Violence against girls, women
The United Nations Women body defines violence against women and girls as “any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Women and girls (future women) are important members of society because of the invaluable roles they play.
As the pillar of families and societies, they provide care, support, nurturing and are mostly responsible for the development of children.
Beyond the home, it is common knowledge that women make good managers of resources and excel when given the opportunity to participate in leadership roles.
Their contribution to the building of organisations, society and the nation at large can be immense.
Girls and women are naturally not endowed with the kind of physique and physiological prowess that men have; thus their vulnerability.
They, however, have mental and emotional capabilities that can complement masculinity, especially when they are educated.
This is why the illustrious scholar and educator, Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, could not keep calm.
He said “if you educate a man, you educate an individual.
But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”.
He made this statement to draw society’s attention to the huge impact of investing in the thriving, development, protection and participation of the girl.
This quote is a reminder of the many barriers, inequalities, discriminatory factors and violence that must be removed for nations to be born.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that globally about 129 million girls are out of school.
This includes 32 million of primary school age and 97 million of secondary school age.
School enrolment rates are nearly equal for girls and boys (90 per cent male, 89 per cent female) globally.
This is true at the primary and junior high school level in Ghana.
The estimated gender ratio for completion of senior high school, however, is 68 girls to every 100 boys nationally.
This can be attributed mainly to teenage pregnancy and other vices.
Violence against females is a common type of human rights violation.
It is occurring every day and everywhere.
It includes but not limited to sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child/ forced marriages and intimate partner violence (acts of physical violence such as slapping, beating, sexual violence such as spousal rape, mental/ psychological violence such as neglect, instilling fear by intimidation or forced isolation, domineering tactics and economic violence by deliberately withholding financial resources and access to money, and/or forbidding/ forcing attendance at school or employment, etc.)
Society must protect its girls and women because it suffers great loss when women cannot give of their best to its growth and development.
Policy makers, civil society organisations and all women groups must advocate and lobby for the enactment and implementation of laws that liberate women from discrimination and practices that are harmful.
Societal norms and values that put females down must be shunned.
For instance, some men announce the birth of their sons as the birth of a human being.
This is not wise.
Providing safe environments, including schools and workplaces, through efficient and effective policies and systems is important.
Girls and women must not be denied opportunities to be educated or to work because of the possibility of pregnancy and, therefore, absence due to maternity leave and childbearing.
Accommodations must be duly made.
Parents and caregivers must be supported to protect and give of their best to their children.
Where laws work, rehabilitation must also work.
We must, therefore, invest in response and support services for women who suffer violence and even for the sick people who perpetrate this injustice.
The writer is a Child Development Expert/ Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.