International Day of the Girl Child

More than two years marks the anniversary of the abduction of almost 300 Chibok girls in Northern Nigeria. I was living in Nigeria reporting at the time, and their abduction happened three weeks after my arrival. I wrote this defiant piece above for Nigerian Watch newspaper EdelWatch column that I was  penning at the time.

The sad truth is that whilst this happened two years  ago and a third of the girls have since returned back to their parents, in reality not much has changed for the girl child and women in Nigeria.

Since 2012, the United Nations marked 11 October as the ‘International Day of the Girl Child – a day that promotes girls’ human rights and highlights gender inequalities. A day that is meant to focus on the plight of disadvantaged girls all over the world.  Yet figures from UNICEF reveal Nigeria is home to the largest number of child brides in Africa, with 23 million girls and women having been married in childhood. Northern Nigeria, where  President Buhari comes from, has the highest prevalence of child marriage in the country and this practice is considered normal in “Islamic tradition”.

Buhari’s recent statements  about his wife’s place spoke broadly to Nigerian women everywhere by reminding Nigeria’s first lady where her place was:  in his kitchen, his living room and “the other room”. It reflected those widely held beliefs in a stubbornly patriarchal society of Nigeria that women and girls primary place is in the home caring for their husband not in education or at work.

No woman has ever been elected governor in any of Nigeria’s 36 states, a female president or even vice-president remains unimaginable to most. Leadership is generally not associated with women.

As is often the case in strongly patriarchal societies, many women have internalised the male point of view and accepted it as common sense. They believe that their duty as women is the homestead. However, shabby the treatment of women is this is by no means restricted to the north or one religion or country.

However the point is not what they choose to belief or follow, it is that the statements of the most powerful man in the country have an impact on how millions of impressionable boys view women.  This sad reality is all the more reason Buhari should realise that there are consequences for his words on the aspirations of young Nigerian girls.

Mr President you owe your wife and Nigerian women an apology.



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