I have irrefutably the most beautiful girlfriend on the planet. She is an authentic African woman. God-fearing, fierce, intelligent, vibrant. A cultured woman of integrity with a revolutionary vision to make the world a better place. If I were you, I would envy me too. I also have three sisters whom I love to death, and a lovely niece, Lyma, who melts my heart every time she calls me ‘Uncle Tobby!’. Some day in the future, God-willing, I’m going to have a daughter. And I can promise you, she will be a goddess. Being a perfect cocktail of the father and the mother, she will be the yardstick of everything pristine. I will guard and protect her with a fierce dedication, like she’s the planet’s last hope of survival. Because you know what? Without the girl child, without women, we wouldn’t be here anyway. And yet, sadly…
Every ten minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In a disturbing long continuum of neglect and our collective pedestrian focus on their welfare, they continue to succumb to physical, sexual and emotional violence. It took the world decades and centuries to finally acknowledge that the girl child requires special attention, and so on the 19th day of December, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child, in recognition of girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world.
The day has been commemorated since 2012, with a collective aim of highlighting and addressing the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. Coincidentally, this year’s day falls on a Wednesday, which can as well be officially designated a Women’s day. Some time back in the course of my life, Woman Crush Wednesday #WCW was born, and before then we’ve had ladies’ night, also on a Wednesday. Wondering what it is with the Wednesday magic? Permit me to enlighten you.
We all dread Mondays, but Wednesday is usually the turning point of the week, and perhaps the toughest. It comes right in the middle of the week, the peak of everything. And yet, it also holds with it a promise. A promise that after it’s done, Thursday will come and the weekend will just be inches away from our grasp. Wednesday is therefore the fulcrum, the pivot of the week, the epicenter, just as women are to our existence.
A colleague of mine walked in some minutes ago and asked what I’m writing about, then proceeded to protest why we don’t have an International Day of the Boy Child, that the boy child is equally neglected and has been forgotten, that we have focused on the girl-child for so long we’ve forgotten about the boy, that the focus should be on empowering all the genders for a balanced transformative society. I have agreed with his submissions on all counts. It however does not underscore the fact that being a girl presents unique vulnerabilities, some with consequences that can last a lifetime. This vulnerability is particularly intense in the first decade of their lives, and as puberty settles in and a transition into womanhood begins, proper upbringing and nurturing is particularly integral.
Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opines that investing in girls is a moral imperative, a matter of basic justice and equality. I would add that there’s need to expand opportunities for girls, increase their access to social, health and economic resources. I would further urge policy makers and relevant organizations to ensure girls are empowered with knowledge, skills and options they need to reach their potential and serve as their own advocates and chart their own destinies. I would further belabor the point on life skills, education, critical thinking, self-esteem and how they should be instilled in our girls to ensure they reach their full potential. That’s what I would do, but that’s not what I’m going to do.
Instead, I’m going to address you, the reader, directly. I’m going to ask you to challenge yourself and consider where you fit in this whole matrix. Is there really nothing you can do to make life more worth-while for a girl somewhere? When you watch news and see a disturbing tale of girls having to barter for their dignity, compromising to sexual predators to be able to buy sanitary towels, does it touch a nerve somewhere? When they eventually have to drop out of school due to pregnancies, then early marriages, or victims to sexually transmitted diseases, do we care for such a terminated dream? You may not be a millionaire or a CEO, or a legislator, but are we really helpless to the extent that we can’t give girls a chance to change how their story ends?
You don’t have to start a foundation to make a change, or wait until you have surplus resources. Start now. Start where you are. Support that sister of yours in school, talk to her, encourage her, build the legend in her. Support someone random, even just one. Mentor someone, tell her she can be whatever she sets her mind to be. Make sure desperation does not turn them into easy prey. All it takes is a single genuine act of kindness. The ripple effects will secure a generation. To all the girls out there, remember that a hero lies in you. On this International Day of the Girl Child, may we all commit to giving girls the wings to fly and conquer, not the pain to cry and die.
Happy International Day of the Girl Child!