Old students lament plight of the girl-child, seek government’s, parents’ intervention

[FILE PHOTO] Girl Child. PHOTO: Reuters

Old students of New Era Girls Secondary School, Surulere recently gathered in Lagos to celebrate their alma mater, where they appealed to the government, parents and stakeholders to safeguard the future of young girls.

The group, under the aegis of New Era Girls Secondary School Old Girls Association (NEGSSOGA at the weeklong event harped on issues bordering on sexual abuse and child rights and how such could be effectively tackled.

At a symposium organised in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of New Era Girls Secondary School, Surulere, the first indigenous school to be established for girls in the country, speakers highlighted the challenges confronting the girl-child and the need for government to address the menace.

Speakers, including former Nigeria Ambassador to The Netherlands, Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu who chaired the panel, Mrs Emike Oyemade; Mrs Shakirat Karimu-Kotun; and Dr Tutu Sere-Arije spoke on the challenges facing the girl-child and concluded that there was still a lot to be done to address the high rate of out-of-school children, 60 per cent of whom are mostly girls; child marriages and violence against women.

Dr Awolowo-Dosunmu in her remarks at the event which held at the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba and titled, “Empowering the girl-child: Before, now and after crisis” lamented that Nigeria is still a patriarchal society.

“Without gender equality, everything else falls apart.  You need to educate girls in order to empower them, expand their minds.  It is only then there can be peace and progress in the society.”
She enjoined the pupils to focus on their studies and reject ideas that are not good enough early in life.

Oyemade counselled mothers to bond with their children and arm them with necessary information needed to survive in crisis situations.

“When we empower the girl-child, we are making her stronger.  One of the ways to empower girls before crisis is to provide total education to the girl-child.  A girl is not a sex toy or baby making machine,” she said.

Sere-Arije, on her part said it is important to empower girls even when they are experiencing crisis.

“We can provide the ticket to education; provide enabling environment for counseling, medical care, training, small business loans, and other programmes that will help to end cycles of gender-based violence; provide mentorship; micro-loans for interested hardworking female entrepreneurs; and speak out – use your voice to end preventable deaths of mothers and children.”

NEGSSOGA President, Prof Iyabo Abiodun-Runsewe, said the programme was organised as part of efforts to address the vexed issue of moral decadence in the society.

She said: “I left school about 50 years ago and then coming back, we found significant moral decadence, lack of focus, lack of direction, lack of self-esteem among the girls, which we knew was not peculiar to New Era girls; it is like a generational issue. And that was what informed the choice of the theme of how to empower them, how to get them ready before they have any crisis, which could be in form of pregnancy, sexual abuse, dropping out of school, child labour, early marriage and so many others that a child could eventually have.

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