A girl-child, in this context, includes children, teenagers, and adults of the female gender. The tragedy of a girl child here is the bias perception and unequal treatment given to the female gender in our society.
Girl-child discrimination is as old as mankind. The African society considers a girl-child productivity only in terms of baby-making, housekeeping, children upbringing, and great expectation of total submission and respect to the parents, elders, male folks, husbands and the society at large.
On the other hand, the male-child is imbued by the society with the task of being a leader, provider for households. By this, he would be rightly exposed to situations that would help him achieve those tasks like being open to education and vocational skills and many other benefits just because they were born as a male child.
We will henceforth base our discussion on the perception of a girl-child from the Igbo society and touching Nigeria as a whole.
The Igbo society for instance celebrates more the birth of a male child with the father filled with utmost joy and fulfillment. He feels that his “obi”, ancestral home, has gotten someone who regenerate it, and thus they give names like Nnanna, Obinna, Nnaemeka and so on, which all sing praises to the birth of the child. On the contrary, the girl-child birth is less celebrated because the Igbo culture sees the girl-child less significantly in the society.
In fact, a family that has had two or three issues being girls, the father will start asking questions and the woman will be bothered looking around to know if the problem is from her. This might lead the man to getting a second wife to give him a son who will fill his “obi”. This is because the Igbo society has placed the male child with the responsibility of family consolidation and procreation of the dynasty while a girl child will be carried out to an unknown family. The society over generations has believed in this; hence being one of the reasons among others behind inferiority complex among the African girl-child.
Furthermore one of the tragic situation experienced by the girl child in Nigeria is female gentile mutilation, which it’s acute condition result to Vesico Virginal Fistula (VVF), the basic reason of this was to curtail female promiscuity and initiation into the female age-grade in some parts of Igbo land. Towards the latter part of the 20th century, VVF had cost more harm than good in the life of a girl-child, only some part of the Igbo society due to civilization and Christianity deviated from the genital mutilation of women. This was basic discrimination of a girl child, hence the mutilation (circumcision) is done at adolescence and not the childhood experience of eight days of birth like the male child.
The menace of child abuse have been predominant in the Igbo society and Nigeria at large, the girl-child is always a basic victim. Child abuse ranges from child-trafficking; where the female child is rented out by the parents or masters to a home where she will serve as either house help or sex-machine; that is, the girl-child would become a source of money to her owner. This is done within and beyond the shores of the country. In some cases, recent report proves that young girls are forcefully taken to Libya, Italy, etc. for prostitution against their wish.
Girl-child abuse also comes in the form of hawking of consumable goods around the streets making money for her parents or guardian while her male counterpart is in school learning, thus exposing the girl-child to the commonest chances of rape and sexual molestation.
Also, from the time past till the recent time, less chances of education was given to the girl child in the Igbo society. This is because the father often considers the academic investment of a girl-child as an economic waste, as they will end up in another man’s house. This has affected the general mentality of the girl-child that they often grow with it, seeing themselves as inferior and insignificant in society.
Because of the foregoing, there is a higher number of male-children in schools and other vocational studies of skill acquisition or businesses. A large number of their female counterpart end up illiterates in their husband’s house, with little or no productive skill, low business acumen, irrationality in reasoning, thus; making them modern slaves to their husbands who will without considerations of their feelings maltreat them since they are wholly dependent on them for survival.
In addition, the Igbo culture does not include the girl-child in the inheritance of any family wealth which may include: land and landed properties, businesses, money or other valuables. This is because the girl-child is regarded as an expectant wife of an unknown family, and so, does not have an identity in the family she is born into.
Another reason a girl-child has limited access to family inheritance is because the father often considers a girl-child to be irrational in reasoning with low acumen and sense of management, which unknown to them could have been ameliorated through proper education in school.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to state that the above caused the insistence of Dame Patience Foka Jonathan that the 35% Affirmative Action be implemented during the reign of her husband as a means of creating sense of belonging and responsibility amongst the female folk.
Looking around at our present environs and beyond, we will notice that the percentage of women participation in the decision making of our country Nigeria is low. The opportunities given to women on politics is very low, this is because men see it as improper for women to make decision for them. They see it as an abomination for women to rule over them and that is why the women have not been given the opportunity to rule Nigeria.
A woman is a precious gift given to humanity. She is a multifunctional being, capable of carrying out perfectly any responsibility given to her as some women who have so far been tested on sensitive positions can attest. Therefore, this writer is of the opinion that they should not be looked down on. Time has changed as a woman can also be an engineer, a mechanic, a truck driver, a pilot, a ship captain and so on. Above all, a woman can be the bread winner of the family and still maintain her other responsibilities as a woman.
In conclusion, the foregoing calls for a sober reflection in line with the millennium global agreement of gender equality in the African (Igbo) society to adjust in cultural beliefs as culture is dynamic. Giving equal rights and privileges to both male and female children, as both are born just the same way and are all gifts from God should be the beginning of wisdom.
Fellow female folks are however implored to always work hard, dream big and achieve it as we have equal opportunities in life not minding the discrimination around as a girl-child.
The National Assembly should also come up with stringent laws protecting the girl-child from molestation or abuse or discrimination in whatever form including the labour market. In the same way, parents or guardians should sincerely make their female children marketable through proper education since “whatever a man can do, a woman can do even better”.
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