By Sharon Jumbe:
I want a society where women are also allowed to lead,” goes a short, but meaningful statement by 18-year-old Leah from Akili Dada, Kenya.
October 11 marks International Day of the Girl- Child and on this day, the world is reminded of the reason girls should be celebrated and why the system surrounding her should be in her favour.
The life of girls worldwide is one full of struggle and adversity. There are many obstacles that girls face daily in order to survive and these obstacles are mostly orchestrated by patriarchal systems that surround them.
Since time immemorial, the female specie has been considered weak and inferior in all aspects of life. In African society, disdain is evident if a mother has a girl for a first-born. This is one of the underlying themes in late novelist Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.
And for those who have never read the remarkable novel about the irony that lies in the joys of motherhood, perhaps a better example of this is through Nollywood movies and their obsession with striping a woman’s dignity if she fails to give her husband a son.
There are many instances one could give on the neglect that the girl-child endures. But as time changes, so do the seasons.
The realisation that the girl-child should be encouraged and motivated to do more and be more in a world that favours her male counterpart is growing every day.
The realisation that marrying off girls early, not only affects her but also her future and that of her children has led to many activists fighting against early marriages.
Anti-child marriage crusaders such as Chief Theresa Kachindamoto have nullified more than 200 marriages and continues to do so. And why, some of you may ask, is this an important milestone in the lives of 1,000 plus girls in Malawi.
Simply put, the girl is entitled to education. To be educated is a treasure and a luxury others cannot afford. And for the girl it is only a dream to be educated without fail.
Studies show that early marriages affect the development of the girl because of the many challenges she meets. Physical and non-physical abuse towards girls, who have been pressured into marriage, derails their development.
Girls in rural schools, who cannot afford to purchase sanitary pads, also skip week-long lessons when menstruating.
But there are those who continue to fight for the welfare of the girl in the midst of many challenges. For instance, Rotaract Club of Blantyre recently donated reusable sanitary pads to Standards Seven and Eight girls at Nkolokoti Primary School in the city.
Reusable sanitary pads are an invention that is contributing significantly to an increase in the number of girls going back to school after dropping out.
Menstruation is still considered a taboo in most parts of Malawi and Africa and, because of this, girls shy away from their male counterparts during this period of the month.
Jacqueline Kamoto, a Standard Eight learner at Nkolokoti Primary School, complains that girls at her school do not attend lessons when having their menses because most of them do not have sanitary pads.
“When we are having our menses, we don’t come to school because most of us cannot afford sanitary pads. So we are afraid that we might stain our uniforms. If this happens, the boys laugh at us and we don’t want to come back to school the next day,” she says.
The learner was excited that she was among those who had benefited from the donation of sanitary pads from the Rotaract Club of Blantyre.
Nkolokoti Primary School Deputy Head teacher, Elizabeth Kajoweku, conceded that girls at the school face many hardships during their monthly periods.
The club’s Public Relations Officer, Robin Banda, said the club saw it fit to make the donation after hearing that girls at the school could not afford sanitary pads, a situation which resulted in most of them not attending lessons.
“Education is one of the sectors we, as a club, are passionate about helping in whatever way we can. So this donation is just part of what we can do as a club to ensure that girls get education,” Banda said.
And in line with this year’s theme of International Day of the Girl-Child ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force’, it is envisioned that more stakeholders will join hands in protecting the girl and promoting her rights.