SHE SHE SHE: Int’l Day of Girl Child: Invest in girls for a better Gambia

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The world celebrates yet another International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2016 under the global theme: “Girls’ progress-goals’ progress: what counts for Girls.”

It is important for the world and The Gambia, in particular, to invest in girls in every aspect of their development.

Girls’ progress is the world’s progress, but this cannot happen if a lot of girls still roam the streets in rags and begging for survival.

As we celebrate this day, The Gambia as a nation that is so fond of protecting and promoting the rights and welfare of girls, to the extent of enacting laws that protect them from harmful societal practices that hinders their growth and well-being, should invest more in girls.

A girl-child born into the society should be monitored from the day she was born until the day she will enter the age of maturity.

There is no doubt that we have quite a good number of girls going to school, but we will not also deny the fact that there are still a lot of them roaming the streets in rags and without any shoes on, begging for survival.

There is no brighter future ahead for these girls, because there is no progress for even adults in the begging industry, talk less of girls.

Girls’ progress is not only good for them, but their progress will be shared by their families, communities, societies and the nation at large.

The relevant authorities in The Gambia should make sure that a girl-child born into the nation be sent to school, and make sure that she finishes school, and anything that is seen as a threat in her path to success be gotten rid of.

We should weed any bad grass that is seen as a threat to the development of a girl-child.

For that girl-child begging in the streets and fighting for survival, to her, nothing is bad in as much as she is going to get something that will put food on her table.

Quality and sustainable education is what they need to progress in the society. They need scholarships to ensure their continued survival in the educational system.

Investing in girls for their progress should be everyone’s business. We cannot continue celebrating their day when a lot of them are forced out of the educational system for reasons that can be prevented.

When we invest in them through education, they will be empowered and bold enough to break away from the culture of silence and fear that surrounds some of them.

They will be assets to nation-building, and they will bring about positive change in their families. Let Girls progress because the world is relying on their progress.

Teenage pregnancy, a threat to their progress, is happening because we deny them the right to information relating to their sexuality. They have rights to sexual reproductive health. When will we stop deciding for them on issues relating to their sexuality?

Girls need to be given the right to SRH services when the need arises, because it is the only way that will prevent them from making wrong choices at the wrong time.

There should be girl-friendly centers across the country, where they could go to seek counseling services relating to their sexuality, since their parents give them half information.

Teenage pregnancy can be preventable if everyone becomes a parent and a guardian, and engage girls in a friendly dialogue to help contribute to their progress.

The health workers should not be seen discriminating girls, whenever they are at the hospital requesting for services they have right to.

We should invest in girls, through supporting youth groups who are geared towards contributing to the development and progress of the girl-child.

One realises that peer-to-peer dialogue is more effective than any other dialogue; so having peers who feel the pain of these girls talking to them on the same issues affecting all of them, will be an added advantage. This can only happen if we invest in girls.

Child marriage is one thing that hinders the progress and growth of girls. There is a law prohibiting child marriage in The Gambia, but to the grassroots parents, whose only concern is the physical growth of her girl-child, they may not understand the law.

So, therefore, it is important for the relevant authorities to invest more in advocacy to reach those at the grassroots, and to translate the law to them in their native languages, so that we can protect girls from going through the marriage nightmare that belongs to the adults.

They are girls and not brides, so they must be treated as girls who are in dire need of their parents love and protection, and not to baby sit a grown man as a husband.

Let the girl-child also understand that prohibiting child marriage is in her best interest, so as to educate her up to the level she desires; so that she can be seen as an asset and not a liability.

Let us grow and harness their potentials, so that the world can have better future leaders that can take care of the world in peace and not with violence.

Let the anti-FGM law be also translated into a language that the grassroots woman or man understands, so that at the end of the day there will be no indoor open for cutting, and the girl-child can be safe in her own bedroom without the fear of being smuggled away and cut.

In honour of this day, SHE-SHE-SHE is in solidarity with Girl survivors of gender-based violence, child marriage, FGM, rape and any other violence, and calls on the world to make sure that perpetrators of such violence are punished so that they never see daylight again.

Invest in Girls today, for their progress is your progress! 

Author: Halimatou Ceesay