By Kuni Tyessi
In commemoration of the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child, the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) has taken the crusade against gender-based violence, rape, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and menstrual health hygiene to Mabushi village, a suburb in the heart of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Girl Child Day has been set aside by the United Nations to celebrate girls, assess, evaluate the progress made during the year and looks towards the needs the girl child is facing, including human rights and educational development, amongst others.
The Director-General of NCWD, Ms. Mary Ekpere-Eta, said considering the fact that the pace of girls in Nigeria is not in line with the realities they face, it has further reinforced existing gaps and strengthened gender inequalities.
In partnership with Procter and Gamble for the distribution of sanitary materials to 1,000 girls, the DG said the 2020 theme, “My voice our equal opportunity”, is targeted at girls organising themselves and demanding their rights “such as to live free from violence, attend and complete school, to choose whom and when to marry, and to earn equal pay for equal work”, adding that many of the commitments made to girls are left unfulfilled.
She said the choice of Mabushi for the commemoration outreach is to reach girls in rural areas who will be more in need of the message that forms the 2020 theme, noting that “many might be surprised that most people in Abuja do not know that a community like this exists and this is the only way we can project them”.
She said as schools are reopening, the full impact of COVID-19 on the girl child will be realised.
Ekpere-Eta called for investment in education for girls and ensuring they remain in school, reiterating that it is the best option, as it will enable the girls to reach their dreams and better their livelihood.
According to her, “The girl in the rural area needs to be taught, they are the ones that really deserve to be encouraged to enroll in schools.
“We came here to work with just one hundred girls because of the COVID-19 protocol but when we got here, we discovered that there are more than 5,000 girls in the age of 12 and above which is very alarming.
“In this kind of community, there is prevalent gender-based violence. Rape is common here and so I thought it is an opportunity for me to bring to the fore this community to present it to the government and other policy makers and development partners to assist the girl child in going to school and teaching them other forms of craft for them to benefit from the government.
“One reason we came here is to ensure that they are properly educated on issues of hygiene and at the end of this programme today we are going to distribute hygiene kits to them, such toothpaste, toothbrush, sanitisers, hydrochloride, disinfectant, pads, pampers for nursing mothers, among other useful things which is contributed by our partners Procter and Gamble.”
She said so far, the centre has supervisory monitoring team that goes about to ensure that those who were trained remain in the trade they learnt, and “wherever they have problem we assist them. We assist them to access financial loans, to build businesses and most importantly, grow from apprenticeship to employers of labour”.
“So far for last year, we trained about 5,000 and so far about 1,800 have migrated to the next stage of being employers of labour. We follow them up with lectures to equip them more and now they are contributing to the country’s GDP with the trades they have learnt,” she added.