Temie Giwa: It’s hard out there for a girl (YNaija FrontPage)

Thousands of women are sexually assaulted each year, and even more are just plain assaulted. It is hard out there for a girl, and it is harder still in Nigeria.

It is hard out there for a girl. It has always been hard for girls in every society and it still is in most. Women are faced with physical and sexual violence, they earn far less than men, and the state of reproductive health often results in death sentences for thousands of women. It is clear that women have made great progress but there is still a long way to go before women can enjoy the same quality of life as men do. The state of reproductive health in sub Saharan Africa should concern everyone. Female genital mutilation is rampant and often deadly. Thousands of women are denied access to lifesaving contraceptives while legal access to terminating unwanted pregnancies are denied in the majority of African countries. Thousands of women are sexually assaulted each year, and even more are just plain assaulted. It is hard out there for a girl, and it is harder still in Nigeria.

Two days ago, the 40-year-old daughter of General Buhari, Zulai Buhari, died in childbirth. It is a major tragedy but it has helped to start a conversation on the state of maternal health in Nigeria. Ms. Buhari is only one of the 52,900 women who lose their lives during or right after childbirth. It is so easy to get lost in the statistics. It will be easier still to allow yourself to forget that these women, the 52,900 of them, were cousins, sisters, nieces, and daughters of people. We must remember that their families probably loved them and that they gave their lives in other to bring new life. Every year thousands of families must bury their loved ones because of largely preventable causes. Children lose their mothers and they too often die before their 5th birthday. Consider the fact that Sweden recorded zero maternal deaths between 2006 and 2011. Also consider that the mortality rate for pregnant women in sub Saharan Africa is lower than the amount of Nigerian women who must die when giving birth. It is obviously hard out there for women, but harder still for Nigerian women.  This disparity is mind boggling and heartbreaking.  We all know at least one woman who died in childbirth. The 59,200 are real women, with real lives.

I will not tell you what works this time. I will not offer suggestions or sound public policies. But I will say this: the Nigerian government knows what will work. There are thousands of research papers, policy proposals, non-governmental organization work plan that expounds and tests good ideas that will save the lives of Nigerian mothers.  It has the funds and the human resources to stop the wasting of human lives. This present government is not bothered by the reality of thousands of senseless deaths. The National Assembly is not interested in providing the right oversight for the bloated and largely inefficient ministry of health. The presidency is preoccupied with other things and it will not focus on investing in programs that will save lives. So nothing will work but a change of commitment and it starts with families saying no to burying their mothers. Enough should be enough.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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