Unlocking the Potentials of the Girl-child

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Amby Uneze writes that the recently held International Day of the Girl-child was an opportunity for collaboration between the United Nations Children’s Fund and wife of Imo State Governor, Lady Ebere Ihedioha in unlocking the potentials of young females in the state

“Every girl child is beautiful and has enormous potentials. Have the determination to be what God wants you to be. Do not disappoint your parents and your teachers”. This is the simple and sincere truth coming from the expression of a mother and a role model, the wife of the Imo State governor, Lady Ebere Ihedioha on Friday, October 11, on the occasion of the ceremony marking the International Day of the Girl-child in Owerri, the state capital.

The gigantic hall of the Imo State Ahianjoku International Conference Centre at the New Owerri was filled to the brim as students from several secondary schools in their different school uniforms gathered to listen to the wife of the governor, whom most people have described as both a role model and simple woman of note. Accompanied by the wife of the deputy governor, Mrs. Irona, and other leaders of different women groups in the state, including the woman leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mrs. Mbakwe, and some Nollywood actresses, the hall was virtually electrified by the effusive noise from the students heralding the arrival of the wife of the governor.

Also adding the hall with candour and glamour was the presence the governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha and his deputy, Engr. Gerald Irona, who were not only excited but had a very hilarious moment with the students as they tried to touch them despite the challenges the security details had in controlling the jubilant students that were very eager to great their governor.

In his remarks, the governor, who was the special guest of honour, said he was at the event to assure Imo girls that the state cares for them. He made it clear that God will approve and make all their good plans to succeed (Onye kwe chi ya ekwe). He enjoined the students and all other girls elsewhere that his government would do everything possible to promote the betterment of their needs including quality education so that they would realise their goals in life as great and future leaders of the nation.

He acknowledged the recent achievements of Imo indigenes at the national and international scenes (best teacher in Nigeria, best student in Nigeria, and best graduating student of Nigeria Navy Academy) among many others. He assured them of being future wives of the future governors, among numerous other greater heights they could attain.

Wife of the Governor, Lady Ebere Ihedioha, however, posited that every girl-child is beautiful and has been endowed by God with enormous potentials to excel and achieve great success in life. She noted that for them to succeed in life they need to put their trust in God, be focused, determined and confident.

“Don’t let anyone push you down. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. As far as I am concerned, every girl-child is beautiful. I brought the governor and deputy, all the dignitaries and speakers to motivate you and present themselves as role models to show that with determination you can attain greater heights in life.

“Do not disappoint your parents and teachers. Remember that you are the best and always aspire to be somebody that every sincere man wants as a future wife. If you are a student, be the best you can. If you have any challenge; feel free to call my number which I have dropped here. I will listen to you. I will not judge you and I assure you I will be the best mother to you”, she said.

The UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conte in his goodwill message commended the wife of the governor for her interest in uplifting the girl child issues, especially in the area of #endcuttinggirls, a message being promoted by UNICEF.

Conte, represented at the occasion by the UNICEF ‘A’ Field Office Child Protection Specialist, Victor Atuchukwu expressed the office’s willingness to partner Imo State government to promote issues relating to the wellbeing of the children in the state.

Nollywood actress Rachael Okonkwo, popularly known by a movie name/role, Nkoli Nwa Nsukka, while delivering her keynote speech informed the girls that the greatest weapon they need to successfully navigate the murky waters of the world was determination.

“It doesn’t matter the situation or the family background, the most important thing is the vision, not the obstacles. Be very mindful of the friends you keep”, she told them.

Guest speakers at the event included two Nollywood actresses, two motivational speakers and local food processor (Akamu woman). Other dignitaries who made remarks at the occasion included Commissioner for Women Affairs and Gender Development, Mrs. Nkiru Ibekwe; former Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Ambassador Mrs. Kema Chikwe, among others.

The International Day of the Girl-child is an international day declared by the United Nations; it is also called the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl. October 11, 2012, was the first Day of the Girl-child. The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender.

This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage. The celebration of the day also “reflects the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct cohort in development policy, programming, campaigning and research”.

International Day of the Girl increases awareness of issues faced by girls around the world. Many global development plans do not include or consider girls, and their issues become “invisible. Reports have it that “More than 62 million girls around the world had no access to education, as of 2014, according to USAID. Worldwide and collectively, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores than boys of the same age do. Globally, one in four girls is married before age 18.

It was noted that on October 11, 2016, Emma Watson, a United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, urged countries and families worldwide to end forced child marriage. Manygirls around the world are vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and the perpetrators often go unpunished.

The Day of Girls helps raise awareness not only of the issues that girls face, but also of what is likely to happen when those problems are solved. For example, educating girls helps reduce the rate of child marriage, disease and helps strengthen the economy by helping girls have access to higher paying jobs.

The International Day of Girls initiative began as a project of Plan International, a non-governmental organisation that operates worldwide. The idea for an international day of observance and celebration grew out of Plan International’s ‘Because I Am a Girl’ campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular. Plan International representatives in Canada approached the Canadian federal government to seek to the coalition of supporters raised awareness of the initiative internationally. Eventually, Plan International urged the United Nations to become involved.

International Day of Girls was formally proposed as a resolution by Canada in the United Nations General Assembly. Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women sponsored the resolution; a delegation of women and girls made presentations in support of the initiative at the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of Girls.