It’s up to us all to see that girls grow to reach their full potential. The girls of the 2017 LEAD Camp share their thoughts in this public message.
“Why can’t women be judges?”, KC asked me.
“What do you mean? Right here in Lagos, we’ve got quite a few. There’s Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and others,” I responded.
“Well I want to be a judge, but . . .”
“But what?” I asked as I looked sternly into K's questioning eyes. "Did anyone tell you can’t be?"
"Yes, one man did. He says I belong in a house looking after my husband and children".
This is a conversation I had on July 10, 2017! How is it that some people are still excluding girls from certain professions, activities and even dictating what they can dream about?
There’s an old African proverb that says “It takes a whole village to raise a child”. Let’s raise our girls, sisters and daughters to be authentic and to be the best they can be. It’s up to us all to see that they grow to reach their full potential. When we empower our girls, everyone benefits.
Our participation in building up the confidence of our future leaders matters. As part of this year’s Junior Achievement’s Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement and Development (LEAD) camp, Pulse Nigeria mentored 11 girls between the ages of 14 -17 years-old on a project on girl-child empowerment.
Below is a public message on the girl-child in Nigeria collectively written by them:
They say that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
We've got a secret to share with Nigerians and everyone who reads this article, women are the strongest and most powerful beings on earth. English novelist Sir William Golding brilliantly points out the fortitude of women saying: "I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been". He believed women could aim much higher and you should too.
As we put together this article, we spoke to each other and some of the the other girls in the camp on what they felt was the attitude of the world towards them. And we found there were many things that oppressed the girl-child including education, child labour, sex abuse, under-age marriage and more. For the purpose of this public message, we'll be highlighting issues with regards to freedom, discrimination and inequality.
Let's begin with the family. Many of our parents have refused to reveal why they are so protective of us. Yes, they love us but why are you keeping us shut from the world? It seems as though they are resentful towards our hunger for knowledge. We know the world is a dangerous place but one day we'll grow from hatchlings to birds who'll have to leave the nest and find our way in the big wide world. And you won’t always be there. Teach us what we need to know now.
It's one thing to control where we go, what we do and who we interact with, it's another thing entirely to hold on to our voices. We've got emotions, ideas, opinions and dreams too. Don't let your fear crush our dreams. We want to be miners, geologists and even astronauts. A young girl we know was laughed at by a man for saying she wanted to be a pilot. The man in question was quick to tell her it was not a job for women.
We maybe young but we know he is wrong. We are equal to the task and strong enough to do great jobs. The United Nations Secretary general, Ban Ki-moon believes women have what it takes and we are the key to the future.
"The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential", he said.
"When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all".
There's so much we want to do. It's not that we are jealous of the boys, but we just want the same opportunity they do.
We'd like to play football but only the boys are allowed to. (They get the field during sports time, break time and after school too).
We'd like to run for office one day but we keep getting shut down and being told we need to start looking at getting married and starting our own families in the years to come. We have a right to be happy and create our own legacies for future generations.
To sum it up, it actually doesn’t matter who the girl is or where she came from, the fight begins with you as a person. To all the girls reading this: you can do what you think you can’t. The person in you is more than the person you can see. You have flower power. You are a girl, you are smart and you are strong. You can do anything.
Now is the time to raise a girl. Let's all participate!
Written by Feyintoluwa Adelakun, Toyosi Adewale Tayo Adewunmi, Roofiat Akeen, Anastasia Linus, Arida Tochukwu, Stephanie Nmema, Esther Nnadika, Nicole Nwadike, Nancy Kalu Okoro, and Kene Udemezue.