I grew up hearing this statement.

When I asked my mother why I could not express myself, she would say, “In our culture, girls have to be ladylike.” I hated this word and the ‘ladylike’ behavior that I had to possess one hundred percent of the time. As I grew older, I learned that this statement reinforced the gender stereotypes that existed in our society. It is these stereotypes that are prevalent in many societies and lead to gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination means girls and women are denied their inalienable human rights, are abused, violated and ignored. Globally, it is estimated that 66 million girls are currently out of school. It is widely believed that a woman’s place is in the home. Many fathers believe it is pointless to send their daughters to school. Even if a girl wants to continue her education, societal norms and traditions she has grown up with, pressure her to stay home. However, this is changing and more girls are fighting to stay in school.

Photo Credit: DFID UK, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: DFID UK, Flickr Creative Commons

Gender discrimination means that 14 million girls are coaxed, coerced or forced into marriage before their 18th birthday. One in three girls in the developing world is married before she is 18. One in seven marries before reaching the age of 15, some as young as five. The implications of Early and Forced marriage (EFM) are horrendous. We are familiar with the Yemeni child bride who died on her wedding night due to internal bleeding. Her husband was a man five times her age – old enough to be her father.

Other effects of EFM include:

Domestic violence: Women who marry younger are more likely to be beaten. Their husbands view them as property because, in many cases, they paid a bride price for them.

Poor sexual and reproductive health: Child brides are more likely to contract HIV because it is likely that their husband have had more sexual partners.

Illiteracy and lack of education: Girls often drop out of school in preparation for marriage, and it is unlikely that their husbands will send them to school as childbearing and rearing are seen as the next step.

Total lack of independence, freedom and rights

Due to the belief that a girl should be silent, most girls do not have a choice in decisions which affect them. These decisions are life-changing and even though she may be against these decisions, she will not dispute them.

What if we lived in a world where girls are seen and heard?

Imagine a world where girls have the ability to make choices and to speak up about issues that affect them. We could see more girls fighting to stay in school! Girls in their local communities would have freedom to speak more about issues such as Early and Forced Marriage, educating those in their societies about the dangers and pushing for change. Girls can break gender stereotypes that exist in their communities and become stronger, more independent women who are ready to move themselves from a life of poverty into a life of opportunity.

The key to breaking gender stereotypes and reducing gender discrimination is by educating girls. When girls are educated, they are more confident to express their views. They believe in themselves and most importantly, they dream big and are determined to conquer the world.

Raise your hand for girls’ education.

Sponsor a child.

Tell a girl her voice matters.

Cover Photo Credit: Vic Xia, Flickr Creative Commons

The Conversation

15 Responses

  1. For me it should be a lady should be both seen and heard at the same time.
    It’s like a two way street u can just say a lady should be seen only leaving her opinions alone.
    God created her mouth for a purpose.
    Thank you June ma for this wonderful inspiration. Keep inspiring and God bless you real good ma

  2. Can I simply say what a relief to discover an individual who genuinely knows what they’re discussing on the
    internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    A lot more people need to look at this and understand this side of the story.
    I was surprised you aren’t more popular since you surely have the gift.

  3. Chiamaka- we definitely should! And yes, wahala oti pujo, but remember eko o ni baje o! No matter what happens, we will get there. Change IS happening all over the world due to individuals and organizations like Girls’ Globe! Please spread the word! x

  4. Juuuune! You never stop to amaze me with all you do and your drive and passion for women’s rights. As you Naija sis’, I am proud of you oh! Don’t ever forget me oh! Inspirational blog by the way and beautifully written- your message is one of the utmost importance.

    1. Hi Chioma- thank you for your comment and kind words! You also amaze me with all the ways in which you try to improve the lives of children forced to grow up in prisons through no fault of their own. Hopefully we will do more prison work this July!-miss you! 🙂

      1. we should definitely do some more prison work this summer, you and choima are just awesome to volunteer with, and maybe we should do the women’s health one we wanted to do last year- like talking to the women in the slum about hygiene? what do you think? we should discuss this on the plane tomorrow jo! there is so much do in our country- wahala oti pujo jo! 🙂 -Chiamaka u

  5. EFM and girls not going to school is a problem is many countries but what is really sad is the current situation in Northern Nigeria. Book haram are making it impossible for girls to go to school and forcing them to get marriage. The recent abduction of 129 girls from school is an example. If only those girls would be brave enough to speak up and not remain silent. Thank you June for your work and as you are young, I know that god will raise you to greater heights. Amen

    1. Hi Oluwadamilola-thank you for your comment! I agree, Boko Haram are violating the human rights of girls living in Nigeria, especially in the North. The bombing of schools has been so prevalent and the situation is extremely unfortunate. Schools should always be places that students can learn without fear. I am deeply saddened, but there is hope. More girls in Nigeria are starting to speak for their rights, and hopefully with time this will grow and we can really push our government to protect these girls and the girls themselves can encourage others to turn away from cultural practices like EFM.

  6. Thanks June for this awesome blog. I completely agree with you- we need to make sure that the voices of girls are not lost and that they are seen as equal by their male counterparts. Then we they speak up, they can be forces for change in their communities!

    1. Hi Joan- thank you for your comment! I completely agree with you, girls need to be seen, heard and treated equally by men in society. And more girls need to raise their voices for change! Many of them, like Malala, like Shazia and girls from the Global Youth Speakers Network (GYSN): Humaira, Saba, Jaqueline and Ackissah are doing so already and inspiring others to join them!

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