…Says Benue IDP Girls Not Cheap Goods.
As the World celebrates the 2021 International Day Of the Girl Child, members of the Civil Society, CSO, in Benue State have called on the Nigerian society to stop taking advantage of the girl child but rather secure and educate her to enable her fit in and contribute meaningfully to the development of the nation.
They further charged governments to stop paying lip service to issues concerning health, education and security of the girl child and work the talk by prioritizing them.
The Next Edition reports that Every year, October 11, is celebrated across the World as the International Day of The Girl Child.
According to the United Nations, the day is set aside to promote the rights of girls and address the challenges facing them globally. The day is observed with a focus on the rights, safety and education of girls with the core objective of making them an active part of the progress of the world.
This year’s theme, Digital generation. Our generation is acknowledging the growing digital world and how a digital gap can also widen the gender gap.
Speaking to the Next Edition in Makurdi, the Executive Director, of Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative (CLHEI), Mr. Helen Teghtegh, expressed worry that the Benue girl Child especially those in Internally Displaced Person, IDP, camps does not even have access to basic education.
She argued that this year’s theme, digital generation, should be restricted to European countries because in Nigerian cities like Abuja, the girl child in the suburb is not privileged like the ones in the city to go digital.
According to her, the only digital access any “privileged girl child” has is her android phone which she doesn’t even know the full potentials, except snapping pictures, whatsapping or facebooking.
“So if the normal city girl in Makurdi does not know the phone has more potential than whatsapping, then just think about the rural girl or the IDP girl that doesn’t even know what an android looks like.”
The girl right activist expressed worry that when the globe is talking about going digital, IDP girls in Benue state are out of school. “Thank God if not for the primary session established by partners and state government in the camps, most of them after primary six, girls whose parents cannot pay their school fees are either given out in marriage or roaming the camps or given to cheap labour as house helps. Is there actually hope for the Benue IDP girl or the rural girl child.
“So I would advise that when they pick up a global theme, we also pick up themes that relate to us. While they are going digital, we are talking about primary school, basic education for the girl child. It is really heart breaking,” she said.
Mrs Teghtegh said that the security of the girl child, her health and her education should be of top priority for the authorities, especially the girl child in Benue IDP camps.
“For those in authority, we have most of the policies in place, like the Basic Education is a policy and is existing, when are going to start implementing these policies that have been in place.
“We have spoken about free education for the girl child or free education for children. When are we going to start implementation? In the government primary schools, people still cannot afford tuition fees as low as N1000. It is high time we start implementing what we have documented in our policies.
“For the society, Let’s stop taking advantage of these children. Because she is from IDP or displaced family or rural family does not make her a property for cheap labour.”
“The worst is that even relatives hire girls for cheap labour in the disguise to give them education but end up not sending them to school. Most of them become victims of Gender Based Violence, (GBV), victims of rape, violated and then faced with the options of pregnancy, prostitution or being sent back.
“So society should stop taking advantage of the girl child. If you want to send a girl to school by way of sponsorship, must that child be a house help for you before she is sent to school? Start up an education fund or work through organizations with thematic areas in education where they can enrol the children, you pay their fees and they watch them go through education while you receive all the accolades.
“The society has a role to play. Let’s stop taking advantage of the girl child and start sending her to school.” she said.
Also, the founder of Jireh Doo Foundation, (JDF), a Non Governmental organization (NGO), Josephine Habba, said the girl child is almost not having a chance as according to her “first education is not for you because the country has decided that women can’t go to school.”
The JDF boss lamented that those who should do something to save the girl child are paying lip service to their responsibilities. “All over the country, the kidnapping is about girls, security is not targeting the girl child in the country. We are paying too much lip service to everything we promised this nation we will do particularly in this administration.
While she acknowledged the need to celebrate the day of the girl child, she also advised that everyone should be mindful that Nigeria are not working the talk. We are just talking.
Habba noted that while the girl child is faced with a myriad of challenges ranging from the insecurity especially kidnapping, rape which has limited her education, most schools do not have computers thereby further limiting her access to the digital world.
She also identified a lack of scholarship schemes for girls and wondered how she can become computer literate when in a digital time only a few schools have computers. “She is either going home to cook or look after the sick. This is not fair”, she added.
Josephine Habba said by working the talk, JDF has a center for training and empowerment of girls and females saying even when they finish the university, we want to give them certificate to enable them have power to respond to real life challenges
“If the government want to patronize the girl child to make her take her life in her hand tomorrow, they should target particularly, the health of the girl child, security of the girl child and most importantly, the education of the girl child.
If the government has a scholarship for 200 students who could not write their exams, 120 should go to the girls. If you talk to politicians they will say we don’t see the women to give them appointments/ how do you find the women when you don’t educate them?
She advised that the government needs to avoid lip service and work the talk by training and empowering girls to enable them to contribute responsibly in the society.