By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor and the executive governor Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano have during this year's International Day of the Girl Child Celebration kicked against early child marriage, describing the practice as ridiculous and inhuman.
The duo, spoke separately during the celebration held at the Government House's Conference Hall, Agu-Awka.
Bishop Ezeokafor who took out his time to celebrate the five students of Regina Pacis Model College, Onitsha, Anambra State who recently won gold during the just concluded Technovation World Challenge held in San Fransisco, United States, exhorted the young girls and students to emulate the five golden girls by striving to be good ambassadors through making judicious use of their time and also to be dedicated to their studies.
Declaring the function open, Gov. Willie Obiano who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke advised young girls to be proud of themselves as girls, work hard to become the best and be champions wherever they found themselves and above all, should have what he called self belief.
Obiano said the best thing a parent could give to a child was education, saying that parents should stop making young girls handicapped by giving them out early to men for marriage.
'We must not tolerate early marriage. We as stockholders and parents will continue to fight to put an end to it. Let the girls go to school,' he said.
He commended the five golden girls, stating that there were more golden girls in Anambra state.
'All a child needs is an opportunity to showcase his or her talent. What ever you do, be the best and strive to be a champion. Work hard, because we are all gifted and unique in different ways.
Gov. Obiano advised the organisers to always involve traditional rulers, presidents general, fathers, community leaders, when next time such an event would hold, noting that they were those who allow early marriage and give permission before the girl child could be married out.
For his part, Director of Regina Pacis Model College, Onitsha, Reverend Father Pascal Okonkwo, expressed gratitude to the government of the state for celebrating this year’s edition in a grand style, describing it as the first of its kind.
Fr. Okonkwo said they were committed to educating and enlightening the girl child, describing the girl child as a treasure to be nourished and protected, adding that girls were very important in society and that without them, there could be no generations.
Addressing the participants, the host and the organizer of the event, Hon. Comrade Maryann Ekeh- Izuchukwu who is the Executive Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Community Liaison, encouraged young girls to be the light of the nation.I
Comrade Izuchukwu said the International Day of Girl child was celebrated annually on 11th of October with this year’s theme entitled: "ENDING OF EARLY MARRIAGE AND EDUCATING OUR GIRLS", noting that the main aim of the day was to promote girl empowerment and fulfillment of their human rights while also highlighting the challenges that girls all over the world faced.
She said the International Day of the girl child was lunched in 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, among issues focused were girl child education, equality and marriage, access to services regarding puberty and sexual health and dressing issues around gender based violence.
Her words, 'We need to rescue the girl child because they are important to society, nation and the world at large.
'A whole lot of young girls are into one or more self destructive habits. Some are sincerely ignorant and do not understand the implications of what they are doing while some are struggling to come out due to addiction.
'Every girl child is not just a potential wife and mother but also a potential Accountant, singer, teacher, engineer, doctor, journalist, politician and even a billionaire.
'The girl child may have some negative encounter like rape, genital mutilation, limited access to education, abduction and slavery, marginalization and child marriage. She may even come from a poor family, uninformed parent, a broken home or an orphan and it seem as if there is no hope coming from her.
'I want you to understand that you are strong and will overcome the effect of the above challenges. You can only be destroyed by what you allow. Detest from rebellion, improper dressing, careless lifestyle, lack of focus and improper use of time,' she advised.
Also speaking, the vice president National Youth Council, South East zone, Prince Chibuike Echem, frowned at the rate at which young girls were school drop outs, hawkers and house helps, calling for a change.
'Do not look down on yourself. Carry yourself with all sense of dignity. Be proud of who you are because there can never be another you. Do not allow anybody talk you down. Forget about all the things that is distracting you now and focus on things that will better your life. Be strong, be bold, be confident,' Echem urged.
One of the golden girls who spoke on behalf of the girls narrated the journey of how their stardom began. According to her, 'Our success as world champions has motivated us to do more and work harder through putting more efforts.
'We are ready to change the world through technology and we believe we can achieve whatever we want to achieve because gender is not a barrier.
The campaign which had female students from different institutions took off from Aroma junction and ended at the government house.