Roia Atmar is an Afghan who got married at the age of 14 and relocated to Australia. A few years later, with no family, education, job and no money, Roia endured physical abuse at the hands of her husband because according to her, she didn’t think anyone could save her. The moment she realised how easily her life could be lost, was when she spent three months in the hospital after being doused in turpentine and set ablaze by her husband. Roia didn’t know she could call the police for help. If not for the intervention of her own family, she would have recovered and returned to that man and may not be alive to tell her story twenty years later.
If you’ve noticed I’ve been doing a review of the themes of past IDGC campaigns. Today is day 97 of our 100 day countdown and we’re reviewing the campaign of 2014 themed “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence”. Every day in our country there’s at least one story of gender-based violence. Blogs talk about it; news agencies have stories about it, everyone has an opinion and I’m just left staring at my phone in horror. “How did this become our normal?” I am tempted to ask, but the truth is, violence against women is not new phenomenon, the internet just makes it easier for information to spread.
Violence here is not restricted to physical abuse only, but also emotional abuse, psychological abuse, child marriage, female genital mutilation and everything that threatens the wellbeing of the girl child. Many girls, like Roia are unaware that the horrors they face doesn’t have to be their stories. Violence is the reality of many girls around the world. It’s easy for some of us to not understand how a person stays in an abusive marriage, or how female genital mutilation/cutting is still a practice today. I can understand why. There is a world of difference in our experiences.
Many of us however, can relate to sexual abuse. I say this because the statistics are increasing yearly. In fact, it is likely that almost everyone in Nigeria is close to a girl who has been raped or almost raped before. There are more unreported cases of rape than reported cases. This is because the victims are afraid of getting blamed instead. If adolescent girls are taught that sexual abuse could never be their fault, there’ll be more sex offenders in prison than out. Empowered girls will not become mothers who cover up for husbands who molest their children. So you see why you must teach your daughters, sisters, nieces and neighbourhood kids about violence?
According to UNICEF, nearly half of all adolescent girls think a husband is justified in hitting his partner. A girl who is empowered is less likely to be a part of this “nearly half”. See how it adds up? One girl getting empowered with formal or informal education is a generation saved from needless hardship. The power which knowledge gives is irreplaceable.