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Reinforcing girl-child education for national development

Those were the words of Chimdi Neliakuchukwu, a student of International Community School , Abuja, who gave the key note address during the women and…

Those were the words of Chimdi Neliakuchukwu, a student of International Community School , Abuja, who gave the key note address during the women and girls summit  held from Monday to Tuesday this week in  Abuja.
She said the girl-child is the most important raw material for social development and any country that chooses to disregard the need for educating and empowering their girl children is making a costly mistake.“Everyone of us here today is a product of a girl child who grew into womanhood. The girl child of yesterday is
the mother of today. An educated and empowered girl child of today is a competent mother, citizen molder and nation builder of tomorrow,” she said.
She said the girl child should be given the right education and also brought up with the right values saying that it must be education that broadens the mind, is relevant, imparts , sharpen and perfect relevant skills needed for the time we live in.
Neliakuchukwu, who spoke as the voice of the Nigerian girl child said the girl child would not be content to learn a skill that is not going anywhere further than it has already but would rather learn something that will make definitive positive impact on the economy of our great nation and bring us closer to become a world power.
The two day summit which was tagged ‘Women and Girls Summit 2014’ was organized by the office of the  First  Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan in collaboration with the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) and Friends Africa.
Another female student, Khadijat Shuaibu  Dass of  Junior Secondary School, Apo legislative quatres called for free education  for girls in the country. She lamented that there are several girls in the country who want to be educated but cannot afford to do so.
Okonkwo Kosisochukwu  from Supreme Knowledge Comprehensive Schools, Anambra State called on government and non-governmental organizations to subsidise the cost of Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines in order to make it easily available and affordable for girls and protect them from diseases cause by HPV.
 Human papilloma virus (HPV) are associated with the development of cervical and other cancers in women and the vaccines when given to girls help prevent the  infection.  
Joy Emmanuel of  Government Secondary School , Garki, called for measures to be put in place to sustain whatever resolutions or programmes put in place after the summit for the empowerment of the girl child into to avoid abandonment  as has hitherto been the case with some meetings.
 In response to this, Mrs Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Special adviser on Millennium Development Goals in Ogun state who was also a participant at the summit said the vital measure required is for concerted efforts by everyone particularly all women and girls to ensure that all strategies work and are sustained for the benefit of the girl child.
According to the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) Lady Onyeka Onwenu, the girl child consistently faces exclusion from and inequalities within the educational systems over the course of her life.
“Recognizing the disproportionate disadvantages of girls as well as the opportunities of girl-child education can bring there is need therefore to reduce these disparities through deliberate policies and interventions aimed at gender equality and Empowerment,” she said.
She said  education is a vital tool for empowerment  saying the girl child has been faced by poverty ,HIV AIDS and rape.
She said the summit which will draw attention of policy makers to the important issues of the girl child will further create a platform for high level discourse on challenges confronting women and girls in Nigeria, and evolve strategies for economic empowerment for marginalized women and girls.
 “The summit is expected to evolve and adopt proactive steps and an all-inclusive policy framework to tackle discrimination, violence and exclusion of girls from education, “she said.
The summit  which had the theme “Reinforcing the Agenda for Girl Child Education” focused on the areas of education, health, economic empowerment, security and gender based violence.
Aside  addressing the challenges of the girl child in the country, the summit was also convened to mark this year’s  International Day of the  Girl Child.
There were different sessions during the two day summit  in which experts and participants made evaluations and proffered  solutions including a two year action plan.
President   Goodluck Jonathan in his  address at the summit said no meaningful development can take place if the issues and concerns of women and the girl-child are not factored into national development process.
Represented by the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, described women and girls as the heart beat of the nation. He said we cannot claim to be developing, if we do not recognize the sacrifices women and girls have had to make in this great journey.
While calling on stakeholders to support the commemoration  of the Day of the Girl-child as an annual event in Nigeria, he said  the outcome document from the summit will further steer us to think outside the box in planning for the girl-child.
Declaring the summit open, First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan said the Chibok Girls abduction underscores the need to consider location when establishing schools for the girl-child, protective fencing, presence of adult overseers within the school premises and security among others.
 She said the impact and global recognition attained by child rights activists such as Malala, who was recently honoured with the Noble Peace Prize was as a result of education.
Dame patience Jonathan said: “Children of educated women are less likely to die before their first birthday; girls who receive education are less likely to contact HIV/AIDS and thus, less likely to pass it on to their children, educated women are less likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth or during the postnatal period. Increased education of girls also leads to the availability of female healthcare providers”.
She said education gives women opportunity to escape from poverty , live healthier and productive lives, raise the standard of living of their families and communities among others.
Hajiya Indo Muhammad who was a school principal for several years and also held other positions in the education sector  harped on the need for funds to be instituted to support poor girls who cannot afford to pay their school fees, saying some of them who desire to go to school but lack the means have resorted to other negative means to achieve that aim.
The summit  was a gathering  of stakeholders including women leaders,  gender advocates, professional women groups, women focused international and national non-governmental organizations and development partners, among others.
It is no gain saying education is vital and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the girl child access education. Just as Neliakuchukwu said the country must resist the urge to stop at imparting the girl-child with skills targeted at just providing barely enough to get by but move on to arming the girl-child with the sort of education that will liberate generations.

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