By Justina Auta
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) on Monday called on stakeholders to create equal opportunities for girls to strive in the digital world.
Ms Kemi Gbadamosi, the Director, Advocacy Policy and Marketing, AHF-Africa, made the appeal in Abuja in commemoration of the 2021 International Day of the Girl-Child (IDGC).
Gbadamosi said the event was hosted by AHF in collaboration with the Strong Enough Girls Empowerment Initiative (SEGEI) and members of the Girls Act.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that IDGC is commemorated annually on Oct. 11, to celebrate the importance, power and potentials of adolescent girls around the world, as set aside by the United Nations.
AHF theme: “Amplify Her Voice” `fight to keep girls healthy, help girls succeed’, intends to eliminate gender-based challenges, including violence, discrimination, child marriage an poor learning environment, among others.
Gbadamosi said the day was set side not just to celebrate girls but to highlight and amplify challenges confronting the girl-child in the society.
“The IDGC day is to highlight and amplify girl’s access to opportunities and education, to remind global leaders, communities, government on the need to ensure girls are given equal opportunities as boys.
“Girls need to focus on digitalisation and technology as such will enable them break boundaries and barriers to make difference in the world.
“When it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, popularly known as STEM, we have very few women and girls in the sector.
“This is because a lot of times in schools or homes girls are told that STEM is for boys and not girls, and we have seen that such stereotype is wrong.
“We have seen women go to space, we have seen women leading research in science, it is very instrumental that we focus on digitalisation.”
Gbadamosi stressed the need to create laws and policies that allow for the protection of girls as well as the need to abolish practices that constantly discriminate and leave girls behind.
According to her, laws that tackle gender based violence, issues of rape, social norms or social vices in communities such as child marriage, child labour, that affects the girls should be implemented.
“We want to empower girls to use their voice to demand the change they want to see, because when girl is empowered to succeed, communities and the nation at large succeeds as well,’’ Gbadamosi added.
Mr Adekunle Balogun-Ashry, Child Development, Ministry of Women Affairs, stated that the ministry was aware of the challenges of gender inequality, hence working audaciously to end the menace.
Balogun-Ashry listed cultural, societal and religious believes as causes of inequality in the society, where every male child was seen as been better or superior to the girl child.
“The ministry is working very hard, we are formulating policies that will trickle down to the local government on girlchild education and gender inequality that we face today.
“However, the notion is beginning to change with the effort of the ministry and child focused NGOs that have being trying to get the message down to the lowest rank of the society,’’ he said.
Ms Linda Raji, the Progreamme Officer, Strong Enough Girls Empowerment Initiative, an NGO, said the day was important as it focused on encouraging girls to leverage on technology to live better and fulfilled lives.
Raji said leveraging on technology would enable girls become informed to make healthy decisions, stay in school, fulfil their ambitions and access information they need to live safer lives.
She also appealed to government and stakeholders to subsidise menstrual products and make it available in schools to encourage girls stay in school and access products during their menstruation.
“This will go a long way because a lot of girls do not go to school because they cannot afford sanitary product and some contract infection because of poor menstrual hygiene,’’ Raji noted.
Ms Habibat Olanipekun, 17-year-old student of Government Secondary School, Kuje FCT, with the use of sign language mentioned information on menstrual hygiene and clean sanitary environment as some of the challenges confronting deaf girls.
According Olanipekun, some deaf girls have been violently discriminated due to lack of access to information on sexual and reproductive health rights.
She however called on government and international organisations to assist in renovating government schools by providing water, toilet and sanitary environment for better learning of children with disabilities.
NAN reports that the highlight of the event includes distribution of free sanitary pads as well as drama and dance presentations from various government and private school students within the FCT and its environs. (NAN)