Let us take for instance that *Sally (obviously not her real name) wakes up to find out that she cannot see anymore. Her father insists that he cannot waste money educating a disabled girl. Sally is therefore trapped, nothing to do, no one to go to. Or *Martha, one among many young girls in Sub-Sahara Africa who lacks sanitary towels during ‘that time” of the month due to several barriers her family faces, which leads to her getting ‘help’ from older men, and three years later, realizes she is HIV positive. Dreams smashed to smithereens. They do have dreams: to become doctors or engineers, but how will you find out if we keep on denying them a chance to exploit their potential and desires? One door closes and the other one fails to open (don’t know what the landlord did to it, do you?)
SHE could be your sister you know. Or your friend, or neighbor. You see her once in a while in the streets or the village. SHE is the single mom who has no access to the necessary resources she requires to tend to her family. SHE is Africa’s princess who spends most of her time walking for clean water as a replacement for gaining an education. Not forgetting SHE is that girlfriend held captive in the form of an immigrant worker. SHE has been left OUT. OUT of her family. OUT of education. OUT of interested positions. OUT of economic endeavors.
Because she is a girl, she is forced to get married at an early age, have babies before her body is ready and have more children than she can handle. Nearly half of girls in Ethiopia get married before they are 18, in Kenya, the age goes down to 13 in some cases. Worldwide, 10 million children a year are forced into marriage. Additionally, this sets in motion several negative impacts on the girls:
- Emotional Damage
Marrying a girl aged 13 is like feasting on a 1 month old chicken (I’m sure it’s not that good nor will it be appreciated by our taste buds). The education completion rates for such girls drastically drops as duties in the house take up their time. Without an education, such girls are the poorest on the planet, with no control over their lives. No chance to become better than their mothers and lead the way for their sisters and friends; to show the world that girls make the community stronger and richer.
- Early pregnancies and their Consequences
Girls married at an early age have a duty to bear children to carry on the family name. Some give birth without complications while others are more likely to face health risks. In the adolescent years, a girl is still growing. Pregnancy increases nutritional needs of the body and can slow down this growth. If a girl’s pelvis has not reached full size at birth, then chances are that she will be subjected to obstructed labor. A devastating complication of obstructed labor is obstetric fistula, an opening between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. This means that she will constantly leak wastes like urine and get ostracized by her family and community.
A young girl, married and with a baby often has less chance of finding employment, and if she cannot complete her education, poverty and poor health will render her unable to cope. The young mother and wife, with little or no education will not only be unable to contribute to the development of the nation, but she and her family may become a burden to it.
Give her a chance, and she will take it to a better level
“No one benefits if women are held back. We have to change mind sets, not just laws.”
President Paul Kagame