By Justina Auta
The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with some stakeholders has stressed the need for improved access to education and enrollment for marginalised out-of-school girls in communities.
They made the call on Thursday at an event to mark the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) organised by Talitha Cumi Foundation (TCF) an NGO in Abuja.
Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs, described women and girls as forces to be reckoned with, as they had positively projected the image of the nation as entrepreneurs, innovators and initiators of global movement and in the global arena.
Tallen, however, decried the persistent harmful practices against the girl-child ranging from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage, male-child preference and poor access to quality education, healthcare amongst others.
She said,” the girl child is endangered species, we must change their statuesque. Be rest assured that the ministry is open to innovative approaches geared towards girl-child development.”
Mrs Tayo Erinle, TCF’s Executive Director, decried the increasing number of out-of-school children, particularly the girl-child due to COVID-19, insecurity, gender discrimination and others.
Erinle, therefore, stressed the need for behavioural change and implementation of policies that would protect the rights of the girl-child and ensure cases of abuse or violence against them are addressed.
” So it is for all of us to have an attitudinal change, to know that a girl has a right to life. A girl has a right to education, a girl has a right to health.
” She has a right to speak, to be listened to and to be heard. She has a right to be protected. She has a right to be invested in.
” If we want that bright future, if we want our nation to be built, we must invest in our girls, because they will be the leaders tomorrow. Their education level will always affect the children that they produce,” she said.
Mrs Theresa Monday, representing the Nigerian Police Gender Desk, reiterated the commitment of the Police to ensure all cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) were investigated and prosecuted to ensure justice.
” We have so many cases this year compared to last year. And all are girls and most of the survivors are out-of-school girls.
” And that is our concern because if they are in school, they will have the knowledge on how to protect themselves.
” But with this, they will know how to protect and defend themselves, where and who to go to If they find themselves in such a situation. And on our part, we make sure such cases go to court,” she said.
Also, Ms Amarachi Chukwu, Assistant Program Officer, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Abuja branch, stressed the need to be educated the people, especially at the community level on their rights and the appropriate channels to seek justice.
Chukwu, while advising survivors to always speak out to get justice, stressed for the establishment of special courts for speedy trial and prosecution of cases relating to GBV, and harmful practices, amongst others.
” Some of them will drop out and say they are no longer interested or want to go for it again. So we are still advocating for special courts for special cases so that the survivors will be able to get justice on time, “she said.
One of the beneficiaries of TCF’s project, Miss Hassan Umaru, expressed appreciation to the organisation for their support towards acquiring education to the university level at the University of Abuja.
Similarly, Miss Faith Joel, also a beneficiary said the support of the organisation has encouraged her to further her education, despite having two children as a teenager.
Other highlights of the event were the discussion on, “The State of the Nigerian Girl and her Rights”, “Our Time is Now-Our Rights, Our Future.”
Others are the presentations on Flashlight Actions on Girls Safety (FLAGS) project implemented by Talitha Cumi Foundation and funded by the UN Trust Fund.
The three-year FLAGS project is to support 750 marginalised girls between 10-19 years in 10 communities across FCT, Nassarawa and Niger states on GBV. (NAN)