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Educate the Girl Child, Develop the Nation.

Education plays a key role in development. Human capital has become a determinant of the level of development of any given nation not just the available natural resources, thus the major emphasis on mass education of any populace. The importance of educating women cannot be overemphasised taking into cognisance the fact that women possess hidden resources that if tapped into and allowed to be fully utilised, has the potential of boosting any Nations Economy. Surprisingly, girl child education is still a battle yet to be won in Nigeria where women are still regarded as second class citizens in most communities. We still experience cases of adolescent marriage, girl child mutilation, maternal mortality and other forms of violence against women. The British Councils “GENDER IN NIGERIA REPORT 2012; IMPROVING THE LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN IN NIGERIA” reveals that 80.2 million women and girls have significantly worse life chances than men and also their sisters in comparable societies. By that survey 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North-West region of Nigeria are unable to read or write. However, there are a lesser percentage of girls out of school in the southern region of the country. One is forced to ask why such a large number lacks access to education irrespective of the various awareness campaigns globally on the importance of girl child education.

Taking a trip down my memory lane I remember the experience of my mother who only got a University degree some years back after she already had all her children and I always wondered why she waited that long. She explained that her father died before her birth and her mother had difficulties raising her and her siblings especially because her Uncle’s made it a duty to marry out her elder sisters at very tender ages. My mother however had a passion for education and after her primary school education she and her ill mother went on a futile quest to speak to some wealthy Uncles to assist in paying her fees. One was so adamant that he insisted that my mother should be married out because training her was a waste of resources considering that she will one day be another “man’s property”. My mother’s eldest sister who was married to a polygamist that neglected his family was determined to provide my mother with a better future than she had and took her in. They worked day and night doing several petty trades including cooking and selling food on the streets. My mother explained that she had neither play time nor holidays as they toiled to save enough to train herself and her nephews in school. Sadly her sister passed away and she was all alone again, this affected her educational pursuit but she enrolled for some other training cheaper than a university degree that enabled her get a job before she got married and finally achieved a university degree she always dreamed of and presently provides assistance to those she can. This is just one story but is quite similar with the stories of woes of many girls and women in Nigeria.

There is this belief that educating a woman makes her equal to the man and powerful beyond imagination. Basically, the fear of domination is apparent and the fact that we are yet to let go of archaic traditional beliefs that sums up the life of a woman to begin and end in the kitchen. Denying the girl child an education is a discrimination against women which ranks equally with rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. I view them all together because they are all various means of subduing the women folk and easily leaving them gagged and fettered. Illiteracy commonly runs pari passu with poverty illustrating the fact that an easy way of suppressing a group of people is to take away education thereby restricting their means of self realisation and thus subjecting them to poverty. The social role played by women in the family and society is practically developed in their childhood and the potential economic benefit is only guaranteed if the girl child is given the opportunity to utilise her full potential.

I am of the view that having policies that promotes these ideas is vital in achieving meaningful goal. This informed my engagement in various policy advocacies ranging from making the socio-economic rights (which includes rights to education) fundamental and justiciable rights under the Nigerian Constitution, the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW in Nigeria, a National Gender Policy and even legislation criminalising violence against women.

We must therefore continue to create awareness to raise the consciousness of people and further mobilize a majority to promote the rights of women to education and equity.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

AbbyBrown's picture

Inspiring Story

Thank you for sharing your own family story as a personal example of why women and girls are not able to gain equal access to education. I agree with you that we need to continue to create awareness of girls' fight for a seat in the classroom so that we can start to work together towards a solution that helps empower girls!

Keep posting. Your leadership and passion is inspiring.

Best,

Abby

CynthiaM's picture

Thank you

Thank you Abby for the comment and encouragement. It is always important to have sisters in the movement support each other.

Together we will have our voices amplified across the globe.

Cynthia.

Dana Anderson's picture

Knowledge, Action

I really enjoyed reading about your mother's commitment to education and her determination to follow her dream. I especially liked that you mention how she helps to ease the path of others after attaining her goal. This is truly the power that stems from a network of women who learn from their challenges and share their empowerment with others.

Your last sentence rings with truth: "raise the consciousness," "mobilize the majority;" Many fortunate individuals are born into a society that makes attaining education a relatively easy task for girls, and are not aware of the extent that this is not the case throughout the world. Knowledge combined with action are the two steps toward a more positive future!

Thank you for your thoughtful and personal writing.

Best,
Dana

CynthiaM's picture

Thank you

Thank you Dana for reading my article and the wonderful comment. Indeed we still have a lot of work to do, reading through the other articles shows how many are still deprived in different countries. Together we can bring about the change we seek.

Thank you.
Cynthia.

Thank you for sharing your personal story. Your mother's struggle to get an education obviously served as an inspiration to you. Women continue to suffer discrimination be it in education, employment or some other form. i agree with you that creating awareness is important to raise the consciousness of people. And it is as important to have government policies and other agencies CEDAW working together to promote the rights of women to education. Best regards and good luck in your VOF challenge.

Lylin

CynthiaM's picture

Thanks you

Thanks Lylin for the comment and the best wishes. Sharing our stories makes reaching out to others in the same circumstances easier.

Thanks once again and may we do the best we can to promote and protect the rights of women.

Cynthia.

Nicole.Staudinger's picture

Thank you

Cynthia,

Thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine the frustration you must face living in a society that oppresses opportunity in such a way. Your mother's determination and eventual success in pursuit of education is truly inspiring. Best of luck to you in your endeavors to promote change. We as a community stand with you.

Cynthia, I am newly married (2+ years) to a Nigerian man and am trying to understand Nigerian culture. When he watches his movies, the men are always the main characters of the movie and women are only in the periphery. Women are never shown as strong or intelligent or important and their only goal it seems is to get the man, or to beg the man's forgiveness for some misdeed. There is so much posturing of "success" in the movies too. The only important people in them are the wealthy ones and they get to yell at everyone else. When he plays Nigerian music videos it is even more offensive. The only purpose it seems for women in the video are to be status symbols of what the successful male singer has access too. They are just signs of his status like his expensive clothes or car as they dance around in skimpy clothing. It seems like a culture that is materialistic and full of roosters strutting about. I'm sure this is not fair and if I objectively looked at American videos I would come away with negative and hopefully inaccurate views of American culture. Then I read your article, which shows me what ordinary life is like for women there. How do you start making changes?

Diane Ezeji

CynthiaM's picture

Thanks Nicole

Thanks Nicole for the comment and best wishes. We have learnt that determination must be our drive in our efforts to do away with the stereotype and discrimination.

Cynthia.

CynthiaM's picture

Dear Diane, I understand

Dear Diane,

I understand where your coming from, I mean I'm Nigerian and yet I feel sad when our movies and music portray such messages. Well in all sense of sincerity, the movies and music are not far from the truth, because they are graphic representations of the happenings in the society, though exaggerated sometimes. The girl child is mostly prepared for marriage all her life, she is taught to be a good wife and mother from her cradle. Even with an education, once she graduates from the university ( for those who go to college), marriage becomes a mantra and if she seems not interested she is constantly reminded that she will soon "wither". However, (people not a large number if compared to the Nigerian population) are becoming enlightened and families becoming modernized and breaking out from this "idea". We see women politicians and women in various professions these days and these definitely inspires the younger generation to aspire for more in life.

Change begins with a few and hopefully Nigeria will record a successful progression of women from the present practice to a time when women have equal opportunities with men in different spheres of life and the society.

On a lighter note, welcome to the Nigerian Family. You may have heard that Nigerians are a happy people; it is true and quite hospitable.

Cynthia.

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