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International Day of the Girl Child 2019: EVA girls speak out

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In commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, Education as a Vaccine put together a team of young girls from different parts of the country to write their stories on a series of topics that are critical to the needs of the girlchild.

Living With HIV/AIDS

By Deborah Mamman
Age: 24
Institution: Education as a Vaccine, Abuja
I’ve been positive for 2 years, I was shocked when the doctor said, ‘Deborah, you’re HIV positive’, I was devastated. The doctor counselled me and asked me if I wanted to tell my family about my status. She later enrolled me in a private clinic which I requested because of privacy.

Living with HIV as a young girl has been very challenging. I have to hide my ARVs. When I socialize with friends, I take my medication secretly because I’m afraid they would find out and start to speak negatively about me. My social life has completely changed. I have not been in a long term relationship because I’m afraid of how the person would react if I told them. “

The issue of disclosure, fear, stigma, and discrimination, lack of access to services to prevent Advance HIV disease is a barrier for people living with HIV. In 2018, I went to a general hospital in Gwarinpa to do a viral load and CD4 count test. The nurse charged me N15,000 for the test and claimed there was no reagent for the CD4 count test. I refused, stating that the test is free in my state, Gombe state. She later insisted I pay her N7,000 so that she would help me. I had to leave without doing the test because of the financial barrier and I haven’t been able to do it to date. This is the case for many girls living with HIV/AIDs.

Although former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed the anti-discrimination bill into law in 2014, people living with HIV/AIDS still suffer from discrimination in Nigeria. The anti-discrimination law protects the rights of people living with HIV, protecting HIV-positive employees from unfair dismissal and from mandatory HIV testing but people living with HIV are still being denied access to health services and reproductive health services due to their status.

The government needs to be held accountable on their commitments to remove user fees for young people living with HIV/AIDS, to reduce the age of access from 18 to 14 and enforce the implementation of the anti-stigma law. This will translate to a better society for girls living with HIV/AIDS. Every girl deserves access to healthcare services, education, decent employment and should not be discriminated against because of her status.

Universal Health Coverage and the girl child

By Sarbyen Sheni
Age: 22
Institution: Education as a Vaccine, Abuja

The social, physical and emotional environments in which girls live and learn have a significant influence on their health and general outlook to life. Girls in Nigeria are faced with many vulnerabilities like gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, and discrimination due to gender and economic inequality. Girls are vulnerable from the day they are born until they become adults. They lack comprehensive information on sexual reproductive health and access to HIV testing and counseling. They also find it difficult to access family planning services because of societal norms. This intensifies the need to invest in their health and well-being during the early years of their lives through the phase of adolescence until they get to adulthood.

Investing in the health and well-being of girls will address their specific needs and provide them with access to good healthcare, quality education and decent employment that can result in significant social and economic benefits. This will also transform the lives of girls enabling them to be leaders in society.

The uprising movement for universal health coverage (UHC) provides an ideal opportunity to improve the health and well-being of all Nigerian citizens especially girls. UHC targets health for all ages; It implies that everyone should have access to quality health services without financial hardship. Nigeria has launched the second National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDPII) and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to ensure that Nigerians have universal access to essential, affordable and quality health care. It is imperative that the government includes young people especially girls as part of the vulnerable population that would be eligible for health services User Fee Exemption including for sexual reproductive health and mental health.

Girls have the potential to create social impact and contribute immensely to their communities. Girls are resilient, strong and dauntless, with the ability to change the world. Upholding the rights of the girl child especially their rights to health will improve their quality of life thereby giving them freedom and equipping them with resources to reach their full potential and be unstoppable. As we celebrate the girl child today, we must bear in mind that investing in the girl child is investing in a better future for all.

Education for the Girl Child

By Firdausi Yusuf Abdullahi
Age: 23
Organization- Bridge Connect Africa Initiative, Kano

Education is a fundamental human right. It helps an individual to be smart, to be able to learn new ideas and stay conversant with contemporary issues around the globe. The value education presents for the girl child is immeasurable. Although there has been an increasing focus on the topic of girl child education in recent times, there is still a low percentage of girls in school. This reinforces the need to constantly reemphasize the importance of education for all- irrespective of gender.

In Nigeria, especially where I come from, it is believed that girl child education is not important and this has resulted in many girls between ages 6-15 years not attending school. In cases where they are enrolled, many of them do not complete their education. They are forced to sit at home, do the house chores and engage in other petty trades. Many also end up dropping out of school because they are forced into marriage.

Cultural practices and societal norms have limited girls and this also infringes on their fundamental human rights. How can a girl of 6-15 years get married and start a family? She becomes a liability to herself, her family and the society at large. When girls are in school, they are exposed to essential information and life-building skills and are equipped to make positive life-changing decisions thereby reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancies, STIs and maternal mortality.

Also, educated girls are better prepared to contribute to the development of their immediate communities and society at large. For example, an educated girl is empowered to add socioeconomic value to society. She can take up financial responsibilities and participate in political functions. She can become an efficient employer of labor or an employee. Education increases a girl’s self-confidence and she has better prospects for career development.

Education is a catalyst for development and girls’ empowerment. I strongly believe that no girl should be denied her right to education in the world today. A well-educated girl can become anything she aspires to be.

“Educate women, and their community will prosper. Deny them education and the world will suffer” – Julia Gillard.

