The Girl Child – To Train a Woman is to Train a Nation.
“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation” ― Brigham Young
Every child is important and deserves to be educated. Education of both genders is equally important. However, much attention may be paid to the education of the girl child because the tendency to sacrifice her education seems to happen more often. The culture and ways of thinking among some members of Africa’s patriarchal societies and communities are often to the detriment of the education of the girl child.
Supposing you have a girl child and a boy child and there is the possibility of educating just one of them, which of them would you most likely leave at home? Perhaps the girl child, so that she can do the house chores. The girl child is more vulnerable to missing a good education. Yet, in the face of the clamour for the girl child, the boy child cannot be left behind either, else society would suffer greatly.
In this modern day and age, there are persons who see education of a girl child as a mere waste of resources and a means by which cultural practices and customs are neglected or even entirely lost. For instance, it may be seen that the girl-child really does eventually belong to the family she will be married into and so spending so much resources on her in terms of education is merely a loss; her bride price may not in any case cover half of the resources already expended on her.
It may also be seen in some quarters that an educated and empowered woman may become enlightened and hence too proud to follow certain traditional practices and customs. This eventually makes certain cultural practices wear away. For instance, an educated woman who may have been circumcised would not let her daughter go through the damage and cruelty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Furthermore, an educated woman will not just sit at home to answer to her husband’s whims and caprices without engaging herself creatively in order to also achieve self-fulfillment as a human being. An educated girl/woman will not allow her husband/partner to keep beating her up in silence just because the culture teaches that the man is the head of the house and she is his property. It is therefore clear that more girls going to school is a threat to old-fashioned thinking men and women who do not fully support the girl child education.
When more and more girls are educated and enlightened, a lot of the world’s problems will be half-solved. This will certainly make the world so much more a better place. With good education, there is more likelihood that her own children will go to school; it is more likely that she and her future generation will get good jobs or at least be able to adequately employ themselves; it is more likely that she can fend for her family and its needs and thus have a more economically stable family; it is more likely that she will embrace opportunities to empower herself and hence have a voice in society.
These are some of the reasons why the abduction of over 200 female students of Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, on the midnight of April 14, 2014 is no piece of cake. Everything must be done to find our girls. We can’t afford to lose them. It’s no game of chess. If the forest in which the girls are possibly being held has been identified by the parents of the lost girls and their search team, as have been reported, then the Federal Government’s security agents have an obligation to rally its intelligence and military might and intensely comb that forest and free the girls.
Women empowerment is a concept that some persons have largely questioned and criticized and I believe, due to the wrong understanding of the concept. A girl/woman who is empowered academically, socially and economically with what she needs to cater for herself, her household and support the man in maintaining the family is certainly a plus to society. Some comments have been made arguably that a woman’s income is spent on her household while that of a man is spent largely on himself and on other scattered needs outside the home, most of which may not touch on catering for his family. Yet, we know there are men out there who do so much to ensure that their families are well catered for.
The Global Poverty Project have pointed out that women form half of the world’s population and yet represent 70% of the world’s one billion poorest people. So a woman living in poverty does represent the majority of the world’s poor. Besides, women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property.
With such statistics starring us in the face, denying a girl child education makes her situation bleaker than what is described above. With a closer look at many families and work places, especially in patriarchal societies, these facts are not as far-fetched as they may seem. In most communities, the property of the parents are inherited by the male children while the female children just sit and watch and this is irrespective of the contributions of each of the children in the lives of their parents.
Interestingly, when this same girl is married, for instance, into a matrilineal community, she is still at a loss because the property of her husband culturally goes to her husband’s maternal siblings. She is again left on her own. So both matrilineal and patriarchal cultures do not favour the girl child. Though, now some communities are beginning to change some of these practices. Nonetheless, the female is still at loss and at the death of her husband, she is expected to either be at the mercy of her sons and/or in-laws or even return to her father’s house.
So amidst many such similar cultural practices and customs, the girl child today must be educated and empowered. Despite the odds against her from her background and perhaps in the future, when she marries into a home, her ability or inability to be an effective wife and mother either makes or breaks that home. Expectations of her are high and she is aware of this. Yet, she may eventually be highly disadvantaged due to cultural norms and practices.
Particularly among educated Africans living outside their villages of origin, the crave for a boy child is beginning to dwindle as more and more people see the role a girl child plays in the lives of her parents, siblings and family. Both genders should be trained in character and sense of responsibility so as to learn to cater for their families as best as they can.
In conclusion, a child is a child and every child is precious and can contribute a lot to society. The call is for every generation of society to see to it that cultural practices favour both male and female gender as equally as possible, though this would often require giving females more opportunities in order to arrive at a level playing field. By this, you make up for past injustices against women. This sense of equity is important because throughout their lifetime and in every aspect of life, males and females are meant to complement one another in building and improving society for future generations.
- Linda Ellah