International Day of the Girl Child, 2023: A call for Continuous Action.
I woke up in the wee hours of a chilly night, in the first week of October 2023. My feet were tending towards freezing, my fingers hurt and my mind kept wandering as though I was in the middle of the mighty Congo jungle. The comfort of my well-furnished apartment, thick duvet, and cotton sheets could not make the situation better. I sat on the bed, with a pillow in my arms, and stared at the window – sleep had abandoned me. Inside my brain, images of the day kept flashing open. I struggled to keep them out in vain. Her little fragile arms, the blood-stained dress, and her tired voice calling for help made rounds in my head. The sight of her, in that condition, broke my heart but added impetus to my desire to act. She was only 15, but he chose to take away her innocence in the most violent manner. Her fragile body had gotten weaker with every passing hour, while all passersby ignored her plea for help. By sunset, everyone referred to her as "the survivor." Some kinsmen even suggested, that she should be married off immediately in a distant clan, where no one knows about what she had just experienced. I just couldn't imagine, people would front such ideas in this day and age. Questions lingered in my mind, and I had to get the right answers at all costs, thence the sleepless night.
Is the world starting to roll back on Girls' rights? Are we aware of the present day challenges affecting the Girl Child? What are we doing, amidst the new challenges?
To understand the context of that sleepless night, let us recall the essence of 11th October about the rights of a Girl child. Globally, the International Day of the Girl (IDG) – observed annually on 11 October – is a global platform to advocate for the full spectrum of girls’ rights, but honestly speaking, recent global circumstances and actions of particular individuals and groups have hurt the core of this day. A myriad of ideas developed, some fronting ancient cultural practices that disregard the dignity of the girl child and keep them confined to the domestic arena and thus being denied access to opportunities, and education, resulting in forcing them into early marriages. Effects of global pandemics have been felt all over the world, recession has hit some global economic powers, and many economies in Latin America and Africa have stagnated, forcing old habits like child marriages to resurrect. This has hurt girls, ranging from access to health services, protection of their rights, protection from harmful practices, access to health information, and protection of their dignity. Our way of life should be that of progress, no matter the circumstance, we must strive to act in a progressive and just manner. Adequate resources and manpower should be set aside and maintained globally, to see to it that the rights of the girl child are protected at all cost so that they grow up to realize their full potential. The fact that I had seen "the survivor," in that condition that day, within a community that was not enthusiastic about doing all it took to protect her dignity, I chose to take action.
Earlier that evening, we had successfully rushed “the survivor” to the nearest health center, although she lost a lot of blood, she got some relief. Preliminary results confirmed, that she had not contracted any sexually transmitted disease, nevertheless, she never deserved all that. Meanwhile, her abuser was on the run, I guess hunting for his next victim. The negligence and complacency of the village and its leaders had not helped to the expected standards; a wakeup call to any right-thinking member of any society that wishes to see their daughter or sister grow into who they are destined to be. This year's theme, calls us to act, "Invest in Girls' Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being." Whereas we can invest resources in protecting Girls' rights, we ought to also dedicate more time, energy, and personnel to the same cause, so that it is a continuous process that grows with each passing year. In a global call to action, all like-minded persons and institutions should protect and promote girls' rights. Keeping a blind eye on the wrongs done to the Girls in our immediate societies will not only derail our efforts of living in a safe environment, but will also lead to under development. Gains made over the years shall cease to make any meaning.
Efforts that have already been undertaken to achieve gender equality should be enhanced to create a greater impact and remind those societies that seem to forget due to the adversities presented by crisis, conflict, and economic hardships. We should recognize and celebrate girls’ leadership, to empower them. In this way, they will gain relevant skills and knowledge to change their situations, others, and their societies at large. Leaders must therefore ensure that information, services, and systems meaningfully change to be adolescent-girl-friendly so that they do not lose out on opportunities that their peers enjoy.
Prince Wako Foundation Joins other like-minded partners globally, on this day 11th October 2023 to call upon everyone to take action. Invest more resources, time, and energy to protect and promote the rights of the Girl Child and empower, support, and encourage their leadership. Let us be part of this global call for action, and stand to be counted.