A presentation made at the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child organized by Lagos State Universal
Basic education Board in partnership with centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st), Education sector Support Program in Nigeria (ESSPIN), Civil Society Action Coalition On Education for All (CSACEFA) and Lagos State Gender Advocacy Team (LASGAT)
The International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated on 11 October, a day designated by the United Nations for promoting the rights of girls, and addressing the unique challenges they face. The inaugural day in 2012 focused on the issue of ending child marriage. As the lead agency for the Day, UNICEF, in consultation with other United Nations agencies and civil society partners, selected Innovating for Girls’ Education as this year’s theme, in recognition of the importance of fresh and creative perspectives to propel girls’ education forward and building on the momentum created by last year’s event.
As the nature and scale of barriers facing girls becomes more complex, innovative strategies are needed to give girls an education that prepares them for the challenges of the 21st century. As the world evaluates the gaps that still remain in achieving global goals for gender equality in education and defines an agenda that moves beyond the Millennium Development Goals, it is critical that innovation brings about solutions for improving girls’ education that are not only more creative, but also more effective, efficient, sustainable and just.
The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.
While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls, particularly the most marginalized, continue to be deprived of this basic right. Girls in many parts of the country are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers. Even when girls are in school, perceived low returns from poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending school or from achieving adequate learning outcomes. The transformative potential for girls and societies promised through girls’ education is yet to be realized.
Innovation will be an important strategy in addressing the nature and scale of barriers girls continue to face and in ensuring they receive an education commensurate with the challenges of the 21stcentury. As the world evaluates gaps in achieving the global goals for gender equality in education and defines an agenda post-2015, it is critical that innovation is harnessed to improvise solutions that are not only more creative, but also more effective, efficient, sustainable and just in achieving demonstrable results for improving girls’ education.
In recognition of the importance of fresh and creative perspectives to propel girls’ education forward, the theme of International Day of the Girl Child for 2013 is:
Innovating for Girls’ Education.
Smart and creative use of technology is one route to overcoming gender barriers to girls’ learning and achievement, but innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves, can be important catalyzing forces. The Government and Civil Society Organizations, and private sector actors have potential tools to innovate for and with girls to advance their education. The following are just some of many examples:
• Improving public and private means of transportation for girls to get to
school—from roads, buses, mopeds, bicycles to boats and canoes
• Engaging young people in monitoring and holding school systems
accountable for ensuring the integrity of school facilities and functions
and the safety and learning of girls
• Collaboration between school systems and the banking industry to
facilitate secure and convenient pay delivery to female teachers and
scholarship delivery to girls
• Provision of science and technology courses targeted at girls in schools,
universities and vocational education programmes
• Corporate mentorship programmes to help girls acquire critical work and
leadership skills and facilitate their transition from school to work
• Revisions of school curricula to integrate positive messages on gender
norms related to violence, child marriage, sexual and reproductive
health, and male and female family roles
• Deploying mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls,
especially in remote areas
• Using traditional and social media, advertising and commercial
packaging to publicize data on gender disparities in education, the
underlying causes, and actions that can be taken for change
The International Day of the Girl Child 2013 will provide a platform to highlight examples such as these – and many more – of ongoing work and achievements, as well as raise awareness of the importance of innovation in advancing girls’ education and promoting learning and empowerment.
Voice Of Children Influencing Parliamentary Process
Child participation has had an impact on the parliamentary process in Nigeria by increasing parliamentarians’ awareness of children’s rights. For example, the process has played a significant role in the passage of Nigeria’s Children’s Rights Act.
During the public hearing on the draft bill, members of the Children’s Parliament made a special presentation, called ‘Voices of Nigerian Children – Children are an Investment and not an Expenditure’. The children made their views known in their own language and urged parliamentarians to pass the legislation in order to improve the situation of Nigerian children. Following the public hearing, the child parliamentarians paid courtesy calls on the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, urging the parliamentary leaders to ensure the prompt passage of the bill. The children were invited to sit in the galleries of both houses during the debate and consideration of the bill’s provisions.
Participation Serves To Protect The Girl-Child
The right to express views and have them taken seriously is a powerful tool through which to challenge situations of violence, abuse, threat, injustice or discrimination. Children traditionally have been denied both the knowledge that they are entitled to protection from violence, and the mechanisms through which to challenge this situation. The consequent silencing of children and the abuse they experience has had the effect of protecting abusers rather than children. However, if they are encouraged to voice what is happening to them, and provided with the necessary mechanisms through which they can raise concerns, it is much easier for violations of rights to be exposed.
The self-esteem and confidence acquired through participation also empower children to challenge abuses of their rights. Furthermore, adults can act to protect children only if they are informed about what is happening in children’s lives; and often it is only children themselves who can provide that information. Violence against children in families, schools, remand homes and institutions, or exploitative child labour will be tackled more effectively if children themselves are enabled to tell their stories to those people with the authority to take appropriate action. The people in authority must also have an open mind in understanding and addressing these issue.
How do we find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the education of the girl-child if we don’t know the causative factors? And who better to give the causative factors but those who are the key ACTORS and PLAYERS.
We need to promote the voice of the girl-child in shaping her education.
Therefore, it is suggested that this be achieved through providing information, promoting inclusion of the girl-child at all levels of activity, supporting them in accessing the media, and enabling the girl-child to participate in awareness-raising programmes at local, national and regional levels. This would lead to the building up of the girl-child who will be able to contribute positively to future economic growth of the country, be able to take decisions and be accountable, as well as be responsible mothers of the next generation.
Laila St. Matthew-Daniel
ACTS Generation – Empowering & Transforming Women & the Girl-Child
Transformation Strategist for Change
Research Base: Unicef, UN