The first movement on the International Day of The Girl Child that ever point out the need for girls’ rights is the Beijing Declaration. Twenty-six years ago, the world made promises to girls all over the world. They promised to take all necessary steps to shelter their equal rights and help them achieve their full potential. Girls were promised a positive environment to make sure their needs were met to thrive in an unfair world.
On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to acknowledge girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the globe.
According to UNESCO, 131 million girls are out of school – about 100 million of those girls are of high school age. While there are many reasons for this outrageous statistic, periods play a critical role. UNICEF has estimated that 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school due to their periods. The girl child faces numerous challenges while on her period such as: dizziness, backaches, headaches and cramps. These problems are compounded by insufficient resources such as lack of pads or absence of clean water.
In the 21st century, education is very essential in breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving a high status in society. However, if a child is withdrawn from school at an early stage because she is a girl, then how will she be able to climb the social ladder? In rural Nigeria, some parents pull their children out of school because they are supposedly “ripe for marriage” and do not need education so they won’t rebel against their husbands.
Often, girls are marginalized because it is not the cultural norm of a society to educate women or for women to be in positions of power. Daughters seem to be less valuable once educated, and less likely to adhere by the will of the father, brother or husband. Often the male child is more likely to attend school instead.
According to statistics, there are about 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, which largely includes the girl child. This problem must be addressed urgently in order to curb absurdities such as: early-child marriage, illiteracy amongst others.
Policy makers must also create an enabling environment for increasing gender participation in politics, financial market, technology and other sectors of the economy, providing a valuable pipeline for the girl child to be transformed into women that will be drivers of the vehicle of national evolution.
It has been established that female education is crucial for the development and growth of a society. A well-known African proverb goes:
“If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”