by Arit Okpo
So it was International Day of the Girl Child recently, a day set aside to celebrate the girl child around the world and showcase her unique potential and ability.
Of course a day like this leads one to deep contemplation – there is a lot to celebrate where the female gender is concerned, and seemingly even more to cry about.
Where to start? Hmmm…let’s start with the bad news
- The woman who posted a discussion with a call centre operator after he took her details from their database and messaged her after hours. Her response – reporting him to his office, was met with insults – after all they all said, he asked nicely and he apologised. Ignore the fact that he was so out of line he was in another country. Ignore the fact that he gave himself access to another person’s details. He was polite, and that’s what counts.
- The women who are thrown out of their husbands homes for a series of misdemeanours and who quite frankly have no choice. The scary imbalance of power that makes it perfectly acceptable that a man can ask his partner to leave their joint home and her expected response is to beg in deep humility and with sincere repentance until he forgives her.
- Should we talk about girls in various parts of this continent who are forced into underage marriages by men who they should be calling grandpa? Let’s take a look at their future, aspirations and dreams cut short because an old man is looking for the fountain of youth in between a little girl’s thighs.
You know what? This is getting depressing, let’s talk about positives.
- 21 girls who have been returned to the painfully waiting arms of their parents after years in a world unexpected in its reality and undesired in its happening. We have heard the promise of a nation that they will be cared and provided for until they can look at the world with eyes of hope instead of fear. Prayers and hope continue to ascend that their sisters who still wait for rescue will one day come back to a world struggling not to forget.
- Heads of villages who dissolve child marriages and send young girls back to school. The thankfully growing awareness that young girls can actually be useful to their societies if they are allowed to learn and grow and dream like the boys they grow up alongside. A sentiment thankfully echoed by a traditional ruler on the other side of the continent who thinks that underage marriage causes problems for women. My fingers are crossed that this message will trickle down until everyone hears it.
- Social media and trending hashtags that stop sexual predators in their tracks and force them to accountability; the understanding that for every woman afraid to speak, there are others standing up to speak on their behalf; the knowledge that no woman is an island.
I remember a conversation with a friend who, declared with wholehearted affection “You are too strong to be a woman, you need to soften, let someone be strong for you” It took all I had not to respond with offence, to seek to educate, to tell him that strength is not an attribute distributed to members of the male gender at the same collection point where penises are handed out.
I will take a minute to shake my head at the irony that expects these softened women to “build their man and build their home”. Soften down so someone can be strong for you, and then be strong enough to become a bricklayer and build an adult with the same capabilities, abilities and tools as you. I’m getting this.
As always, I choose to dwell in hope. Let the girl child dream of worlds she wants to conquer, let her build herself to conquer these worlds. If you will not open doors for her, at least be kind enough not to bar them so that she can make her way. Let her be free enough to tell her stories, and if you will not amplify her voice, at least do not shut her mouth so that she is unable to even speak.
Let the girl be. Let her live. Let her dream.
Arit is a highly versatile Content Producer, Presenter, Writer and Speaker. She currently produces and presents The Crunch, the flagship news show for the Ebonylife TV platform, where she discusses and analyses current affairs issues and stories. Arit has also presented travel show Destinations Africa; politics show Naija Politics and cooking show Chefrican, also on the Ebonylife TV platform. She is passionate about telling the African story from a positive and powerful perspective.