Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA
â€˜SHE seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her, I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl,â€ says Harper Lee, an American novelist.
Indeed, Lee is right. There is a lot of skill involved in being a girl child. Being born a girl is a blessing from God and all the challenges faced are simply meant to make one stronger. Hence, every girl should arise and be counted.
In appreciating and promoting the girl child worldwide, October 11, 2016 has been set aside as a day for celebrating all girls and ensuring that every girl counts in society. By girls, I do not only refer to the young, but all women, as the dictionary defines a girl as any female human.
According to the United Nations (UN), the International Day of the Girl Child, which was themed â€˜Girlsâ€™ progress = Goalsâ€™ progress: A global girl data movementâ€™, is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.
The UN says improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is critical in fulfilling the sustainable development goals, and one of these issues is child marriage.
In Zambia, child marriage has deprived a number of girls of their education, especially in rural areas. Girls as young as 12 are forced into marriage at the expense of school.
This retrogressive situation has been attributed to high levels of poverty. It seems some parents feel marrying off their daughters to â€˜richâ€™ older men is more lucrative than taking them to school, which is deplorable.
I should, however, commend Government, communities and other stakeholders fighting tirelessly to ensure this vice is reduced and eventually stopped so that every girl has an opportunity to have a bright future and to be counted accordingly.
Other than child marriage, girlsâ€™ progress is also being hindered by factors such as early pregnancies, menstruation, and lack of education, among others.
Every human being has a right to education. And well, education is vital in everyoneâ€™s life, as it helps to shape our future. Boys and girls, alike, need to be empowered with a good education, but my focus here is mainly on the girl child.
The saying that if you educate a girl child, then you educate the whole community is true, as girls are known to be people who are more caring for others, and once they are empowered with knowledge, then the whole community should definitely benefit.
Gone are the days when girls were only expected to learn house chores and how to care for their husbands and children. In this era, girls are also encouraged to not only go to school but take their education seriously and aim to attain higher heights. Remember, every girl counts!
Because of the commitment to educating a girl child, we now have a good number of learned women in Zambia who have fought hard to obtain diplomas, undergraduate degrees, masterâ€™s degrees, doctor of philosophy degrees, and even attained the status of professor.
Examples of such women, to whom I have dedicated October 11, are my mother and sisters, Josephine Mapoma (Independent Broadcasting Authority director-general), Carole Chibbonta (University of Zambia lecturer), Judith Mulenga (Zambia Civic Education Association executive director), Chimango Chikwanda (Alchemy Women in Leadership editorial director), Dr Lungowe Matakala (lawyer and lecturer), Professor Nkandu Luo (Minister of Gender and Child Development), and Maureen Tresha (Women and Law in Southern Africa national director).
This is a challenge many teenage girls face, which if not well handled, may lead to some dropping out of school or even having low self-esteem.
When girls reach the ages of about 10 and 14, their bodies naturally adapt to a new phase of growth, which brings about menses, among other features. This becomes a huge challenge for some girls, especially those who cannot afford to buy sanitary towels.
Some girls, especially in rural areas, are made to stay home because they lack sanitary towels and in the process, they lag behind in their academics. Recently, some girls at Mumbwa Secondary School were forced to either abscond or report late for classes as they had to go out of the school premises to fetch water for bathing. This was due to lack of running water and the dilapidated state of their ablution blocks.
As we have commemorated October 11, let us remember that indeed every girl counts, hence there is need for Government and other stakeholders to come to the aid of girls and provide free sanitary towels and clean water and sanitation, especially in rural areas and in secondary schools.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.
Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA