By Hassan Zayamu
A new report titled: ‘A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress’, has disclosed that despite significant gains in education globally, violence against women and girls is still common.
The report was presented Tuesday by the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF), Plan International and UN Women.
However, UNICEF specifically warned that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of Nigerian girls, particularly from violence.
The report revealed that, in Nigeria, 1 in 4 girls has suffered sexual violence, “yet, very few of them seek professional help, preferring to keep their abuse secret.
“In Nigeria, only 2 percent of girls aged 15–19 years who ever experienced forced sex sought help from professionals.”
Globally, however, the report noted, 1 in every 20 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years – around 13 million – has experienced forced sex, one of the most violent forms of sexual abuse women and girls can suffer.
In his reaction, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, lamented that: “Sadly, after 25 years, the world is still a very violent place for girls and women – including in Nigeria.
“But there are things we can do to change this – and we need to do them urgently.
“We need to invest in protection services and support programmes that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and to heal.
“We need to work with local communities to change practices that make women and girls vulnerable to violence and abuse.
“And we need to speak to our children – girls and boys – to ensure they grow up knowing that such violence is unacceptable.
“Together, we can end violence against women and girls – and this is long overdue.”
Globally, the report further explained, more girls are going to school and staying in school than ever before.
It however, said that, “though in Nigeria, there is still a long way to go to ensure equality of education for girls, especially in the north-east, where 60 percent of out-of-school girls in Nigeria are located.”
While commenting on the harmful practices of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the report said that in Nigeria, about 19.9 million girls have experienced FGM while 43 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday, and 17 percent before they turn 15.
The report therefore, called on the need to continue to celebrate and expand the opportunities for girls of all backgrounds, ethnicities, income and social status levels to be bold and ambitious change makers and solution designers – actively engaging their voices, opinions and ideas in dialogues, platforms and processes that relate to their bodies, communities, education and futures.