The program started at 10:13 am with an opening prayer by Mrs. Agbaji after which the national anthem was sung. Thereafter there was an interactive session in which some of the students were asked about their future ambitions and their expectations of the event.
The compere gave us a brief introduction about the activities of Girl Child Care Advancement Initiative (GCCAI). The key note speaker Mrs. Grace Tukurah was then introduced.
While speaking, Mrs. Tukurah clarified the aim of gender equality “as not an avocation for transforming girls into boys or women into men, it is only an advocate to ensure equal opportunities and value for both genders”.”Nigeria ranks 123rd out of 153 countries in the world on the average years of schooling”, that tells us that we are still far away. Educating the girl child opens her up to a better way of thinking and reasoning.
She opens us up to the perceived source of the misconception in our society about the girl child. More often than not this misconception about the role of the girl child can be traced to the upbringing in the family where the girls are taught to be subservient to their male counterpart. This had also found a way to the education system as she pointed out a primary school textbook which highlighted the role of each family member and still emphasized the traditional roles being allocated to the women and girls such as, “must take care of the household chores”, “must satisfy the husband sexually” and so on.
She then asked that “we need to critically ask ourselves if formal education is really enough in achieving gender equality?” In conclusion, she advocates that both formal and informal education have a role in achieving gender equality.
After the keynote speech, certificates of scholarship were handed out to ten girls from GSS GOUSA and GSS KUJE with 1 girl in Lagos who was not present.
The panel discussion kicked off. We had; Benmun Damul, Temitope Okunuga, Maryam Turaki, Shuwargwe Damak and Alli- Bob Cinwon as the panelists with Yazeed Yakubu as the anchor. The discussion started with the question
“what is the role of education and why do people not like sending girls to school?”
For Damul and Damak, the Nigerian culture is a big factor. We have a culture which segregates girls and gives them the back seat but educating girls have opened our eyes to many potentials girls possess.
A lot of them are leading in school and the social world, we have them achieving feats. Maryam Turaki also encouraged that is never late for girls to take charge of their lives and be whatever they want to be. She gave examples of women who went to law school in their forties, fifties etc.
Alli- Bob Cinwon advocates that it is a case of national development where every hand has to be on deck to tackle.
Yazeed Yakubu stressed the importance of unlearning some aspects of our culture which are not good for development.
The next question for discussion was “how do women/girls balance every aspect of life? Damak responded by giving example of herself being a public servant, an entrepreneur, a NGO director etc. She emphasized how education has helped achieve a balance in all her endeavor.
Damul also stressed the need for ladies to seek help from people around and stop overworking themselves. They should employ the help of male counterparts around them.
The next question bordered on why child marriage is rampant in Nigeria. Damak responded by saying religious and cultural values are the main factors, she stressed that formal education enlightens so a girl who is educated will not allow herself be married off at an early age.
For Temitope,the issue of early child marriage is more rampant in the northern part of the country. It’s a cycle that keeps rotating – “a girl of 10 years old married out will give birth to another girl who will be married out at 10 and so the cycle continues”. Education needs to be taken to the grassroots, there should be an informal way of discouraging this sort of thing.
Alli- Bob Cinwon believes that both genders have to be educated on this matter. Boys should be advised as well as girls. Shuwargwe Damak thereafter gave an advise as to how to solve this issue. She says “girls should learn to speak up, they should open up to trusted people around them like their school teachers”. Yazeed also lends a voice by saying that there is a provision in the law to prevent this sort of thing and that the Nigerian Legal Council can be approached for this kind of issue.
The next line of question borders on whether women need men in their process of “becoming”. The general answer is that no one can survive in isolation, we all need a network around us and therefore should seek help when we need it.
The discussion was thrown open to the audience and a question was asked that if education is the way out of all the issues that has been raised, how do people who are not educated benefit? Everybody was encouraged to play their part and in doing so we will achieve a greater percentage of people in school.
The students also asked a lot of questions some of which were;
- Why are girls/ women shy to speak up?
- Why do women not support themselves?
- Since women were formed from men (Biblical perspective) shouldn’t it be that they should not be equal to men?
- Why are women blamed for their children’s misbehavior?
In response to the first question, Damak says anyone can be shy, whether male or female and that practicing to speak up will help us gain confidence. In response to the second question, Temitope encouraged that we need to start supporting ourselves as the success of one doesn’t disturb that of the other. It’s in supporting ourselves that we all succeed.
To the third question, Damul responded that the Bible did not say women should not go to school, should be bound to the kitchen and all. We have examples of great women in the bible who were leaders like Deborah and Esther.
Maryam says, it is not a competition and Damak supported by saying that the advocacy is for women to be valued as human beings also with great potential, it is about turning around the narrative of women suppression.
To the fourth question, Benmun Damul responded that both the man and woman have a role to play in child upbringing and no one should point an accusing finger if they haven’t played their role.
The first guest speaker was introduced, Mrs. Eva Dan- Yusuf. For her, education can happen anywhere you learn something and gender equality is not for women to be like men but to be given the chance to exhibit their full potential as everyone has their place. She used four boys amongst the audience for a perfect illustration. The first outlook for all should be that we are human beings and not whether we are male or female and therefore with respect to education, it is a right for all humans and not a preference for a particular gender.
The second guest speaker Mrs Rita Alo spoke on the topic, Education the key to sustainable development: the girl child education. Mrs Alo says that all the UN sustainable development goals (SDG’s) are interconnected and the girl child is central to their attainment.
Girls and women alike contribute to the economy of families greatly and if educated go on to take up good executive positions.
Talking about health, educated women are usually more concerned about health care. They understand the importance of seeking medical care in sickness and improving nutrition or better diet.
In this vein, for every SDG, women have huge roles to play and educated women will play this roles better. She therefore advocates for more and improved legislation for the girls and women. Any country hoping to achieve sustainable development must take the girl child education seriously as much as that of their male counterpart.
The third guest speaker Mrs Amaka Okafor, she demolished the myth of formal education being the only route to be educated. She emphasized the need for vocational training, internship, online schooling etc. She said that “it’s high time girls took up responsibility for their education”. There are a lot of self help methods today and these should be taken advantage of. For her personal development and learning is also a critical tool for getting educated.
In conclusion, the students were asked to share the lessons they have learnt from the program and a great deal of them contributed well.
The program ended at 3:15pm.
Compiled by Genevieve Aito