The Executive Coordinator of Bimbo Odukoya Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO), Aderonke Mary Oyelakin, has again called for preservation and protection of the rights of girl child, noting that girl child has become endangered being in the society.
Oyelakin made the advocacy call as the Foundation joined the world to celebrate the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child with the theme “My voice, Our Equal Future”.
At the ceremony, only 20 people were invited from 10 schools in Oshodi and Ilupeju area of Lagos State – one student representative with a teacher from a school due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking on the programme, the NGO boss said: “Bimbo Odukoya Foundation (PBOF), Nigeria joins the world to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. This Observance Day was declared by a resolution of the United Nations in December 2011 and was first observed on 11th October 2012.
“The day focuses on increasing awareness of issues faced by girls around the world. The antecedent being that of the precarious situation of the Girl Child who had become endangered and beset all around by social, cultural and gender-based factors that constrained full developmental potentials. They are bedeviled and terrorized.
“They are assailed by issues such as under-education, nutrition, forced child marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation and denial of legal rights and medical rights. They have been denied their right to be heard.
“Because their voices are still scattered, weak and ineffective, giving them a voice and a platform enables them to boldly demand action against discrimination, violence, and poor learning opportunities.
“We aim and look forward to a collective effort to synergize with other stakeholders to move the girl child from an endangered vulnerable species to an empowered one. What better way to empower them than to give them a voice, facilitate the amplification of their voices to be heard, and make their voice and decisions count so they can contribute to the affairs that concern them and shape their future. This is a sure way to protect them, building their confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and self-agency.
“When we give them a voice and allow their voice to count now on events that concern them, their places in the family, workplace and community are being assured and consolidated and indeed secure.
“Gender equality will be achieved when they are able to speak out and speak up within the family and refuse to resign themselves to the place of a second fiddle. They will not be relegated to the background or forgotten in resource sharing.
“These girls would be our ambassadors who will go back to their schools and amplify their voice on what they learnt to other girls in the neighborhoods, schools and religious places as interact with them. The out-of-school adolescents will not be left behind. Girl child activists will be identified and showcased.
“This is calling all stakeholders, especially the governments, civil society organizations and the private sector to work with communities to ensure that indeed a new era dawns on our girl child, for the benefits of all. On International Day of the Girl Child, our governments are hereby reminded to accelerate their fulfilment of the commitment at Beijing 25 years ago to ensure that the future for every girl, everywhere, becomes her lived reality.”
Enumerating the global call to action to uphold the rights of the girl child, Oyelakin said the society must improve the lives of girls and aspire to make their lives better wherever we are; increase the need for girl activism; demand for laws to free the girl child from sexual and gender based violence, including the removal of cultural, social, educational and economic obstacles that are impeding their wellbeing and progress.
She added that in line with the aims of the 2030 Agenda for the SDGs that no one should be left behind, it calls for a reflection and commitment “on our responsibilities towards the girl child. For we are all stakeholders for the girl child. The Beijing Platform For Action also recently listed the protection of the girl child as one of the 12 main areas of concern.
“In view of this, we are calling out for a positive change in this regard, we must continue to strive to protect and preserve the rights and interests of our girls. The focus should be to generally secure the human rights of all girls even in this period of COVID-19 pandemic which exposed them to various challenges.
“Girl–child rape, defilement and abduction is still on the increase. It has become a scourge and the girl child is no longer safe. That is why the theme for this year is apt. Let us raise our voices against the challenges they face so they can be safe and in turn, they will have the opportunity to excel now and in the future.
“The foundation has worked with over 35,000 girls since 2007 across Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Calabar. Hope House shelter, a rehabilitation home for survivors of sexual abuse operated for 10 years between 2008 – 2018.
“We envision a world where the girl-child is not only safe but given equal opportunities to be an impact full member of the society.”