INTERNATIONAL GIRL CHILD DAY 2020: HDI NIGERIA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE GIRL CHILD FOR A BETTER FUTURE
Every October 11 is celebrated all over the world as International Day of the Girl Child, to amplify the voices and rights of girls everywhere. The theme for this year, “My voice, our equal future”, is to remind the Nigerian Government to pay attention to the peculiar needs of girls in the design and implementation of all social services; listen to the voices of girls impacted by COVID-19 pandemic and end the rising cases of sexual violence against children especially girls which violates the sanctity of child rights and the global commitments to protect and safeguard them.
According to the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognising the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, the Convention on the Right of the Child, adopted and ratified by Nigeria has already guaranteed a safe, quality and equitable education as a fundamental right of every child, which all state government must protect. This right gives life to the power of the girl child to aspire above gender limitations and conquer fields that are male dominated. Therefore, girls should be, as a matter of right, supported and given equal opportunity as their male counterpart.
Unfortunately, girls are still behind their male counterpart in key development indices. According to the World Bank, literacy rate, adult female (ages 15 and above) in Nigeria was reported at 52.66% in 2018 compared to 71.26% for male of the same age category, with certain states in Nigeria having even lower rates of female literacy, enrolment, and academic achievement. This inequality is caused by several barriers such as culture, religion, poverty, low political will, corruption, poor funding of the education sector and lack of gender-based approach to education planning, budgeting and implementation. These are the biggest contributors to this poor profile. Similarly, A research titled Trends and patterns of sexual assault in Lagos, South West Nigeria, explained that only 2 of 40 cases of sexual abuse experienced by girls are reported as a result of arduous legal requirements, inadequate sensitization and societal stigma faced by victims.
Human Development Initiatives in collaboration with ActionAid Nigeria and with the support of Norad under the Breaking Barriers: Tax Justice and Gender Responsive Public Service Project is joining Girls worldwide in demanding a safe and healthy environment, and gender responsive public service. We are using this opportunity to call on the Nigerian Government including the states and local government to make deliberate efforts to ensure that public services, especially education, health and judicial services respond to the needs and rights of girls particularly the poor and marginalised.
As one of the key education stakeholders in Lagos State, we urge the Lagos State Government to:
- Increase investment in gender responsive public education and support all efforts to eliminate religious and cultural barriers.
- Strengthen existing institutions to protect every girl child from all forms of gender-based violence.
- Provide more child-helpline centres and equip the in-school counselling units to provide adequate psychosocial counselling services for the girl child.
- Support the public-school sick bay to provide free sanitary pads for poor and vulnerable girls.
We also demand the following from the Government:
- State Governments should implement the child rights policy to protect the rights of every girl child.
- Government and parents should provide opportunity for the girl child to learn new skills that will help them achieve their dreams.
- Government should eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
- Government should provide free and accessible health and nutrition to all vulnerable girls.
- Government should eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour.
Mrs Olufunso Owasanoye,
Executive Director, HDI Nigeria