By Stanley Onyekwere
As the world marks 2017 International Day of the Girl Child, a non governmental organisation, Helpline Foundation for the Needy Abuja, has called for equal opportunities.
This, the NGO said could be achieved by addressing the issues that are holding the girl child back for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It noted with concern that with over 1.1 billion girls around the globe, it has become imperative for countries to shape the girl child talent and creativity for development, while regretting that their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities.
Addressing journalists in the nation’s capital, as part of activities marking this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, President of Helpline , Mrs. Jumai Ahmadu, stressed the need for government to formulate policies that will promote equal opportunities for the girl child.
She stressed that such policies must address their needs and unlock their potential.
Speaking on this year’s theme: “Girls’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement,” Mrs. Ahmadu, acknowledged that there are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face, urging government at all levels to bridge the gap.
“It is amazing that there are 1.1 billion girls today. To us at Helpline Foundation this population constitute a powerful force for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone.
“There is urgent need to tap into their individual talent and creativity. It is regrettable that the cycle of violence that begins in girlhood, carries over into womanhood and across generations.
“Just last year, our Foundation rescued a 14-year old girl child in Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory who attempted abortion.
“Our field officers picked her up and took her to the nearest hospital. Today, the girl is doing well under our educational scholarship fund.
“We should all join hands to break the barriers that are standing in the way of girls’ progress such as forced marriage.
“Statistics have shown that one in three girls in developing countries (except China) get married before they turn 18,” Mrs. Ahmadu noted.
The NGO also called on women and girls to raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent forced marriage, while calling on community leaders to mobilize against the practice.
“On our part, we are collaborating with Echo African Initiative to organise a symposium with the theme, ‘I am Not An Object’ designed to kick off the conversation on the restoration of the dignity of the African woman.
“The objective is to bring about change in attitude and behavior in the female, in the first instance – in how she views herself, and the society at large.
“The ultimate goal is to encourage females of African descent to be the best they can possibly be, by guiding them towards achieving their full potential,” she affirmed.