By: Joshua Oyenigbehin & Gbenga Sijuade
The response of the government on the occasions of the abduction of girls from their schools in Chibok and Dapchi in April 2014 and January 2018 respectively is a pointer to the reality that the Nigeria government just as the Nigerian society do not place any value on the life and welfare of young girls in the country. One can only imagine the torture the girls in captivity are faced daily. Paradoxically, the girls who are not in the dungeons of Boko Haram are free prisoners in their own country; the worst thing that can happen to any person is to born a girl in Nigeria. The discrimination and the atrocities young girls endure can only be best known to God.
It is not news that in Nigeria and in fact Africa a girl child is not always desirable. Most culture in Africa sees the birth of a female child as the birth of a sub-human, one that don’t call for celebration. This is, however, unfortunate, knowing fully well that a female child is not just a precious gem to the family but also the society. This unfair gender stereotype as made it a miserable fate to be born a female in the Nigeria. A female child is preyed upon and subjugated to an object of exploitation by the obnoxiously patriarchal society that she finds herself.
Nigerian girls are not just undesirable by their parents, they are also neglected by their society. Gender bias in Nigeria is such that the male child is regarded as more valuable, and for this reason, they need all the education they can get while female children are only prepared to get married and have children. This view about the potential role of the female child has made education for the female child a luxury and not a necessity. The girl child in Nigeria is advised not to be too ambitious since their achievement must always be subjugated to their obligation to get married to a man and raise kids.
Female Children are literally given reasons to have little confident in their abilities and dreams. They brought up to be subservient, to be of no significant, to be useless to themselves but be a source of gratification to their male counterpart. Chimamanda Adichie capture this thought when she said that girls are taught to “shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man.”
Education is one of the fundamental human right that every human being is entitled to. However, since the girl child are not seen as equal to the male child, it is believe that they do not desire to be a educated as the male child. The Emir of kano, Sanusi Muhammad II stated that 60 percent of the girls in the core north are deprived of basic education. This unsurprising fact is the reason why that part of the country is suffering from issues ranging from extreme poverty insecurity etc. One fact that has eluded those who deprive their girls adequateeducation is that when women are educated, they ensure that their children are exposed to the light education provides. In other words, when you educate a woman, you educate the nation.
Young teenage girls in Nigeria, who are barely adolescents, are force to take up the responsibility of mothers and wives. Recent UNICEF also report claims that 12 million girls who are under 18 become child brides yearly in Nigeria. This means that 12 million girls are force to become somebody’s bride, without their permission. They are force to stop their education, (that is if they are opportune to have basic education) and handed over to a strange man who is as old as their fathers. Fact has it that one-third of all the most recent married child bride globally, are in sub-Sahara Africa. You can only imagine what these young brides, who are children themselves, are force to go through.
The terrible tradition of forcing young girls to become mother has far reaching consequences. Apart from the fact that the education of the girls would be disrupted, this act has consistently led to huge mortalities on the side of mothers and children. The prevalent of Visicoviginal Fistula, Sexual transmitted diseases and other birth related complications in the country, especially the Northern part, is not unconnected to this phenomenon.
The barbaric tradition of female genital mutilation has continued to make Nigerian seems like a country lost in the 16th century. 27 per cent of Nigerian women are said to be victims of Female genital Mutilation. The ethnic groups guilty of mutilating girls rationalize their barbaric act with the claim that the act of cutting off the clitoris of the women, especially at a very young age,would curtail promiscuousness among woman. Girls who have endure the torture of being circumcised suffer from physical, emotional and psychological trauma.
The frequency of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse of girls in Nigeria is such that most young girls in the country regret they were born as female. Every girl child is a potential victim, if not already a victim of all kinds of abuses by people around them, especially relatives.
These criminal acts of sexual abuse have make girls vulnerable to Sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, unwanted pregnancy and other socio-medical consequences of these abuses. Girls are sexually abused with impunity, even the justice system in Nigeria has made the abuse of minors of no consequent.
According to U.S Department of State, Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution. Girls are taken from their ignorant mothers to other location to be used as force labours and sex slaves. Nigeria is losing her young girls to this phenomenon every day. Apart from the trafficking of young girls, parents literally sell out their young women in marriage to the highest bidder in the name of bride pride, leaving them to the mercy of the “bride owner” (husband) who now has the license to treat her as a product he bought from Ladipo market.
The most unfortunate part of the travails of girls in the country is the fact that women who have outgrown the cultural limitation of the African society have not done enough to give young girls the opportunity to circumvent the embargoes posed by the patriarchy society they are in. Successful women in Nigeria today seem to be indifferent by the situation and pressure young girls deal with the country. Most of these women see the plight of young girls in the country as the problem of the government or a status quo that cannot be fought.
If indeed the Nigerian government wants a functioning society, the education and warfare of girls must be given an unequalled attention. Discrimination against girls must be seen by all as a problem with as must consequent as climate change. Successful women should see the progress of young women and girls in the society a mission that must be fulfilled