In commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, some non-governmental organisations in Nigeria have called on the Nigerian government to empower girls in technology, to bridge the gender gap
in the tech space.

In a statement on Monday, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) said there is an enormous gender disparity between girls and boys in Nigeria and there is a need to build the capacity of girls.

The group said through its partnership with Malala Fund, it has been working to increase access to quality education for the girl child through advocacy for implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act.

It has also carried out sensitisation programmes on the right to education, most notably in Northern Nigeria, and urged the state governments to take appropriate actions to promote free and quality basic education for all, especially girls.

“Disparities exist in the areas of access to education, health care, and protection from discrimination. Girls in Nigeria face diverse sexual and gender-based violence such as rape, forced/child marriages, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and assault. These are heightened by negative patriarchal norms and constructs, lack of awareness, traditional beliefs, as well as poverty,” the group said.

LEDAP called on the government to pay attention to providing equal access to education for girls through internet services and other digital platforms and initiate opportunities for girls’ to safely and meaningfully access, use, and design technology in Nigeria.

“We make this call firmly rooted in the belief that a nation that invests in the girl child, invests in the future,” the group said.

The International Day of the Girl Child is marked every October 11 to deepen the push for equal opportunities for girls, promote awareness about gender equality and highlight issues faced by girls globally as result of their gender.

This year’s event, which focuses on increased access to technology and technological skills for girls in the digital age, is themed “Digital generation. Our generation.”

LEDAP said the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the education system in Nigeria and has further widened gender gaps in the education system.

“The drop-out rate of girls has increased; an aftermath of the lockdown restrictions where girls have been put in the family way and may never return to school. The heightened security system in the country has also increased the drop-out rate of girls because parents are left with no option than to withdraw their children from schools in the face of brazen security challenges.

“In the light of the diverse challenges facing education in Nigeria and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time to advocate for a bridge in the education gap in a digital generation than now. The Nigerian government needs to invest in technological advancement for girls and make efforts to equip them with the right digital tools and resources to access quality education and thrive in the tech space,” the group said.

Another organisation, the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN), also called on the Nigerian government to promote girl empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

HRAN said inequality is seen in areas of access to education, violence against women, child marriages, access to proper nutrition and medical care and protection from discrimination.

“Despite the recognition of Right to Education as a fundamental human right under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) and other international instruments, there still exists a large gender disparity in access to education between girls and boys in the country.

“Cultural and socioeconomic issues such as high drop-out rate among female students, child marriages and capacity gaps to equip girls in STEM courses contribute to this gender disparity in access to education. This has led to a gap in literacy and has severely limited Nigeria’s attainment of the sustainable development goals.

“This gender disparity is also evident in the education of children with disabilities, deeply exacerbated by the culture of street begging by disabled young women in order to earn income, thereby inhibiting their access to education,” the group said.

The Human rights group said in line with this year’s theme, it is advocating increased access to better education, technology and technological skills for the Nigerian girl child to better adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic which has accelerated digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting.

“We urge the Nigerian government to protect the girl-child by increasing access to education, health care and nutrition. We also urge the government to take steps towards ending gender-based violence and child marriages and ensuring the fundamental rights and future of the Nigerian girl-child,” the statement highlighted.

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