Since the Beijing conference on Women in 1995, the girl Child and their rights, which was one of the focal areas of the conference, has been a major topic of discussion in the government of Nigeria. Many National conferences have been held to look at the rights of the girl Child, and how those rights can be achieved.
When the present Governor of Ondo state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN assumed power, little did the people of Ondo State and Nigeria at large know that his wife, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, basic interest would be on how to better the lot of women, with specific interest in the girl Child.
Four and half years in the saddle, the first lady has made great impact in the area of advocacy for the girl child rights. This she has done right from when they are neonates through the “Solayo” project, which provides birth kits for their mothers to promote safe delivery of babies, boys and girls inclusive. The Arabinrin Akeredolu Summer Junior Tennis Club is another great initiative that helps in both improvement and alertness of early school age children. Determined to equip the girl child at their early stage, the Bemore Empowered Foundation, is a carefully designed capacity and technical training programme geared towards bridging the gender gap in science and technology between the male and female child in our society.
The Bemore Summer boot-camp equally helps in ensuring the girls acquire skills for self sustainability thereby help their future economic earnings. Various leadership trainings and self development workshop contained in the modules of the Bemore programme are the type that produced great leaders of note who have made landmark impact around the world. Arabinrin has also taught them to be bold, firm and ensure they are heard at each necessary opportunity.
Part of the leadership training covers their personal hygiene. The girls are taught on keeping themselves clean during and after their menstruation.
It is worthy of note that the first lady has always been an advocate of free sanitary pads for the girls. To her, being a girl at birth is by nature while having sex is by choice. This is the plank upon which the first lady erected her demand that instead of free condom, free sanitary pads should rather be shared to secondary school girl child.
Her attention towards the physically challenged persons is one which has been of great advantage to them, and of course, the physically challenged now have it better, without lip service being played to giving them better opportunities.
Arabinrin Betty, who has a background in the civil society world has advocated for a bill against sexual and gender based violence. The bill has passed by the Ondo State House of Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN. Not long after, rather than have the law remain in the shelf gathering dust, like is mostly done in Nigeria, an Agency Against Gender-based was established in the state to ensure an eradication of gender based violences.
In a bid to have more feminine voices at the decision table where policies are being formed, Arabinrin Betty has advocated for the inclusion of more females in government, and her advocacy has been seen yielding good results.
Just yesterday evening, I came across an article written by Bola Bolawole, on the two day seminar that took place on the 31st of August and the 1st of September 2021, organized by Ethiopia based African Child Policy Forum ACPF and their Nigerian counterpart, Africawide Movement for Children AMC and the Women Arise for Change Initiative at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel.
The seminar which was targeted at improving the quality of life of the Nigerian girl-chid had in attendance the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who declared the event open, as well as the Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Dame Pauline Tallen as Chairman. Other attendees were the Representatives of State governments, diplomats, labour leaders, as well as civil society groups.
The rights of the girl Child, and all that had been done by the government and the civil societies, and of course, the challenges encountered along the path of this onerous task were examined. The roles of the parents and those of the girl Child were equally looked into.
A communique developed at the end of the seminar, had the following noted on the girl Child….
1.The efforts of the government are commendable, yet insufficient to make Nigeria a better place for girls..
- Millions of girls in Nigeria are robbed of their childhood through early marriage amongst other things.
- They are condemned to a lifetime of discrimination and inequality.
- They are denied education
- Are sexually and abused at home, in school and their communities.
- Are barred from owning and inheriting properties.
- Are usually last to be considered, when states are to invest on health, social protection and education.
- Girls have been victims of harmful cultural practices, patriarchy, and discriminatory policies.
- Girls attend schools with poor sanitary facilities, where menstrual hygiene becomes an issue
It was also noted that it is essential to achieve Africa’s 2063 and the UN development Goals, and investing in girls will lead to an increase in economic development of the country, and a chain reaction that eventually leads to a peaceful Africa, as girls are key drivers of transformation
Towards this end, it was suggested that
1.There must be an investment in girls which will lead to more sustainable development and societal prosperity.
- That the cycle of gender-based discrimination and inequality be broken to promote empowerment of girls and women
- Girls be allowed to develop to her full potential in an atmosphere of dignity and equality.
- Govt should ensure gender sensitivity in legal and policy frameworks for girls
- Greater attention should be given to the implementation and enforcement of laws and policies relating to the girl child.
- Establishment of Special Courts for cases of child abuse such as rape, child trafficking, etc will go a long way in this direction;
- Increased investment in girls’ education at all levels
- Improvement school facilities, particularly hygiene and access to clean water and toilet facilities.
- Budget allocation should be matched by budget performance; increased investment in girls’ health and nutrition by meeting the Abuja Declaration target of increasing health spending to 15 percent of total government budget.
- Sexual and reproductive health and services need to be improved to enhance access to adolescent girls.
- Eliminate all gender-based violence in both public and private settings against especially vulnerable girls such as those with disabilities, those living in poverty, in conflict areas and in disaster or humanitarian emergencies .
- Create safe space for girls at all levels of administration to enable them share their concerns and perspectives.
- Play active role in the realization of their rights and have their voices heard so they can influence policies and programmes affecting them.
- Ensure full implementation of the Nigerian Child’s Rights Act 2003 all over the country .
In all, Ondo State has been HUGELY favored and lucky to have a mother in Chief Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu. Her passion and zeal are not only legendary and commendable. It is obvious that she has her fingers in all the above listed “need to be done”, according to the communique, and is DEFINITELY on top of her game to ensure the success of all she desires to achieve.
The goal getter of course needs to have some other first ladies in the different states emulate her passion for the girl Child, rather than pet projects that are not sustainable, as they are mostly political rather than impactful on their populace
Yes, our adorable Betty (apology to Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN) is INDEED A GEM!!, And I am a PROUD MENTEE OF HERS!!!
Oluwatoyin Maryam Adegbenro writes from Akure.