According to the UN, in developing countries, 87 percent of girls enroll in primary school, but only 39 percent finish lower secondary. Girls’ attendance in formal school reduces the incidences of early marriage, early childbearing, high rates of HIV/AIDS, long hours of domestic and/or labor market work, and enhances gender equality.
Girl child education reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5 to 10 percent, and a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to live beyond age 5. This data proves that the education of a girl child has positive effects not just on her as an individual but also the society and generations yet unborn.
A UN global estimate shows that 62 million girls, half of whom are adolescents, are not in school. And the disparity in gender in education remains quite real worldwide, with 78 per cent of girls dropping out of school, compared to 48 per cent of boys.
The US estimates that over 27 million people are trafficked all over the world annually; ILO supports this statistics and further adds that out of this large number of persons forced into exploitative labours, over 70% are females.
NAPTIP reports that 68% of victims of trafficking are females and an average of 52% of this number are children below the age of 18 years old. These facts reveal that there is a connection between girl child education and vulnerability.
The assumption that women and girls are only fit for procreation and for home keeping is an erroneous assumption that not only discriminates against women and limits their abilities but one that places a hindrance on the complementary roles of men in the society. These limitations and stereotypes have obvious consequences on society, one of which is girl child education. In many families, boys are sent to school while the girl child is forced to hawk or remain at home because her father believes that no matter how far she advances in education, her education will ‘end in the kitchen’ There are many cases of young girls whose parents force them to hawk so that they can use the money to fund the education of their male counterparts. In extreme cases, girls are forced into early marriages and their dowry used to pay their brothers’ fees or they are trafficked to different states to serve as paid domestic workers, exposing them to all forms of abuse.
Sadly, many girls who end up as child brides also extend this tradition to their girl child, the result is a cycle of uneducated and timid women and girls living at their least capacity while their talents and intellect remains untapped.
Women in leadership occupy a vantage position that can be harnessed to bring about positive changes in the society. All women are born leaders and as such we have the innate capability to uproot vices and birth virtues in our world notwithstanding the challenges posed by the covid-19 pandemic, we can choose to challenge the gender bias and discrimination bedevilling our world and synergise to canvass for free education from primary to secondary level. With or without leadership positions, women all over the world should choose to challenge the barriers that limit us from attaining our full potential. barriers such as gender discrimination, trafficking of women and girls, sexual and domestic violence against women, female genital mutilation, Harmful widowhood practices, early marriage, etc. we should also break the status quo that suggests that the girl child is inferior to her male counterpart and that women and girls are only fit for the kitchen and for procreation.
According to a study in Serbia 2003, boys growing up in families where a father is violent are three times more likely to become perpetrators of partner violence in their adulthood; hence, fathers must ensure that they live exemplary lives worthy of emulation.
I reiterate that education must be made free and compulsory for everyone. It is not just enough to canvass for education for girls, we must understand that in most cases, men are the abusers; therefore, they also need to have access to education right from childhood so as to change their perception about the place of women in their lives. Children must go to school rather than roaming the streets begging for alms or hawking and being vulnerable to trafficking, sexual and gender based violence.
Also, skill acquisition should be infused into the curriculum so that students can also acquire different skills whilst obtaining formal education so that upon graduation, they can become self-employed.