A popular television program in Nigeria once featured a series which centered on the plight of the ‘girl child’. In this series, a woman was sent out of her matrimonial home by her husband for having only female children. He even went as far as abandoning the woman in the hospital when she gave birth to their last child – a girl. The lack of care led to the death of the child. The woman, who was previously not earning any income of her own, had to resort to doing all sorts of menial jobs so she could take care of her three other children (all girls). A series of unfortunate events ensued in which she lost her mother, her children were thrown out of school for non-payment of school fees, and their resorting to street hawking, which further exposed them to additional dangers.
The above story does not even begin to explain the plight of the ‘girl child’, especially in the African culture where it is believed that a male child is necessary to carry on the name of the family, and inherit the family’s assets.
1The UN Women’s Progress of the World’s Women report, released in April 2015, reveals that women make up 70 percent of the world’s poor, continue to earn less than the average male and perform the majority of the world’s unpaid work. The report further reveals that the costs of being born a woman include:
· Poverty in retirement – due to lost earnings in the years spent caring
· Higher healthcare costs – in many countries including Chile, girls pay more to visit the GP than boys
· Acceptance that despite legislative progress, you will be paid less for doing the same work.
The flagship global report on the state of the world’s women paints a grim economic picture. The report calculates that at the current rate of change, it will take another 75 years before equal pay occurs. The Report also makes numerous recommendations about the policy shifts necessary for gender equality to be reached. These include amongst others, access to healthcare, inheritance rights, equal pay and of course adequate and affordable childcare.
In order to alleviate some of the challenges faced by the ‘girl child’ as highlighted above, the following are recommended:
· Enlightenment: Ignorance is a major contributor to gender inequality and discrimination. This ignorance makes it impossible for women to question the rationality behind certain customs and traditions. Enlightenment of all parties involved, especially women, is therefore a significant step towards the elimination of the ‘girl child discrimination’.
· Effective laws: There are certain laws in place to protect women and the girl child. The Government should play a major role in ensuring that these laws are effective and functional.
· Empowerment: Another way to eliminate gender discrimination is Empowerment. This involves the strengthening of the individual and collective abilities of women for positive action. It also involves the generation of awareness on, and the raising of consciousness against gender discrimination. This awareness has to be done through all the agents of socialization – the family, community, schools, churches, mosques and the government. Women need to be empowered. They need to have a source of income, so they can be somewhat financially independent. When this happens, issues of gender discrimination would be significantly minimized.
· Oversight function of the United Nations: The Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted by the UN General assembly in 1979 and ratified by many countries, including Nigeria. However, the pace of reform has been restrained due to ineffective enforcement and encumbering local laws. The UN should therefore embark on measures to prevail on the governments to fulfill their commitment and obligations to women and the society at large, in order to combat the scourge of gender discrimination.