Today marks the annual International Day of the Girl Child, an observation set aside globally by the United Nations to support more opportunity for girls and increase awareness of inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence and child marriage.
Thanks to such initiatives the girl child in Africa has been more empowered with time and her place in the society is equally recognized just as that of the boy child. However some communities have still clung to old traditions that tend to discriminate and oppress the girl child but luckily most countries have come up with legislation to protect girls from this exploitation.
FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND EARLY MARRIAGE
In Kenya for instance, we still have communities that uphold circumcision of girls and early marriages, but this vice has been controlled in part and even though it still happens even though it’s a crime punishable by law.
Girls are now more aware of themselves and the opportunities that life has granted them. In the northern eastern communities were female circumcision and early marriages are rife, girls are now bold enough to break taboos and go against their parent’s plans in pursuit of education even if it means running away from home, a trend that has become very common.
Generally women have been so empowered both socially and economically not to forget in the political spheres as well, so much that observers feel that attention needs now to be shifted to the boy child. However the reality is that even with all the accomplishments in empowering the girl child, there is still so much to be done.
MORE TO BE DONE
Even though there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education, education still remains elusive to many girls especially those in marginalized areas. We still have scores of girls dropping out of school due to early pregnancies, lack of fees and now to what have become a national disaster, lack of sanitary towels.
Kenyan adolescent girls loose an average of 3.5 million learning days per month and according to UNESCO, one in 10 African adolescent girls miss school during menses and eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues, such as the inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, the social taboos related to menstruation, and the culture of silence that surrounds it .
It has not been all rosy for the girl child in Kenya, if she is not worried about being married off to a man as old as her father, she is missing school because of lack of sanitary towels and as if that is not enough, the girl in Kenya is not safe even in the comfort of her home because rape has become so rampant.
THE HORROR OF RAPE
Lately it seems like the girl in Kenya has been under attack going by the recent cases of rape in the country. Hardly a day goes by without a child or two is reported raped and now perpetrators actually don’t just rape them, they the kill them after the ordeal. According to statistics, a child is raped every 30 minutes in Kenya.
Although there are adequate laws in the Kenyan criminal code to protect girls from rape, they are not well enforced and perpetrators often walkaway scot free in the society to the distress of victims. Ninety percent of the victims have been raped by people they know — fathers, uncles, brothers, neighbors, teachers and even priests.