UNICEF reported that one out of four girls is abused sexually in Nigeria before the age of 18 (2015). Apart from sexual abuse, Gender Based violence, Child abuse, Female Genital Mutilation and withdrawal from school are some other issues which have plagued the girl child over the years worldwide.
A lot of interventions in education, health and other areas stated above have been used to improve the livelihood of this group of people and with increased Intervention over the years, statistics have shown that there is improved treatment of women in the society. It is also noteworthy that more women are coming to the fore in society, in politics and other positions that were reserved for only men in times past.
Despite these interventions and successes recorded, there still lies the painful realization that the fight is not over; that there are communities where rape is not considered a crime and Gender Based Violence is accepted, where the girl child is still given out in marriage as a commodity in exchange for money and her future thwarted for life. Some people ask the question ‘’when a woman reports her husband for domestic violence, where will she go?” This stems from the fact that some families misunderstand the concept of marital commitment and interpret it as doom, and some women have learnt wrongly that marriage is the ultimate phase of life, and will do anything to stay there and endure or lose their lives trying. So, even when a man is discovered to be abusing his child sexually, the wife feels bound to him and the child remains in the prison cell called home. It is more surprising when the woman is materially self-sufficient but is ruled by fear of doing the right thing and the expectation of the society.
Sex trade is also on the increase and drug abuse is gaining ground as well among the rich and the poor.
The deciding factor for interventions is mainly poverty as this seems to be the line that determines those who need help and those who do not; but with the happenings of recent times, it is clear that poverty should not be the only determining factor for vulnerability of the girl child.
There are middle class families where child abuse occurs with domestic staff and even parents against children, there are enlightened homes where Gender Based Violence is accepted. The increase in parental absence resulting in child vulnerability in middle class and upper class families is alarming.
The girl child has received a lot of intervention over the years, but the fight is still on and we hope that one day the war will be won.
Written by Omonefe O. Eruotor