OCTOBER 11 of every year has been set aside as the day of the girl-child. The girl-child is the female species of the human race. The girl-child is unique in her formation and creation.
She is called the weaker sex. It is presumed that when you call an object weak, it is expected that such would be treated and handled with utmost care and tenderness, but it is not the case with the girl-child in almost all countries of the world.
Her living condition in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab countries is pathetic. Over the past 15 years, on the platform of the Millennium Development Goals, the international community made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during the early years. In 2015, more girls are likely to enroll in primary school, receive vaccinations and less likely to suffer from health and nutrition challenges than the previous generation.
However, it has been observed that pre-pubertal and pubertal girls are faced with specific challenges as of their gender and socialisation. They are being excluded from receiving quality secondary and higher education, are faced with early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and gender-based violence. Girls lack access to information and services related to puberty and reproductive health and are suppressed by cultural and religious traditions that perpetuate unequal opportunities, discriminations and stereotypes.
The MDGs have expired now and there still remains a lot yet to be achieved to make sustainable impact on the life of people of the world, most especially girls. The MDGs were of little effect especially concerning education in developing countries and in Nigeria, because, at the expiration of the 15 years (2000-2015) many girls are still not going to school, many drop out, are given out in marriage, trafficked, and denied basic rights and dignity.
Over the next 15 years, the global community is implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, which has great potentials for inclusion and inequality. While this is a step in the right direction, it is also important to discover the challenges to implementation of the earlier set of MDGs and to build necessary steps in overcoming these barriers in the new SDGs especially as they relate to education of girls and women.
It is hoped that under the SDGs, government at all levels will commit adequate funds and other necessary resources to ensure its smooth delivery and implementations, parents, teachers and significant others will have to make collective and concerted efforts to ensure its success.
A critical look at the recently approved SDGs reflects an expansion of the eight MDGs into 17 SDGs. The focus of these goals is:
- To end poverty in all forms everywhere, end hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition by promoting sustainable agriculture; ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all; achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
- Others are to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; build resilient infrastructure; reduce inequality among countries.
More of these goals include: to make cities and human settlements inclusive and safe; ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; take urgent actions to address climate change and its impacts; conserve and sustainably use oceans and marine resources for sustainable development; protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss; promote peaceful and inclusive societies and strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize global partnerships for development.
These goals, if well implemented, will improve the lives of children and girls and will portray a critical investment in our collective future.
Areas of critical investment should include but not limited to:
- Quality education, skills, leadership training, preparation for life, jobs and careers.
- Creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civil and political involvement.
- Promote gender responsive and legislative policies to cover wide areas to ensure protection of vulnerable and marginalized, victims of sexual slavery and exploitation, and survivors of human trafficking and child-brides.
- Health and nutrition; pubertal education, menstrual hygiene management and sexual and reproductive health education.
- Creation of safe spaces and safe space information.
We must indeed be proactive because, girls who will be born today will become adolescent by 2030. They will in another 15 years become 30 years. If all of them are given quality education, vaccinations, not given out as child-brides, protected from sex predators, have access to quality health care, these girls will grow up to become educated and informed mothers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, professionals, and equal partners in development. It is only then that our collective development can become sustainable.