1244 views | Justine John Dyikuk | May 20, 2021
Recently, the words objectification and commodification have gained currency because of violence against the girl-child. From street hawking to rape, forceful marriage and denial of right to education, child-labour has taken a different dimension in our country today. The recurrent cases of abduction of schoolgirls is a direct affront on girl-child education. Coming at a time that the world is clamouring for inclusion of women in politics, violence against the girl-child brings to the fore issues around objectification and commodification of women.
To objectify simply means to treat someone as an object rather than a human being. For instance, a teacher or parent who insists that a child should only be seen and not heard has objectified the kid. Ours is a society where poverty and illiteracy puts children in a sorry state. In a patristic society where male dominance prevails, denying women their rights is veiled under cultural and religious apparels.
The future of numerous girls is cut short by forceful marriage, rape or incest. Most parents in rural Nigeria feel that a women’s education ends in the kitchen or “the other room.” According to UNICEF, “Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities – the number of child brides will in fact increase by more than one million by 2030 and double by 2050.”
Perhaps it is on this ground that schoolgirls are arbitrarily kidnapped across the country. For example, in a story titled “Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu: Chibok girls, now graduates” a reporter with The Guardian, Akin Ojumu disclosed that: “Between December 2020 and now, close to 800 students have been abducted in at least five separate school kidnappings in Northern Nigeria.” It would be recalled that on the night of 14–15 April 2014, 276 mostly Christian female students aged between 16 and 18 were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from their dormitory at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
While some were later rescued or freed after negotiations, the fate of others remains unknown. However, the recent graduation of Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu who were among the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped is a story of extraordinary courage that should inspire every Nigerian girl. With support from Jubilee Campaign, a Virginia, US, based human rights group, Joy and Lydia were relocated to the United States of America.
After graduating from High School, the young girls attended Canyonville Christian Academy, Oregon. They also studied at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. While Joy bagged a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Works, Lydia graduated with a Degree in Legal Studies. She also plans to attend Law School. “Instead of becoming baby factories for a bunch of savage terrorists, Joy and Lydia can look forward to the future full of hope and brimming with confidence” Ojumu wrote.
In an interview with Good Morning America, GMA3: What You Need To Know, the duo who spoke with a typical American accent in a 08:16 minutes’ video boldly expressed optimism about their future. Reacting to the video on our Bauchi Diocesan Priests’ WhatsApp Group, a colleague of mine, Fr. Emmanuel Obidah simply opined: “This is a proof that there is something fundamentally wrong with our educational system.” On his part, Fr. Gregory Zungdet wrote: “Wow! This is awesome and quite unbelievable. See the transformation.”
For this writer, one big takeaway from these comments is “transformation.” As individuals and a people, we must move beyond the “Bring Back Our Girls” hashtag campaign which was initially well-intentioned but later politicized to make a concrete case for the girl-child. Rather than rely on foreign celebrities to initiate campaigns on our behalf on social media, we must collectively assist women and girls to achieve their dreams.
Also, 110 schoolgirls aged between 11-19 were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorists from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, in Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe on February 19, 2018. One of the girls, Leah Sharibu who was not released because of her Christian faith just turned 18 and is said to have given birth to a child. Perhaps this is also why women have to beg to school, express an opinion, eat food of their choice, have a share of their father’s or husband’s property, work and own or sale property which is legitimately theirs.
Most worrisome is the culture which exonerates the woman from paying bills. Some men have taken advantage of the situation to maltreat and cheat on women simply because they pay the bills. The adage, “he who pays the piper calls the tune” comes in here. To reverse the trend, instead of caging women to babysit and wallow in poverty and illiteracy, every woman must be given an opportunity to choose a career of her choice.
Scandalously, women who are self confident, working and own a car or house scare prospective suitors. Some men erroneously conclude that any woman who is living a good life is a prostitute. Me thinks that the average Nigerian man must grow up by accepting reality that women too are created to be achievers. On their part, women must put their “house” in order by arresting petty jealousies which pulls other women down.
Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) must be fully committed to the prevention of all forms of human degradation against the girl-child. This can be achieved through strengthening legislation to protect vulnerable girls from violence, abuse and exploitation. When you train a woman, you train a nation. Stop objectifying women. Like Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu, give them a chance. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.