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Hassana Ibrahim Asiya is a 19 year old girl in Jibia, Katsina State in far way Northern region of our beloved country, Nigeria. At age 14 she was married to a man thrice her age and then relocated to Shagari village in Sokoto state with him. Unknown to her, her husband, Mallam Ibrahim Zango, had two other wives of about her age, according to Hassana, kept bearing babies and were never allowed to go outside the house except on Fridays. I met Hassana during my visit to Jibia some months ago.
I was lucky to have met her outside the premises of an “Islamiyya” and curiosity drew my attention to her as she mumbled out words forcing herself to read what was written on my t-shirt. I observed her and went to meet her. Rather than look at me in the eyes (which I later learnt was a sign of disrespect), she faced down and tilted her head sideways and only spoke Fulani fluently, I called a female interpreter, Jamila, who was my logistics assistant and then the questioning began, as she spoke, she sort of got emotional and tears dripped uncontrollably from her eyes.
In her explanation she said “I wanted to go to school but my parents, especially my mother put pressure on my father to marry me off. I see my friends going to school, they are able to read and write but then I’m only allowed to cook and lay for my husband to perform his husbandly roles”. I really regret this because I’m more like a slave.
Later on, I spoke to her husband who declined that he never objected to Hassana’s going to school. Afterwards, we went on to see an Imam well versed in Arabic and Quranic studies and that was when the truth came out! Mallam Ibrahim had refused all pleas by the Imam earlier before now to allow his wives to be educated. Hear him “When I allow them to go to school, they will lose respect for me!
People of my generation, it is with utmost sympathy that I write this. The girl child around your neighborhood deserves to be in school other than selling and hawking on this streets of Makurdi, Abuja, Enugu, Afikpo, Eket, Uyo, Abak, Nnewi, Onitsha, Agbor, Warri, Benin, Katsina, Lagos!
Yesterday, October 11th 2013 was the day specially dedicated to the girl child. However, it is on record that on December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”
All around the world, “Girls face discrimination and violence every. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
In Nigeria, the story is everywhere, ranging from socio-cultural inhibitions to religious beliefs, ethnicity, and tribal influences all aiding the steady decline of the girl child’s progress in education.
According to former UN secretary General Kofi Anan, research is also clear that when girls reach their full potential through improved status, better health care, and education, it becomes the most effective development tool for society as a whole.
The Washington post also reports that “Girls are the world’s forgotten population. But another amazing statistics has it that there are 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10-19 worldwide, half of them are a girls, that’s about 600,000 girls! And everyone of them deserves to be protected!
As you go through your day today, kindly remember to send out a tweet using the Hashtag #Dayofthegirlchild and please mention me @tellanslem.
This write up is in commemoration of the second annual international day of the girl child.