To me the first point of a girls’ vulnerability is her mind!
Today we had an online discussion about a GBV incident and this got me thinking and reflecting a number of issues including how to tackling the root causes of girls’ school dropout caused by bad decisions girls make. Let’s face facts and delve into a girl’s mind, we all have been girls or are still girls.
Every day we hear, we read a story, and see a girl getting pregnant, dropping out of school and marrying or eloping with her boyfriend. But the question is, are these girls really not able to say no to sex for whatever reason? I have always told parents/guardians / or those bringing up girls that it is very difficult to bring up a girl because a lot is desired in nurturing her and empowering her mind, this plays a major role in determining the outcome of what she becomes. Her mind is critical.
Rhoda was a 16 years old (true story) girl I knew and hoped the best for her, she was supported by her uncle through school because her parents in the village could not afford to educate 7 children. She went to boarding in a secondary school 150 kilometers away from her village. Her parents then learnt that Rhoda had a boyfriend who was a school dropout; 7 years older than her. They attributed Rhoda’s deteriorating performance in school to this relationship. Her uncle decided to transfer her to another school in the city which was 700 kilometers away with the hope that her boyfriend would not be able to contact her again. By then mobile phones were for only a few privileged persons. Rhoda got enrolled into a day school in the city, but after two terms in school, she left home and never returned. After several months of search, it was realized that Rhoda and her boyfriend had reconnected and had eloped to start a home together in one of the city suburbs. Rhoda’s boyfriend had relocated to the city and was doing petty manual jobs for a living. Rhoda had left an opportunity of an education offered by her uncle to get into marriage, living in a slum. To Rhoda, this was the best decision!
After one year of cohabiting, a SOS message was sent to Rhodas’ uncle that she was in a bad shape, living without food and the boyfriend had abandoned her. Rhoda’s uncle gave her a second chance to go back to school but in the village. After 2 terms at school she again went back to her boyfriend who had also relocated back to the village.
Until a girl comes to the realization that life is not about ‘love’, it is not a paradise, that she has to create value in her self first through an education and not through a sexual relationship; secure her future first; be independent. On the other hand , it is a complex issue, some girls have been coerced (against their will) into going through an education and have ended up successful; others have not been successful.
I have heard girlfriends of mine make statements like……..* “For me I just went to school because my parents/guardians were tough on me” ; that time I went to school not knowing what to expect. I grew up with a lot of restrictions on movement, were to go etc. I did not like it but I appreciate it today” *
So are the minds of these girls able to navigate through the lies, myths, conceptions, ultimatums put on the way by society, imposed covenants etc? . So they need a support system, continuous nurturing and information/facts to counter that. Helping girls focus by providing them with valuable information and guidance will help them but above all it’s the girl to make up her mind. Empowering them by building self esteem, information and exposure opportunities. We need to work on shaping the girls mind (preferably both boys and girls) to be able to make a decision appropriate.
Note: Well aware that girls face a multitude of vulnerabilities this article is purely attempting to speak about the mind as one angle of vulnerability they face (mind content).