the well-known saying goes, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” Beyond that, women, especially in rural areas, should be able to access soft loans and funds to start and run a business, acquire land and properties and be availed resources for sustainable self-development.
Ultimately, empowering girls in all spheres of life will lead to an empowered humanity. As a society, we should aim to provide them with a platform to express their creative abilities and cheer them on to success.