published Nov. 10, 2021, 7:26 p.m. by mariamagboola
Let Each Woman Mentor a Girl Child
The problem of the girl child should be taken as everyone’s responsibility. From all indications government has not been able to meet the interest of every girl child. A responsive government should be able to provide free and qualitative education for every child and create the enabling environment for every family to cater for the basic needs of its members. But this has not been the case in Nigeria. After the hullabaloo of the yearly celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child on every October 11, nothing is heard again about it till the following year.
Every discerning mind must be concerned about the rate at which children are becoming pregnant or being married off at very tender age; worst still being molested either by neighbours or care givers. Every woman must begin to ask what she can do to stop this trend. One does not need to have an NGO or be in government before she is able to address these issues. With the education a woman has attained; the experience she has garnered over the years, and the little she earns, she can become a mentor and safe another girl living in her neighbourhood; attending the same church or mosque with her or even a distant relation from becoming the next victim.
Survey carried out among young girls in public schools and in the suburbs showed they also have lofty dreams of becoming professionals in future. Most would say they want to be doctors and nurses to take care of their parents. Some will indicate that they want to be lawyers, teachers etc. Hardly would they say they want to get married immediately after completing primary school to become housewives. So how do they lost their dreams and get married off or become pregnant at tender age? The answer is simple. They lack mentorship; especially when they begin to show signs of maturity.
According to a teacher in one of the public schools, when these girls first notice their menses, they become confused and ashamed with this development. Their activeness in class diminishes. Those with nobody to mentor them could drop out of school. Female teachers may notice this but because of the population in class and with other problems they too have to deal with, they are not always in position to address the needs of every pupil.
The teacher confessed that the school curriculum does not adequately take care of problems of the girl child in most public schools. There is therefore a vacuum created for those of those of them that also have uneducated parents who still believe that discussing such issues is a taboo. For parents who know what to do but are still battling to feed the family, introducing their girls to using sanitary pads is hardly thought of. The traditional ways which are unhygienic and hardly suitable for school system are introduced to the girls. Such pupils would be keeping away from school during their monthly periods and could eventually drop out of school.
Child marriage though frown at by the elites, is seen as a solution by a confused girl who has to face this ‘calamity’ on a monthly basis. When a suitor surfaces or a marriage is arranged for her by her parents even to somebody she does not love, she hardly object to it because she feels the man will provide all her needs. Few years later, such marriages collapse. The girl goes back to her parents’ house as prostitute in disguise while looking another suitor. For girls who did not see marriage as a solution initially, they still find themselves getting involved with men to get money to take care of their immediate needs. This comes with the problem of unwanted pregnancies and child trafficking.
It therefore becomes pertinent for every woman to take it as her own civil responsibility to have a girl she is constantly interacting with; calling her back when she is heading for a fall; getting to know her problems; coming in to assist when she is in her menstrual period; advising her that it is not a death sentence but something she should be proud of; for, she can become a mother when the time is ripe. Including such a girl in her monthly budget to provide for her sanitary towels will not put a deep hole in her pocket. Rather she will be blessed by the Almighty because she is helping in building a generation. Such gestures will make the girl to open up to her about her problems and she could advise her adequately. The woman can even intervene in preventing her from being married away at a tender age.
With the books already used by her children or those sourced from second- hand market, the woman can assist the girl to cope well even in a public school. For those that are so blessed, distributing packs of sanitary towels to girls in our public schools would earn more of God’s favour.