Thursday, November 11, 2010

Educational Empowernment: The Key to Reproductive Health Issues of the Girl - Child by Titi Adefioye

In spite of rapid expansion in the educational sector over the years, a number of factors still militate against female access to education. Some of these factors includes -cultural and factors such as early marriage, circumcision, forced marriage and child betrothal; and also economic factors such as cost of procuring education, the location of school far away from home in some places for which most of the time is spent on domestic chores which reduces time available for study, and opportunity cost of formal education to parents in terms of forgone earnings by children. It was observed that large female populations live in the rural areas and it is in these rural communities that female illiteracy predominates (UNESCO, 2006). Female children in rural households help with housework. These includes fetching of fuel, water, looking after younger siblings and helping in home-based income generating activities. They also cultivate the land and market the products. Traditional beliefs and cultural practices place the bulk of burden on girls.

Interference with the demands of rural life is unavoidable if the girl-child is to have equal access to education. The social expectations of the girl in the family and her role in taking care of the home (domestic chores) and income generation hamper her educational development and infringes on her rights. There is correlation between education and knowledge, attitude, behaviours, and practices in issues pertaining to health especially reproductive health of adolescent girls. Education lies at the heart of reducing gender inequality and empowering women to overcome factors that make them vulnerable to harmful cultural practices. Education is in itself a liberating tool for girl-child, and this will have effect on her, with regards to HIV/AIDS, safe-motherhood, access to quality healthcare, participation in decision making process and policies.
Uneducated women are likely to remain in abusive marriages and unable to challenge harmful cultural such as female genital cutting, wife inheritance and early marriages.

The 2008 UNAIDS Report on the Global Aids Pandemic says girls who complete primary education are more likely to use condoms, while girls who finish secondary education are between four and seven times more likely to use condoms and are less likely to be infected with HIV. But this can only happen if girls and women  have access to education. Undeniably, gender equality and empowerment can be achieved if women enjoy their sexual reproductive rights. Reproductive Health experts have managed to show a direct relationship between enjoyment of reproductive health such as low fertility rate, delayed child bearing, contraceptive and attainment of higher education.
If girls are well educated they will be able to challenge discriminatory gender beliefs and sexual violence that make many of them vulnerable to HIV infection and other cultural practices that causes complications during pregnancy due to early  child marriage.
Educating women and girls does not only afford this benefit, it also extends the gains to their children. Women and girls who are less empowered and who lack access to sufficient food are 70% less likely to have control over their sexual activities and are more likely to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse. They are also 50% percent more likely to engage in survival sex.

Education is in itself a liberating tool for the Girl –child and this will have effect on her attitudes and perception on issues such as sex, HIV/AIDS, Safe-motherhood, access to healthcare as well as participation in decision making process and policies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FGM: The Pathetic World of the Girl Child by Judith Abuah

“Is she circumcised?” asked the prospective groom.
“Er no, she isn’t circumcised replied the head of the prospective bride’s family. Isn’t the practice unnecessary, dangerous and dehumanizing to a female child? I’m convinced it doesn’t serve any useful purpose. You look shocked. Are you rejecting her because she isn’t circumcised?”
“…Forget about what the health experts say. What do you know about our culture and the sacredness of the female body? ... Our religion permits it. It‘s just a little cut from the clitoris. It is cleansing and a girl needs it to be considered clean.” Vanguard, Wednesday, November 3, 2010.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total cutting of the external female genitalia, as a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage. The process involves the total removal of the clitoris (Clitoridectomy) and labia and the stitching and narrowing of the virginal orifice (Infibulations) to allow only urine and menstrual blood to pass through. When asked, devotees of FGM say it’s a culture, a tradition.
I tried to understand culture and traditions and I found out that: Culture is the behaviors and beliefs, characteristics of a particular social, ethnic, or age group; a way of life. Tradition then, is a long established way of thinking or acting; the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation especially by word of mouth or by practice.
Truly, FGM is a long time-honored way of thinking or acting handed down from generations by practice. In my opinion, it is a tradition that should be faced out. If asked, I’ll say FGM originated as a result of men’s insecurity and complex problems. Excisors who practice FGM are either brain-washed or completely do not understand that this is another means of subjugating women under the guise of ‘culture’ aimed at curtailing women sexuality These are no excuses for the practice.
Helen Ovbiagele of Vanguard newspaper thinks the practice is weak and terrible, unconvincing, painfully useless and very dangerous to the girl child. Only God knows why this wicked practice started at all but there are obvious reasons why it must stop.
“Are you kidding, he asked amazed ’NGOs and health experts are campaigning against the practice and here you are, an enlightened 21st century young lady wanting to be circumcised. I won’t allow it. It is dangerous as you could bleed to death or contact a serious infection from the instrument used. As far as I am concerned female circumcision doesn’t make any sense. Our culture says it is necessary in order to curtail a girl’s desire for sex, or her enjoyment of it so that she doesn’t become sexually promiscuous”
“I’m serious, said the wife. I know what the health expert says…but one should listen to the elders. They are the keepers of our culture and they know best in these things.”
Vanguard, Wednesday, November 3, 2010.
These elders were once young people. Maybe they had their doubts, maybe they just accepted the practice because it was handed down by elders maybe… we don’t have to be like them because we know the truth, we know the practice has nothing good or humanizing to offer. The practice of slave trade has been abolished so, what’s still keeping FGM? I believe it’s only a culture started by our ancestors so many years ago and just like other traditions, this practice should be totally wiped out.
How, we may ask? Easy, get the words out that it’s harmful and not necessary. Personally, I think it could also be done in little ways like having little discussions with friends and encouraging them to do same.