23 May When A Girl Has No Voice
Over the past 1 month, I have read 3 books and watched a movie that discussed issues concerning women and young girls in rural communities. The leading theme of those stories was about young underage girls being married off for bride price, as a bargaining chip, as a meal ticket, or as part of the culture.
In “The Girl With The Louding Voice”, Abi Dare tells the story of Adunni, the only daughter of a broke father who marries her off to an old man. The Moment of Lift is a book that captures the work Melinda Gates does at the Gates foundation one of which involves providing access to contraceptives for rural women. The sad story of the Chibok girls was told in Buried Under The Baobab Tree by Tricia Nwaubani. Finally, in the fisherman’s diary, a young intelligent girl was married off and raped repeatedly when her uncle could not pay back a debt.
It led me to begin thinking about what it means for a woman or girl to have a voice. In my definition, it is when she is educated and empowered to make sound decisions by herself. The decision could be refusing to be forced into marriage, deciding her daughter will not undergo Female Genital Mutilation, or deciding the number of children she wants to have and when she would have them
In most parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the harmful practice of child marriages and FGM is still prevalent. Poverty can largely be named as the driver for these practices. Another is the irrational fear of westernization. And a third is religious beliefs
Poverty drives parents to trade prepubescent girls for cows or bushels of cereals. Some religions believe early marriage and FGM will prevent a girl from being promiscuous. As a result, many are left with postpartum depression, Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) and other issues.
How do we ensure girls in our society grow up to become women with voices? The one way I know is to ensure girls compulsorily stay in school until 18 while encouraging them to get a form of higher education. For them to stay in school, WASH facilities would need to be available, pads made affordably, and girls protected against gender-based violence.
Another is to enforce a behavioural change by passing laws that protect children. However, enforcing the laws will not just be the duty of the police but that of the traditional chiefs and religious leaders.
If a girl has a voice, the society will too.