As Nigeria joins countries around the world to celebrate International Day of the Girl, Kaduna State fulfilled its commitment to launch a campaign to end violence against children. Kaduna is now the seventh Nigerian state to have launched such a campaign, following promises made by all states to put in place action plans to end violence against children.
On behalf of Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, Deputy Governor Barnabas Bala Bantex promised that government policies would be reinforced to improve the quality of life for girls and to protect the rights of children in Kaduna state. “Basic education is free and compulsory, especially for school age girls in Kaduna State,” the Deputy Governor noted. “We must continue to work with UNICEF and other development partners to protect children and to end the incidence of any form of violence against children,” he added at today’s launch of the campaign in Kaduna.
“If Nigeria is to realize its commitment to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls by 2030, it needs to redouble its’ efforts to meet the challenges of violence against girls, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and unequal access to education,” noted Pernille Ironside, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria a.i. “These are the fundamental drivers of inequity for girls.”
At the National Centre for Women Development in Abuja this morning, UNICEF and partners, including the Federal Ministry of Education, the Malala Fund, ONE Campaign and DFID, launched a series of activities to mark International Day of the Girl, which will include essay writing competitions and leadership training for girls.
The global theme for the day this year is “Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision 2030,” focusing on “EmPOWER girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.” Global studies indicate that in crisis situations, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults. Health services critical to girls’ wellbeing, including sexual and reproductive health services and information, maternal care, and provisions for menstrual health and hygiene are often scarce or insufficient during periods of conflict.
At the Abuja celebration of International Day of the Girl this morning, UNICEF called for girls to have access to specially-tailored programmes to meet their needs in the humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria, where an estimated 4 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Thousands of girls in northeast Nigeria have been held by Boko Haram, most suffering the trauma of violence, rape and forced ‘marriage.’ Even when they escape or are released from captivity, the stigma associated with such harrowing experiences can be lifelong and girls require specific support to reintegrate into their communities.
UNICEF interventions in education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and child protection in the northeast are designed to be gender-sensitive in order to meet the needs of both girls and boys.
UNICEF also supports the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development in the provision of programmes for girls affected by the insurgency. These include social integration of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, stigma, counselling support and access to education.
“In emergency situations like the one in northeast Nigeria, we must be sure to listen to girls and encourage them to participate in the processes that affect them, including in disaster management, efforts to build resilience, and in peacebuilding and recovery,” said UNICEF’s Pernille Ironside, “Only with girls’ participation will their perspectives and needs be understood and incorporated into the humanitarian response.”