By Muhd D. Haidar
The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) the United Kingdom,(UK) among other development partners have re-affirmed their commitments to the development of women and girls in the country.
Speaking variously at the International Day of the Girl 2023 Forum in Abuja, they insisted that adolescent girls should face no constraints on realising their full potentials.
To this end, they called on governments and partners to design programmes that would not only protect girls’ rights but ensure that they fulfil their dreams.
The event was marked with the theme: ‘Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Wellbeing”
Hotpen reports that, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2023 International Day of the Girl Child.
Speaking at the well attended event held at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in Abuja and drew participation of some schools in the nation’s federal capital city, UNICEF Deputy Representative, Dr Rownak Khan, emphasized the need for commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs on strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
“All around the world, children have lost their learning abilities, enrollment and are going through learning crisis. So let us again, reconfirm our commitments to the achievement of the SDGs.
“What government and partners can think about is designing all the programmes for girls and keeping the girls’s right at the center of the programme, because we cannot design any programme without having the participation of the girls and without girls’ involvement.
“There are communities where girls are not going to school for many reasons, one of which is economic reasons. They end up getting married at very early ages and then become mothers.
“There are communities where girls are put on the back burners, there are not given opportunities to their rights.
“We should support girls’ leadership. We really need to create space for girls to lead and amplify their voices. We really need to invest in girls’ network and programmes that empower them as leaders, “she said.
While noting that “there are 26 million adolescent girls in Nigeria, each with her own dreams and aspirations”, UNICEF said: “Every day, we see evidence that when given the right skills and opportunities, girls can become potent agents of change, leading, advocating, and providing solutions. Yet, many adolescent girls remain unable to pursue their dreams because they’re denied their rights in various spheres of life.”
“While there’s been a rise in attention and action towards the profound challenges faced by adolescent girls, and even though opportunities for their involvement in decision-making are starting to emerge, the progress doesn’t fully reflect the multifaceted realities these girls face.
“To genuinely alter the course towards gender equality and empowerment, we need bold, transformative actions and robust accountability, “it said.
Also speaking, the Development Director, British High Commission, Chris Pycroft, while noting that women and girls are at the heart of the work at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office,
FCDO, explained that the event was so important to the UK community in Nigeria and across the world.
Noting that the UK’s Foreign Secretary launched the International Women and Girl’s Strategy on March 8, this year in Sierra Leone – his mother’s birthplace, Chris Pycroft explained that, “This new strategy stands as a rallying cry for girls and women’s freedom, empowerment, and prosperity.”
“In it we re-commit to support the 3 Es: education, empowering women and girls and championing their health and rights and ending violence.
“Here in Nigeria the UK has demonstrated over decades of partnership that we’re a genuine and enduring partner to grassroots organizations and other allies, old and new. Through these partnerships, we re-affirm our commitments to putting girls and women at the centre of our operations and investments.
“Through our programmes and advocacy, we are supporting women and girls affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria and tackling gender-based violence. Our girls’ education programmes have already supported 1.5 million additional girls to access schooling in six states since 2012. We are pleased to be partnering with UNICEF as part of our commitment to driving forward progress through their campaign ‘26 million Reasons: Standing Up for Adolescent Girls and Their Rights.’
“At this forum, and in every element of our work, we will continue to demonstrate that the realisation of girls’ rights is key to ending extreme poverty and achieving the SDGs – from economic growth and tackling inequality, to health and education, to peace, justice and better governance, “he said.
Quoting UNICEF that there are 25.8 million adolescent girls in Nigeria, he said: “These girls all have dreams, and it is the responsibility of the Nigerian government, civil society, and development partners to support them in achieving those dreams.”
“Our key message today is that adolescent girls should face no constraints on realising their full potential, “he said.
He pledged on behalf of all development partners that they stand with UNICEF on this goal and will continue to work in partnership with the global humanitarian agency “to make this a reality.”
First Lady of Kwara State and Chair, Nigerian Governors Wives’ Forum, Amb. Olufolake Abdulrazaq, called on girls not to limit their aspirations to particular areas, saying they could also consider delving into the nation’s political landscape with a view to contributing their quota to the country’s leadership development.
She said the theme of the celebration was a testament that bright future was assured when countries invest in the rights of the girl child.
She re-affirmed her belief that if nations provide for every girl child to have quality and affordable education, quality healthcare and other basic necessities, there would guarantee a good life and a peaceful and secured environment.
She said “all these and more is what we in the administration of Governor Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in Kwara State are bringing to bear to the people.
“The Nigerian Governors’ Wife Forum which I am the Chair, also through engagement with partners, will continue to lead advocacies, to shift policies to protect our women and girls more effectively from all forms of violence, child labour, child trafficking, false narratives and other forms of violence, “she assured.