If I wanted to have another baby, asides the Nigerian economic hindrance to affording another child at the moment, it would have been the perfect time to have another. My children are eager, too, to have a baby sister or brother. So it got me wondering, if I were to decide which is more favorable, would I want a boy or a girl child. They both have their challenges, raising boy or girl child in my society. So for today, I want to examine the challenges of raising a girl child in this part of the world. I will consider looking into raising male children in another post.
The Girl Child from birth is an invaluable being with unlimited potentials and should be treated with nothing short of profound love and affection and provided for in terms of food, nutrition, healthcare, education and security. Ideal, right but this is hardly so in some parts of the world. I still wonder the rationale behind my husband thinking my son can have a taste of red wine and I can’t. Consciously or unconsciously, the Girl Child is discriminated against from her earliest stages of life with our parents brainwashing us with things that are acceptable and all things being tolerable. So throughout childhood and into adulthood, we are wired in different ways than the opposite sex. This is why a woman would be considered of a less privilege than a man, but not until the past few years when women have begun to raise to the challenge and challenge everything intolerable.
Ok so this can’t even be a factor to my having a girl child or not but I can’t ignore the evils going on in my society. In a previous post, I talked about the barbaric mutilation of the Girl Child’s genitalia for prejudiced reasons in the name of female circumcision. Meanwhile the pain and stigma of that stays on for the rest of the child’s life. Suffice to say that genital mutilation further hinders sexual satisfaction, inducing stress in her future marital relationship. Some develop occlusion of the vagina, affecting both sexual life and childbirth.
As if this is not enough, sexual and violent abuse of the girl child is on the rampant. Once, a friend of mine sent me a sick video of a man violating a child. I had to call her and say to her, please never send me this again. I understand that she wanted me to be aware of the evils, but I am aware. Since then, I must have also received a couple of videos like that. In another heartfelt post, Save the daughters, you can read a few of these things going on a daily basis. Yet the number of unreported cases is even far greater. These innocent beings are subjected to the trauma of sexual abuse at such tender ages. They subsequently suffer a range of morbidities from immediate injuries like lacerations, bleeding, and damage to internal organs and worse still death to long term psychological, emotional and social complications like depression, poor self-esteem, and anxiety disorders. On the long run, after the therapy and psychological help, it does have its effect for a lifetime.
I saw the movie, Wives on strike, with a friend a few weeks ago. It was hilarious yet the message was crystal clear. It addresses another issue of the Girl Child – early marriage. Some countries in Africa are amongst those with the highest proportion of early marriage. A colleague of mine was saying that amongst the Yoruba people of Nigeria and the Hausas lay the highest number of competitors for early marriages. I want to believe this is often against the wish of the girl child but there usually is a justification on cultural norms and sometimes it happens as a financial transaction by families. The Girl Child who is to be the bride and star of the day on her wedding day is relegated to the background, not considering the major setback in her life, limitation of her opportunities and even jeopardize her right to a proper education. I can’t imagine what the thrill in a child is for a man. Obviously, her early life is compounded with sexual and reproductive problems. She gets pregnant, suffer complications during pregnancy and delivery and most times, loss of live is inevitable increasing maternal mortality rates. A large percentage develop obstetric fistula and are subjected to a life of ridicule.
Perhaps people also fill the need to engage their girl child in early marriages because they are expected to stay home and attend to domestic chores anyway. In this way, they are neither encouraged nor given the chance to participate in intellectually stimulating activities. This discrimination is further justified on the grounds of different expectations in the roles and prospects of the girl child.
However, the travails of the girl child can be controlled. Joint action from all sectors and community based awareness and advocacy is necessary. Programs that raise public awareness and educate on the prevalence, female genital mutilation, child sexual abuse and early marriages should be encouraged. Professional evaluation and treatment should be provided for victims of sexual abuse and perpetuators should be charged and severely punished. Cultural attitudes on child marriage should be shifted and the girl child’s rights promoted and protected.
An empowered girl child becomes an educated, confident, employed, secure, strong and respected woman who can make informed decision. She can contribute effectively to the development of the nation and form a stable foundation for the next generation. The earlier we realize that no investment in women’s lives will be sustained until the girl child is empowered, the better for the world. But from my motherly experience with my daughter the truth about raising daughters is it takes plenty of attention to details, body language, good humor, a lot of time, and a huge amount of love.