October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child. Already many campaigns are launched world over to combat the drear realities faced by millions of girls, especially those in developing countries. Many girls face early marriages, sexual abuse, incomplete or no education because it is considered waste of resources to their families to send a girl to school. Many girls drop out of school because they are ashamed and poorly equipped with appropriate knowledge on how to handle their menstrual cycle. Most families prefer the male child to the female and place the male child in a vantage point in life by availing him opportunities which are deprived the female child. Sexual abuse in the hands of trusted family members and caretakers and many more issues are the mirade of challenges faced by the girl child.
But amidst these, there is a psyche communicated to the girl child which is permeable both to the child raised with a silver spoon and the one scavenging her way through life. It runs from the height of society to the down and outers. It is that psyche of second place; of putting her life and dreams on hold either in pursuit of love or because it is taught her that too much of ambition is a threat to potential suitors. The male child is taught to compartmentalise: to pursue his goals vigorously and also create time for matters of the heart. But the girl child is raised to think that matters of the heart, marriage, not only are the entire essence of her existence but also the centre of her gravity, and on pursuing these affairs, she forgets her dreams, she forgets her ambitions, she forgets herself.
Disney cartoons are awash with the ‘damsel in distress’ theme, and many girls are raised to believe that they would always need a saviour, a man, to complete them, to be shielded in his shadow, to serve as a map in which she needs to navigate through life. Here is an instance : A little girl who is interested in politics is told she can be wife of the senator, chairman, governor or president but she is rarely awakened to the fact that she can be in the height of power without being just the partner of a prominent person. That is why she has to be told of women like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, of women like Hillary Clinton, women making marks in today’s politics.
We should not be afraid to teach her ambition, that she can be an astronaut, an inventor to be reckoned with, a programmer, a scientist unearthing untold discoveries.
Too many times, the girl child’s worth is not communicated her early. A girl who is not taught her value could easily end up in an abusive relationship. A girl raised on the myth of “He hits you because he loves you”, could easily fall prey for violent men parading as lovers. From an early stage, these life debilitating myths should be debunked and in this way a girl learns early enough that there is no virtue in enduring violence. Many women have lost their lives in the hands of violent partners. It had been proven that many women who remain in abusive relationship are there because they believed that could mother the abuser back to sanity. If only the girl child can be taught that these perpetrators of violence in the name of love do not deserve to be mothered. When this is deeply embedded in her psyche, she can never find attractive anything that has the mere glint or semblance of violence and in that way we reduce the statistics of bartered women.
So if nature has privileged you with the opportunity to raise a girl child, do not douse the flames of her ambtion; stoke it till it blazes like an inferno. Teach her self-sufficiency. Teach her that she can have all she requires in life through diligence and tenacity, for these virtues are no respecters of gender. Teach her that no matter how she ooohs and aahs after watching Disney movies, men are not saviours for they too require saving.