Child Marriage

By Roqibat Bello
Age: 13
School: Rising Star Kiddies and College, Onigaari, Aiyegun

I once read a book titled The Baby Wife. In this story, a girl called Yemisi was married to an old man and she was always abused by her co-wives. When Yemisi did not get pregnant, her husband took her to the family planning clinic. The nurse stated that because Yemisi is not physically mature, she cannot have a baby. This may be an illustration but it shows the reality of many girls in Nigeria. When girls are married off, they are put at great risk of health complications from pregnancy. They are denied the opportunity to continue school and reach their full potential.

The issue of Child Marriage is not uncommon in Nigeria. It is a practice that negatively affects the well-being and development of the girl child. When a girl becomes a wife and a mother without being psychologically mature, she will not be able to take care of her baby or even manage the home properly. It also makes her dependent and vulnerable to abuse and domestic violence.

I believe that girls should be in school, getting educated and learning skills that will equip them to be productive in life and fulfill their aspirations and dreams.

#Child, not a bride.

Mental health and the girl child

By Oluwanifemi Ayeni
Age: 24
Organization: Kids & Teens Resource Centre, Akure

According to World Health Organization, mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is often a direct response to the situations happening in our lives.

The mental health of any individual is determined by a wide range of factors. For girls, factors that could contribute to stress include peer pressure, increased access to and use of technology, adolescence, relationship with peers, quality of life, etc. Girls are more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence which is a huge factor that is detrimental to mental health. Discrimination and other harmful practices such as genital mutilation have long-term negative effects on girls. In Nigeria, girls are at risk of being sidelined and silenced due to gender inequality, some are faced with educational difficulties and even lack access to basic social amenities. Girls are exposed to many risk factors and this takes a toll on their mental health thereby affecting their general well-being.

The issue of child marriage is one that is not uncommon in Nigeria. This separates girls from their family and friends, isolates them socially, denies them of education and leaves them vulnerable to violence from husbands and in-laws. Due to forced sex, they face health risks, early pregnancy, and even death. In addition to this, some girls have to deal with a childhood that is filled with abuse, bullying, resentment, hatred, distrust, and constant negativity.

All of these greatly contribute to the mental health condition of girls, these could also lead to emotional disorders, eating disorders, violence, psychosis, drug usage, and even suicidal thoughts. The issue of mental health is one that should be treated with priority. Interventions should be made to create an enabling environment that promotes and protects the mental health of the girl child. Girls should be brought up in environments that demonstrate compassion, understanding, trust and most of all, love. This will greatly impact them to have productive lifestyles. The government also needs to initiate policies and programs that take into consideration the critical needs of the girl child.

The uprising wave of technology and the girl child

By Tadi Nelly
Age: 23
Organization: WHY CODE LIMITED, Abuja

Technology has found its way to every aspect of our lives, our gadgets; phones, laptops, Software applications; Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, etc. These are things that most people can’t go a day without.

Technology has impacted us both negatively and positively. It has created several opportunities for people to chase careers outside what used to be the norm. It has given people the ability to think and express themselves in the most creative ways possible. Many career paths that have been created due to tech, some more popular than others and this has paved the way for many girls who have a passion for tech. Girls now have a wide range of career paths to pick from e.g. Web or Mobile App Development, Digital Marketing, content writing, blogging or Network engineering among others.

As a female in the tech industry (Software Development), I have encountered many challenges. From having to deal with being mostly the only female in the room or being in a space where females comprise only about 10 to 20 percent, to speaking without being asked just to ensure my voice is being heard and working extra hard to reach points or meet up with my male counterparts.
The issue of having more girls in tech is no news. It is important that girls are empowered to make big waves in the technology industry in Nigeria. Girls need to be given more opportunities to explore their passion and be creative. It’s not just about bringing them in because you want to prove that your company actually hires girls. It’s about having girls who are good at what they do, girls who are exceptional, girls who are unscripted and unstoppable.

The effect of conflict on girls 

By Adek Bassey
Age: 25
Institution: Today for Tomorrow foundation (TFT), Adamawa

Peace is the absence of war, fear, conflict, anxiety, and suffering while Conflict is a protracted disagreement overvalues, claims to status, power, and resources between people. Conflict is an obstacle to progress, political stability, economic prosperity and overall socio-economic development of any society.

Social unrest in itself is destructive and as a result of its impact girls are the most vulnerable. Unresolved conflict often leads to crisis and unrest such as inter-religious crisis, inter-tribal crisis, inter-communal clashes, etc. For example, the recurring Boko haram insurgency and clash between herdsmen and farmers. These situations put the girl child at high risk of sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and ultimately death. Living in such an environment can affect the total well-being of a girl child due to the grave effect it has on development, education, and growth. It also puts them at risk of becoming internally and externally displaced refugees, this, in turn, makes access to public health services inadequate.

A peaceful community is needed for girls to thrive, attend school and grow up to be active citizens. It is important that the Government works to ensure that we have a peaceful society. There is a great need to set up protective measures and services for girls during and after any form of conflict. A peaceful society gives room for development and allows girls to dream, to work towards their goals and eventually contribute to economic development.

Peace is not only the absence of war, but it is also the existence of equality and of justice that promotes good living conditions. It is the elimination of violence, oppression, and environmental destruction. I look forward to a peaceful Nigeria, a peaceful society that is safe, conducive and favourable for the girl child.


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