Perception shift for the girl child We need to reconstruct our thought patterns towards children Two deadly sins Zimbabweans must eschew
THIS week we saw another celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child that was started by the UN. Celebrating and thinking of the girl child is a noble idea but it is reflective of a problem to me. I’m concerned by the fact that there was a notable need for advocacy and elevation of the girl child by the UN over what we created in our different societies. Discrimination on the basis of sex, to an unassuming young child is unbecoming. What concerns me even more is the way that the world around us marginalises children. I have a seven-yearold daughter and I love her with all my heart as all parents do. When I look at her, I think of her future, I think of her present. I look at her as a child and not a girl. She doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her. And she shouldn’t, because there is nothing wrong with being a girl.
People have debated over what caused the girl children to need a voice and to fight for survival. There is no clear answer that came out of those discussions. Personally, I blame culture among other things. Some cultures do arranged marriages, infringing on their right to freedom. Some cultures impose female genital mutilation, to make sure that they don’t enjoy sex. Some cultures do all sorts of strange things but culture is set by society.
We make our own traditions in any given setting. The same is the case for morals. We define what we call good and bad morals. Gender is the social construction of femininities and masculinities and we define that too. So what I’m actually saying is that we are to blame for positioning the girl child in a vulnerable position.
It starts as early as the pregnancy. Upon being told the sex of the child, a couple is happy that the child is healthy, but they are disappointed that the child is turning out to be a girl and not a boy. That is the first problem.
By the time she arrives, she is already faced with negative socialisation because she is not the “right” sex. What is the right sex one might ask? Well apparently it’s the sex that carries the family name (I don’t know how the name would be carried without the girl). The sex that is strong. The sex that can achieve big things. The sex that can lead. The sex that should become a pilot, an engineer, a doctor or and architect. That sex is the male sex.
Couples that have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for years are the ones who will take “whatever” they can get. They would prefer a boy but even if a girl comes, it’s better than nothing right? What that means is that when they have a girl, they are merely relieved that at least they have a child. They don’t actually think of the children as the same.
There is nothing wrong with having a girl. As far as I know, the many gifts that a woman is blessed with are beneficial to society and the world would be painful without girls. So why do we treat girls the way we do? Why do we sacrifice their education for the sake of their brothers? Why do we have a problem leaving them our inheritance?
Why do we second guess them whenever they achieve something? Why do we raise them with a limited way of thinking? Why do we encourage them to go into careers that are an extension of the feminine roles that we define for them? Why do we elevate marriage to the ultimate achievement that can substitute anything? Why do we attach such negative connotations to everything they try to achieve? When a girl becomes a pilot, it becomes news. Why? When a girl continues to escalate the corporate ladder, why do we start to fear for her future? A girl should not achieve because she will intimidate men away, really? Is this because girls are supposed to be teachers and nurses? But when a boy becomes a nurse, they are encouraged to try medicine because nursing is not for boys. It’s actually quite pathetic.
We, the society have killed the future. We have killed our girls. When we discriminate the girl child, we are creating ungrateful, egotistical boys who think the world owes them something. We are creating a world of non-tolerance and non compassion. We are carrying on our judgmental thinking into the future generations and at the end, there will be a larger variety of feminists that base their movements on different aspects that hurdle their own lives.
The fact that we created this, means we can and should change it. Since gender is the social construction of femininities and masculinities, and we had defined them in the wrong way, we can use the same gender to undo gender. We can start to not raise our eyebrows when a girl achieves.
We can start encouraging both girls and boys to be the best that they can be. Science based carriers should have a class that is gender balanced. When a chemistry class is dominated by boys and when a food and nutrition class is dominated by girls that should raise an alarm to the highest office of the school. Girls should stay in school and if there are money problems at home, there should be equal treatment of the children. Nobody remains at home while the other one goes to school.
Another problem is that we pretend to have an outrage about child marriages when they happen. Why I say we pretend is that, we discourage the girls from achieving, we socialise them in the maternal box, so when they are faced with marriage, it’s not a shocker because they are eventually going to go that direction. If a girl passes a certain age church ladies start questioning why they are still not married. It’s like marriage is the ultimate achievement that invalidates every other achievement.
If you fail to further your education in tertiary school, but are married it will be “ok” because you are someone’s wife. You can start having your own children and pass on the ridiculous tendencies. When you are an independent woman, successful, happy to be alone, you are prayed for because something is wrong with you and education is blamed for extinguishing your interest in marriage.
I have seen girls that did not see anything wrong with being married and it’s only later that I understood why. When they are growing up they are told to wash clothes nicely “so that your husband will not chase you away”. Cook nicely, don’t burn your food otherwise “your man will beat you and send you back”.
So she then grows up thinking that she is just a commodity that should please the person that will own them. If they don’t grow up to be owned, they don’t mind being someone’s 3rd or 4th wife, as long as they are married. We do this to our girls and we should stop it.
I will end by saying that children are a heritage and are gifts from God. Both girls and boys. We need to reconstruct our thought patterns towards children. We should start by treasuring our girls at the scan that tells us it’s a girl. When we have them we should not treat them any differently from boys.
We should continue to repeat that they can be anything they want to be. We should not even mention to them that they are different from boys besides their biological reproductive parts. Girls should not be socialised for marriage because marriage needs no qualifications.
Anyone can get married. Success on the other hand has requirements, and they are education and professional experience. Not anyone can achieve that. Only the girls that are raised the right way grow up to be achievers and we should take our positions in playing that part.
Congratulations to the 18-year-old young lady who graduated recently at the University of Zimbabwe! To all the girls, Happy Belated Girl Child Day, although we treasure you and celebrate you every single day!
Tsungai Chekerwa-Machokoto can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Sudan, Africa’s newest state is virtually torn apart by tribal or ethnic strife with people being gunned down, their homes razed to the ground or fleeing to seek refuge in safe United Nations facilities or fleeing to neighbouring countries to save their lives with back at home crop fields not being worked with the result that hunger will continue to stalk innocent people who just a while ago thought they had created themselves a haven of peace by breaking away from the Sudan.
It therefore behooves on all peace-loving Zimbabweans and, ultimately on the government which has reportedly denounced tribalism, to make it absolutely certain that tribalists of whatever political or other ranking will find no breathing space, but will instead suffocate, in a society averse to tribal or ethnic machinations.
The success of this nation as a peaceful and lawabiding people, or its demise as corrupt or tribally divided, remains squarely on the shoulders and the hearts of each and every one who prides themselves on belonging in Zimbabwe.
Of course, God’s mercy and grace will always be visited upon those who regard other people as being equal before the eyes of our Creator in whose image and likeness human beings were created.
Thus, when children are quarried from their parents they should be raised with instruction to love one another and to know that anyone who acts against the State also acts against God.
The fear of God is paramount here as it begets the fear of the law and that of all evil including corruption, tribalism and other, negative isms that are detrimental to love, peace and stability in a nation by nourishing the animal in men.