We are in agreement that Africa’s narrative needs to change and that for that to happen, Africa’s stories must be told by Africans themselves.
The Tanzanian, East African and African Girl-Childs narrative too needs to change seeing that, as at now, everything about the Girl –Child in our part of the world, seems scripted, dictated and directed by men.
That explains why we have not seen the importance of providing sanitary pads for free in our budgets and where policy exists, the implementation has been grossly undermined by under-funding.
There are so many hurdles in the way of the girl-child. In Tanzania, while we have made progress, over the years that progress has regressed depending on whom you speak with. Government statistics tend to say we have made progress but just last week President Dr John Pombe Magufuli was decrying the number of school girls that still drop out of school due to pregnancy.
The biggest problem the girl child faces is a combination of long-held norms, practiced as traditions and the fact that it is women who play a huge role in perpetuating these norms. Before you lynch me let me illustrate.
Not long ago my neighbours had a huge “christening party” at which their 13-year old was pampered with gifts galore. All that would have been great, except that adult beverages, boda boda riders and Mchiriku music , makes for a bad combination when you are trying to make building blocks to a young girl to grow up in God-fearing Christian life. Suffice to say the “twerking” on display as groups of sisters, aunts, mama mdogos and neighbours were called to be introduced left any “hungry” boda boda riders with no choice but to find solace in the hands of the “most valuable of the twerking contest.”
Imagine the amount of money and time this family spent not to mention the blaring music we had to endure for a whole week 24 hours every day with the peak “twerk night” being the most unbearable. I would be utterly shocked if some unwanted pregnancies did not germinate on this “christening” party event. The organizers were women, the twerk specialists were women and the ones who got on the microphone to praise our Mwari-bride were – you got that right, women.
If the girl child has to re-write her narrative what needs to happen? Can it even happen? Does the girl child have it in her to re-write this narrative? Is the narrative in need of re-writing? Have the norms been practiced for too long for us to begin to change them now? These are some of the questions that we grapple with even as we agree that the plight of the girl child is tied at the hip with the desire to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Plan International’s #Rewrite Her Story hash tag is picking up on the social media and it principally features how the most influential area-film and the movies feature women. In every movie they seem to play second fiddle.
It is this October that the Girls Get Equal campaign is calling on all girls, young women and their allies to #RewriteHerStory. Indeed it behooves on all of us to help the African girl child to re-write her story.
But as we do what we can to assist the girl child, we have to also call a spade a spade. Next Month under the International Centre for Population Development a meeting of youth will happen in Kenya to discuss sexual reproductive health, reduction of deaths at childbirth as well as teen pregnancy.
We truly have a problem in our hands. Our daughters have been internalized to accept that they exist only to satisfy the needs of men. Those needs include most of all sex and in most cases they have no say in this matter.
This narrative must change if we want to attain true human development.
The columnist is a researcher & Communications specialist with the firm Midas Touché East Africa