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Empowering the Girl Child: Upholding Rights for equality, education,opportunity

In societies around the world, the girl child often faces unique challenges and obstacles on her journey to adulthood.
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In societies around the world, the girl child often faces unique challenges and obstacles on her journey to adulthood. The girl child is a female that is below 18 years of age. From centuries ago where it was believed that the girl child shouldn’t be educated because they belonged in the kitchen.

However, this believe hold that they are not entitled to be involved in certain professions, discrimination, inequality, and limited access to opportunities frequently impede her ability to fulfil her potential and live a life of dignity and fulfilment.

Right from birth, the girl child is faced with different challenges. Millions of girls around the world are denied access to quality education due to various factors such as societal and cultural norms, poverty, and early marriage. Many girls in underdeveloped countries face the issue of child marriage as they are given to older men before the age of 18. A report from UNICEF noted that based on data from each country, 21 per cent of young women between the age of 20-24 were married as young children.

This is a pervasive issue affecting millions of girls worldwide, robbing them of their childhood, education, and prospects. As a result of this, many of them face serious health risks as a result of early pregnancy resulting from child marriage or lack of access to reproductive health services. This can lead to maternal mortality, malnutrition, lack of maternal care, obstetric complications, and many other diseases.

Girls are disproportionately impacted by various forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, trafficking, and exploitation. Some girls are even used as commercial sex workers against their will. According to UNICEF, at least 120 million girls under the age of 20 – about 1 in 10 – have been forced to engage in sex or perform other sexual acts. These violations cause physical and psychological harm and undermine the girl children’s sense of safety, dignity, and well-being. In addition, the girl child may face discrimination in areas such as employment, politics, and decision-making, further perpetuating gender inequality and hindering their ability to exercise their rights.

However, amidst these challenges, the recognition, and protection of the rights of the girl child is important to promote gender equality and empower girls.

For instance, in Nigeria, the rights of the girl child are enshrined in Section 11 of the Child’s Rights Act of 2003. It acknowledges that “every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no child shall be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse. No child shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No child shall be subjected to attack upon his honour or reputation. No child shall be held in slavery or servitude, while in the care of a parent, legal guardian school authority or any other person or authority having care of the child”. Regardless, the rights of the girl child are still being trampled upon, with different antisocial occurrences taking place all over the country.

All over the world, the girl child is entitled to education, employment, safety, health, decision-making, dignity, equality, and justice.

1. Right to Education: Every girl is entitled to quality education, free from discrimination and barriers. Education empowers girls to reach their full potential, make informed choices, and participate actively in society. It is a fundamental tool for breaking the cycle of poverty and advancing gender equality. Therefore, every girl child must be educated.

2. Right to Protection: Every girl is entitled to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. Governments, communities, and individuals have a responsibility to create safe environments where girls can grow, learn, and thrive without fear of harm or discrimination.

3. Right to Health: Every girl is entitled to access quality healthcare services, including reproductive health care, maternal care, and nutrition. Access to healthcare enables girls to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, free from preventable diseases and reproductive health complications.

4. Right to Equality: Every girl is entitled to equal opportunities, treatment, and protection under the law, regardless of her gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but also essential for achieving sustainable development and peace.

5. Right to Participation: Every girl is entitled to participate fully in decisions that affect her life, including matters related to education, health, family, and community. Empowering girls to voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns fosters their sense of agency, self-confidence, and leadership. Furthermore, parents and guardians alone shouldn’t just make decisions themselves. They must seek the opinion of their children to be certain their interests align with whatever decision they are making on their behalf if they are not of age to make those decisions.

The only way to enforce the rights of the girl child is to rethink the place of the feminine gender in the entire sectors and social institutions in society. Ensuring the rights of the girl child are upheld is a matter of human rights and social justice. The rights of the girl child are fundamental human rights that must be protected, promoted, and upheld by governments, communities, and individuals worldwide. Government and NGOs should sensitize communities, worship places and schools. They should also help them unlearn the distorted conviction that the female cannot be given equal opportunity and platform to function with the male.

The phrase “what a man can do, a woman can do better” should be more pronounced to the girl child. This claim is authenticated by many women such as the world record of 12.12 seconds set by Nigeria’s Miss Oluwatobiloba Amusan in women’s 100m hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA on July 24, 2022. By 2024, she was recognised as the fastest woman on earth. More examples of women who are doing great things in different fields all over the world should be used to encourage the girl child that they can do anything they’ve set their mind to do.

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