… As FG targets more enrollment for girls
By Palma Ileye
Nigerian Children have called for the prosecution of parents and others guilty of any form of violence and harmful traditional practices against the vulnerables, especially the Girl-child.
This appeal was made during the interactive session with policy and decision makers to mark the 2023 International Day of the Girl Child organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and donor partners on Wednesday in Abuja.
Making the appeal, one of the speakers, Ms Onyechi Ikenna, charged the Federal Government and relevant Stakeholders to strengthen legislation that would prohibit harmful traditional practices affecting children.
Ikenna called for legislation that will prohibit early child marriage and prosecute parents committing such crimes.
She said, “We also call for more investment in girl-child education which will enable us to have access to quality education and empower us to utilise our potential.”
Also, Master Godwin Miracle stressed the need for more strategies to be deployed that will inspire children to strive towards excelling in all areas of their lives.
Miracle also called on children and youths to make their voices heard, which will enable relevant stakeholders to prioritise all issues affecting them.
On her part, Ms Dorcas Alkali, a Junior Secondary School student, said, “investing in girl-child education would help to break down barriers, ensure gender equality, reduce poverty, and infant and child mortality.”
Similarly, Ms Rohama Ijonada, President, FCT Children’s Parliament, called for more support to issues affecting children to enable them thrive and excel in all their endeavors.
Ijonada also encouraged children to champion their voices on issues affecting girls and vulnerables so that actions would be taken to resolve them.
Murjanatu Kabir, representing Save the Children Nigeria, reiterated their commitment towards impacting the lives of children, especially in areas of education, healthcare and prevention of abuses.T
The Minister of Women Affairs, Barr Uju Ohanenye, who said that this year’s celebration serves as a salient reminder of the immensely potential creativity and resilience that girls around the world possessed assured the children of the Government’s commitment towards addressing the plight of children, women and vulnerables.
Ohanenye stressed the need for the girl-child to be focused on her education to enable her to unleash her potential and make an impact in the society.
She said, that, the theme of celebration “Invest in Girls Rights our Leadership, our wellbeing” was apt as empowering Girls encapsulatates the collective commitment to ensure that every girl has the equal protection to flourish to dream without limits and to shape the world they live in.
She said, “While acknowledge the progress we have made so far in addressing the various issues that are inimical to the wellbeing and proper development of our girls we also recognize the daunting challenges that persist poor enrollment retention and completion rates lack of access to the healthcare facilities and discrimination against the girl child remains critical issues that demand our unwavering attention and concerted effort to tackle in the society.
“Education as a cornerstone of empowerment is pivotal it is the beacon that illuminate the path towards a future of the choice and possible. It is our solemn duty to remove barriers that impede girls access to qualify healthcare education inclusive in the society to provide them with the tools to excel in any that choose to pursue.
“As a nation healthcare is a fundamental human rights and every child deserve access to quality healthcare services delivery education human capital development. We must work tirelessly with others stakeholders to address the disparities that exists and ensure that every girls received the care and support they need to thrive in pursuit of gender equality. We must foster environment that nurture Leadership skills innovation and creativity among girls by eliminating stereotypes and fostering inclusive spaces.
“Today we stand united as a global community to reaffirm our commitment to championing the rights and opportunities of the girl regardless of her background race, or social economic status and we must listening to their voices learn from there experience and provide them with the platform to heard in the society general. Empowering girls is not just a moral imperative but also strategy investment in the future prosperity and wellbeing of our society, when the girls are giving opportunity chance to reach their full potential they become agent of positive change driving progress in their communities and beyond.
“As we commemorate this International day of Girl-Child let us renew our dedication to create a world where every girl can thrive her dreams are not limited by social norms or prejudice and where her potential knows no bounds.”
She further advised, “It is good to learn a skill, but don’t forget your education because that is the key to unleashing your potential.
“Be focused, listen to your mum and look at the best things to emulate. Don’t look at peer influence that will lead you into drugs and other negative vices.
“That’s why you should focus more on your education and skill because when you are busy you won’t have time for frivolities and other vices.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, the First Lady of Nigeria, said: “Education is the cornerstone of empowerment, and we must ensure that every girl has a chance to learn and grow.
“We must see to it that every girl has access to quality education and is free from all forms of discrimination be it religious, cultural or traditional.
“We must protect them from all forms of violence. It is our collective duty to create a safe and inclusive environment where girls can thrive.”
Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, made a call for more investment in girls, noting that the International Day of the Girl Child is an annual and internationally recognized observance on October 11 that empowers girls and amplifies their voices.
This year, UNICEF has called for renewed vigor in safeguarding and fostering the rights of adolescent girls.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria Ms. Cristian Munduate said, “The potential of our girls is limitless, but we must first provide them with the platforms to express, learn, and thrive.
“Our commitment to this cause is unwavering and paramount for the nation’s progress. In a rapidly evolving world, the dreams and aspirations of our adolescent girls are the beacons that can guide our efforts towards a more inclusive, equitable future. In Nigeria, the stakes are high for an estimated 26 million adolescent girls (ages 10-19).”
To ensure Nigeria remains on course for the 2030 SDGs, UNICEF said the spotlight must shine brightest on its girls, especially those marginalized due to disability, poverty, or crises, and those who are pregnant, parenting, or married.
Adding that, “Our collective responsibility extends to championing girls’ education, preventing harmful cultural practices, advancing menstrual hygiene, offering tailored health services, and meeting the nutritional requirements of these young ladies.
“While the terrain might be fraught with challenges, there’s hope. Nigeria’s adolescent girls are not passive bystanders but active agents of change, driving transformative initiatives in their communities.
“The time has come for their voices to echo louder in the halls of decision-making. Girls from UNICEF’s programme in Katsina and Sokoto, for instance, have put forth actionable demands—ranging from life skills training and accessible digital devices to the critical involvement of fathers in girls’ education.”
In the same vein, the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu said the Federal Government will enrol more girls in Secondary Schools across the country through the Adolescent Girls Initiative For Learning and Empowerment, AGILE, Programme.
He said, “We are fully aware of the many challenges that girls have faced throughout history. Discrimination, violence, limited access to education, and healthcare, and unequal opportunities have marred their path.
“However, it is essential to acknowledge that girls have continually displayed resilience, determination, and the capacity to overcome adversity.
“One noteworthy achievement is the substantial increase in girl enrolment and retention in schools with initiatives like the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment, AGILE, which has reached millions of girls across the country, providing them with education and life skills.
“I m happy to inform us that, under the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, Nigeria is expanding the frontiers of girls education with many more states signing on to participate in the AGILE Project.”
Other highlights of the day were interactive sessions, cultural dance and motivational speeches by students and others to mark the day.