By Joan Kabayambi
Today (October 11, 2016) as we mark the International Girl-child Day we celebrate with Yessica Nkyalimuto, a 17 year old, who re-joined school in P.6 after leaving school 5 years ago.
She was married off at 14years when she was in P.6. She lost her first child and got fistula during the birth of the second child who is living and is 3 years old now. Her husband abandoned her with the child. Yessica got treatment for her fistula, which successfully closed.
She has been reintegrated back to school. She was allowed to go back to P.5, and today she is a happy girl in P.6. The path Yessica is taking is the right path. If she is empowered with education she will have dignified future.
There are many girls unlike Yessica who do not get the opportunity to return to school. The status of the girl child is key to achieving women’s equality and dignity which is, a litmus test of the maturity of a society.
Girls are future mothers but can be future policy makers and leaders. The importance of women hardly needs emphasis. Woman is the mother of race and is the connection between the generations. Our culture attaches much importance to women, as a helper rather than being equal humans to men.
Women have been subjected to injustice for ages. Some people feel that the birth of girl child may disadvantage them. There is a tendency to a boy-child in our society.
People who live in poverty often think that the girl child is their source of wealth. They demand huge amount of money for bride price. This affects mostly the girl perspective of herself.
In some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls have HIV rates upto five times as high as adolescent boys. Pregnancies and childbirth related health problems take the lives of nearly 130,000 teenage girls each year.
Women face a 3 in 10 chance of dying in childbirth in Uganda. At least one in three girls and women has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime.An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted, a direct result of malnutrition in early life.
Every year, two million girls and women are subjected to female genital mutilation.
To save girl child women need to be empowered. Just give her a chance, and she will make you as proud with her achievements as a boy. Every citizen of civilized society should be made aware of the fact that a girl child is as important as a boy child.
If she gets the right opportunity, she can provide economic support to the family and help them to come out of poverty level. Education raises the consciousness of a person. The mental pattern in our society in favor of boys should be changed.
There is need for a shift in mental attitude for equality between boys and girls. People ought to be educated that there is no difference between a girl and a boy child. The belief that only a male-child can support the parents during the old age doesn’t hold true in today’s context.
A girl can take care and support her parents as well. Family members of the girl child should come forward to protect her rights, both within and outside her home.
The girl- child should not be engaged as a child labor.The physical abuse and harassment of girl child should be dealt strictly. The guilty should be punished as per the law. The environment in school and out of school should be girl-child friendly
In Uganda under the initiative of girl child empowerment program, several social organizations have come forward to build toilets at girls’ schools, offer sanitary pads as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
This is normally a one off event and yet these girls need constant supply and continued education/ awareness. Therefore it is important to earmarking funds for the welfare of school going girls. We belong to the modern generation of humanity. We seek an environment where every girl is considered equal, free, and welcomed without any gender bias.
This is only possible by means of a complete revolution in thinking and change of attitude towards the girl child.