As the world commemorates the International Day of the Girl Child, the Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) has called for more measures by all stakeholders to combat gender discrimination and promote empowerment of women and girls.
The NFF made the call in a statement signed by its Communications Officer, Angela Nkwo.
The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights, and is marked every October 11.
The NFF canvassed for increased pathways to promote gender equality and diversity in leadership and democratic processes and empowerment of girls in every facet of life.
Other demands made by the group include measures to combat gender discrimination in education and prevent such violence, as the NFF says it envisions a future where Nigerian girls can live free from violence, discrimination, and bias.
The umbrella body of women and girls raised concerns over what they described as gender bias and discrimination Nigerian girls face, which subject them to harmful circumstances that impede their safety, stability, education, and opportunity.
According to the group, the outbreak of Covid-19 has increased the disproportionate challenges girls face, noting that “the pandemic has worsened pre-existing public health, economic, political, and care-giving crises, which disproportionately have its impact on the Nigerian girl.
“As health systems become more strained, girls face increased barriers to accessing basic health care. In some parts of the country, those who are part of vulnerable and marginalized communities continue to face challenges in accessing routine childhood immunizations, preventative screenings, and sexual and reproductive health services”.
The NFF explained that the pandemic had resulted in a surge of sexual crimes as well as a rise in other forms of gender-based violence and mental health of girls who suffer as a result of high incidence of reported anxiety and other mental health issues.
The group further lamented that girl education was undermined by the threat of sexual assault, harassment, and other forms of gender-based violence, with 1-in-4 young women today facing sexual assault, while girls with disabilities face inequitable access to education.
“Girls contend with entrenched barriers to achieving gender equality, and continue to lack equal opportunity and resources in education and leadership, and gender stereotypes continue to inhibit their participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, undermining their access to the stable and good-paying jobs”, Nkwo observed in the statement.
She explained that adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during their critical formative years, but also as they mature into women, saying if effectively supported, girls have the potential to change the world, empowered to become today and tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.
The NFF Communications Officer noted that care burdens fell on girls especially during school closure, and management of ailing family members, and called for access to virtual schooling devices to lessen the burden.
The NFF expressed hopes that Nigerian girls can lead the charge against 21st century challenges, drive innovation, as well as compete and succeed in the workforce of the future.