This year`s theme for the International Day of the Girl is “My voice, our equal future” and we must say that we stand in awe of it. Looking back through history, we understand that with the declaration of the UN Decade for women in 1975, the wave of activities to ensure that woman had a fair and equitable place in society have skyrocketed. This milestone was proceeded by many women movements and the rise of various feminist groups grounded on the same foundation, the belief that women deserved better than they were getting. It should not be surprising to know or learn (for those who did not know), that the United Nations declared 11th October of every year the International Day of the Girl, with the first celebration of its kind taking place on 11th October 2012.
Anyone that was born in Africa before the 21st Century, clearly understands what it means for women to be not only restricted but also treated as second class citizens in society. Though we are currently living in a new era of empowerment, it is still common to find girls being denied the right to education because their rightful place in society is in marriage and they should learn how to keep and maintain a home rather than waste school fees on education. It is still common to find a woman who is denied a job because her sex makes her incapable of achieving as much as her male counterparts would. It is still ‘okay’ for a woman to keep her opinion to herself because it does not matter to anyone. Within the developing world, the issue of gender inequality has been identified to have adverse global effects and it is for that reason that SDG 5 stands for Gender Equality, because development without women is unattainable. In Uganda alone, 51% of the population is made up of women and the statistics in other countries relatively follow suit. Within Uganda`s agricultural sector, 2015 World Bank publication noted that women play a vital role in the sector and contribute more than average share of the crop labour in the region. So anyone would think that with that put into consideration, women would be granted equity in all affairs of the country and world.
“My voice, our equal future” It is such a beautiful and selfless theme. Women empowerment and advocacy for the girl child should never be a threat to men in society. If anything, it should be identified as an opportunity for collective development, collective contribution to financial advancement at all levels of the community and an opportunity for mutual agreement on a learned and informed basis. The restriction of the voice of the girl child begins with denying her the right to education, and it progresses on to denying her the freedom of speech and expression.
It is very disturbing to find an educated man calling women rights activist lazy. But it happens, when some individuals in society fail to embrace women empowerment and judge any woman who dares to disagree with them or question their authority, undisciplined, lazy and disrespectful.
The girl child should be taught how to use her voice and the boy child should be taught how to embrace empowered girls as equals and comrades rather than competitors and opposition. The future is too big for one gender to live in it alone, we must all be there. Likewise, we must all contribute to it. We must all cherish and nurture it because the future is our home tomorrow.
The future will never be beautiful if the girl child is not given room to fit into its standards and sometimes, that room means respecting her voice and her choice. The future will never be beautiful if the girls who would be mothers then are getting pregnant today. The futures will never be beautiful if the wives of tomorrow are being married off today. The future will never be beautiful enough if the counselors and team players that would support and back up visionary men tomorrow are made to believe that their opinion does not matter today. The future will never be beautiful if the visions and ideas that would solve certain global problems are killed and silenced today. The future is ours to nurture and to keep together for better.
“My voice, our equal future” Many times a girl`s voice has been misunderstood and her ‘no’ has been understood as a ‘yes’ and her ‘yes’ at times regarded as a ‘no.’ This creates a communication gap and where there is a loophole in communication, it is close to impossible to get anything done. You don’t believe? What if I tell you of the story of a nation that rose and agreed (communication) to build a high and strong tower, a tower high enough to reach heaven? This nation angered God and He confused their language so much that they could not understand themselves (loop in the communication) and they failed to build the tower. It is therefore important that as we rise to build the voice of the girl child, the society and community in which she lives is keen enough to listen to her and understand her. Otherwise, empowered girls, in a world of boys and men who are not empowered would also make development impossible, because instead of agreeing to resolve issues amicably, there would be argument and competition for power, dominion and authority.
All in all, we are all human beings and if we agree, then gender equality is attainable. So let`s get on the same page and agree that together we can. Let us agree that the girl child may not be as strong but is equally as important as the boy child. And finally, let us pledge to give an ear to her voice.