Over the years, the girl-child has been faced with a lot of challenges. Rape, unwanted pregnancies, gender inequality, discrimination, early marriage, sexual harassment, peer pressure, molestation, domestic violence, diseases and abduction, among others, are factors that plague the emotional growth and well-being of the girl-child in Nigeria.
But a group, Raising Confident Girls Initiative, has emerged to defend the girl-child as well as boost her confidence and self-worth.
According to the founder, Mrs. Riri Okoye, the group has a strong desire to provide support and solutions to the plethora of challenges the girl-child faces.
“Lack of confidence is one of the biggest impediments that block the girl-child from excelling in life. Our mission is to provide support and useful information to help raise confident girls in our communities,” she said.
In April, the group commenced a series of activities to improve the lot of the girl-child. One of such was the first Mums and Daughters Conference, which promoted a no-holds-barred, heart-to-heart interaction between the old and the young. It was a gathering where older, accomplished women counselled the young on various topics, including peer pressure, empowerment, domestic violence and sundry issues that most young girls encounter when growing up.
The conference, held at Kusenla Road, in Ikate-Elegushi, Lagos, had the theme, “We Grow Together.”
“The challenges facing the girl-child today are quite much. Unfortunately, most parents don’t realise this,” Okoye said. “Again, the society does not bother much about the pressures our girls face. And because of these, many girls are left to suffer in silence, or get misled by their peers, or get influenced by what they see on social media. That is why we decided to have a forum where we as mothers sit and dialogue with our young girls, so that we could hear from them and have a perfect understanding of the challenges they face.”
Three speakers and psychologists that spoke at the forum gave incisive tips on attaining educational, career, family and life goals.
The first speaker, Taiye Aluko, spoke about building strong relationships with girls. She admonished mothers to avoid comparing siblings because that causes lack of confidence.
“My mum often compared me with my extroverted twin. Many parents don’t understand that extroverts are not necessarily confident, and introverts are not less confident either. It is just a girl’s personality trait,” she said.
Aluko urged mothers to be strong and aim to build a strong relationship with their daughters.
Yinka Enahoro talked about love languages, saying parents and children should know and understand each other’s love languages. According to Enahoro, this would create better communication within the family.
The final speaker, Audrey Abayomi, shared tips on handling societal pressure and how to avoid it. According to the psychologist, pressure overwhelms the mental, emotional and physical well-being of both girls and mothers: “As mothers, we must figure out a way to love ourselves first. We have to be confident in who we are and not follow fads because our girls are watching and will copy us. And this makes the peer pressure cycle to continue.”
There were dance and fun quiz competitions at the event, with the participants and winners going home with sundry prizes. At the end, many of the mothers that participated enthused that they learnt how to be better parents, while the girls said they had gained much confidence.
The convener, Okoye, ended the conference with a word of advice to Nigerians: “We look forward to holding this conference annually in several parts of Nigeria. We thank our sponsors, and we call for more support from government and corporate organisations. We, as a country, need to take the girl-child more seriously and ensure they are educated and empowered. An enlightened woman rubs off positively on the society and the nation in general.”