* By Michelle Buyaki – Akili Dada Intern
Michelle facilitating a mentoring session with girls in Kibera. Photo credits – Koen Suidgeest.
There’s something about being an adolescent that just makes life really confusing. First you are in transition from being a child to being an adult and with that comes the pressure to discover and define what kind of an adult you are going to be. Secondly, there seems to be antagonistic forces within self that rip you apart if you can’t get a grip of them. Well if you have been there or still are, then you understand the ambivalence. Now being an adolescent GIRL brings a tweak to the situation. Being an adolescent girl growing in a PATRIARCHAL society becomes even more complicated. We’ve seen the plight of this girl.
Michelle with kids in Kibera. Photo credits – Koen Suidgeest
You do not hold her in due respect as your male sons. You ensure inequity in education. You set her to bring cows too early. You suppress her voice; tell her she’ll always come second. You sow the seed of doubt in herself.
You teach her that her place is in the kitchen; that her voice is never to be heard; that her opinions are not to be expressed. You tell her she needs to follow status quo. You tell her that was how you grew up and that is how it is always going to be.
You come with a mouth full of alluring words. You take advantage of her vulnerability; of her lack of a father figure. You impregnate and abandon; a typical hit and run situation. You stifle her progress, declaring her redundant.
You do not want to support her because she might become better than you. You seem to forget your paths are distinctly different. Instead, you bring her down with petty gossip. You besmirch her. You watch her make the same mistakes you made before her. You forget that lighting her candle does not make yours any dimmer.
Photo credits – Koen Suidgeest
But fading are those days, mom. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for investment in this adolescent girl, dad. She has a power in her that carries potential to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty, discrimination, violence and exclusion. Sister, she promises a future of equal partnership in solving problems. Look around you: political conflicts, poor prevention and control of diseases, unsustainable economies, climate change, gender based violence. Brother, she is the future mother, entrepreneur, mentor, leader. Global sustainability abounds if only we dare.
As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, we appreciate our mothers, sisters, friends, brothers and fathers who share in this vision.
Power to the Girl Child!