Millions of girl children face special problems of inequality, discrimination, abuse and exploitation around the world. This tends to compound the risk of survival, as well as poses an obstacle against the development of the girl child. Girl Child abuse and discrimination have many societal and individual consequences that produce lifelong scars. We have a responsibility as human beings to do all that we can for girls, especially the less privileged ones who fall victims of child abuse. We can do this by creating awareness on their rights, donating time, money or services, and by generating and enforcing laws that can empower and protect the girl child from all forms of violence and abuse.
The theme of 2014 International Day of the girl child is “Empowering Adolescent girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence”. Are there benefits in empowering the girl child? Can empowerment of the girl child be beneficial to the girl’s immediate family, the society, the nation, and the world at large? Is the girl child as important as the boy child? How? These and many more we intend to discuss in this article.
Considering the biblical story of Mordecai and the orphan girl child – Esther, in the book of Esther may help us learn some lessons, and more importantly, discover the great and unequalled potentials of the girl child if empowered.
Esther was a small Orphan girl who lost her parents at a very tender age. This little poor Jewish Orphan girl was left under the guardianship of her cousin Mordecai who was equally a poor gate man. Mordecai took Esther after the death of her parents, not as an Orphan which she was, but as his own daughter; and like Job, Mordecai was a father to the orphan girl.
Since Esther wasn’t his own child, but an Orphan girl who had nobody to help her, Mordecai could have taken advantage of her condition to sexually, economically, and socially abuse and exploit her, especially economically as he was living in poverty. He could have used her as a child prostitute to make money for himself. He could have used her to gratify his sexual desire; he could have sent her to hawk in the streets and high ways of Persia from morning till night on daily basis, so as to raise money for the family upkeep, as the economic situation at that time was very harsh; he could have used her in bonded labour or conveniently forced her into child marriage in order to use her bride price to solve numerous family problems. He could have accused her as being the cause of his poverty and label her a witch in order to send her away. But Mordecai committed none of these atrocities against the little girl, because he knew that none of such act is for the best interest of the child, and more importantly, he knew that by so doing, he would not be in pursuit of true success. He knew that doing such only amounts to exploitation and abuse of the little girl’s rights, which is a crime against God and humanity. And like Paul, he would say to Esther:
“…I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek
not yours, but you: for the children ought not
to lay for the parents, but the parents for the
Children. And I will very gladly spend and be
spent for you; though the more abundantly I
Love you, the less I be loved”
This is the kind of attitude every parent/guardian is expected to adopt in bringing up their children or any child under their care. How many parents/guardians today can afford not to be burdensome to their children/Wards by keeping them off child labour? How many parents today can say to their children “for I seek not yours, but you”. That is, I will not abuse or exploit you for whatever reasons, but your best interest is my major and basic concern? How many parents/guardians today are ready to lay (make sacrifice) for their children or wards to ensure a bright future for them? How many parents/guardians today are ready to gladly spend and be spent for the sake of their children or wards?
Children shouldn’t have to sacrifice so that you
can have the life you want. You make sacrifices
so your children can have the life that they deserve.
These were the qualities, the mindset, the mentality, the orientation and understanding of Mordecai with which he brought up an orphan girl, the daughter of another man left under his guardianship. Mordecai brought up Esther as he would bring up his own biological child. He gave her the best of education as much as he could; the best of health care, clothing, shelter and food; such that the orphan girl did not grow up with orphan mentality, because Mordecai did not insistently, consistently, and persistently remind her of her status as mere orphan under his care, like many parents today will do. Because of the affectionate environment under which Mordecai brought up Esther, the orphan girl grew up healthy, beautiful, intelligent and responsible. As a result, when the king (president) of Persia (Iran) was searching for a well brought up, beautiful, intelligent and matured woman to become the Queen of Persia, Esther was worthy to appear before him because her guardian brought her up like a queen.
Mordecai encouraged Esther and prepared her mind to feel dignified enough to appear before the king and favourably compete with many other girls of privileged families who also came out for the beauty contest. How many people in our world today will be kind enough to encourage their domestic servants, orphans or other less privileged children under their guardianship to take steps that would make them prominent, famous, successful and great in life? NO! we wouldn’t do that, rather, we will obstruct every possible means through which they might see the rays of the sun, especially denying them education, so that they will perpetually remain our slaves, not realising that we are actually shooting ourselves on the foot, because such action might indirectly mean closing up the possible doors to our own success in life. Most guardians would rather present their own children even though they know clearly well that it is the orphan girl that possessed the qualities needed for the contest, and at the end of the day they completely lose out because of discrimination, selfishness, and wickedness.
“Every Child you encounter is a divine appointment” says David Vitter. The orphan girl – Esther finally won the beauty contest and was chosen to become the queen of Persia. Perhaps when Mordecai was bringing up Esther with love and affection, some self-centred people may have queried: “why is this man wasting his money and time on a child who is not and is never going to be his own, a girl, (not a boy) for that matter”, as we live in a society that does not value the (potentials of) female child. Of course Paul also experienced such, thus he said: “…though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”. Some people might even labelled Mordecai a mad man. Mordecai must have ignore what self-centred people had to say, and rather took what his conscience told him was the right and wise decision, for according to a Chinese proverb: “A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion”.
“These difficult financial times demand smart financial investments. And one of the soundest investments we can make is in girls – in educating them, empowering them and keeping them healthy” says Ban Ki-moon
I read a pathetic story of two young orphan girls who lost their father and mother in 2000 and 2001 respectively. The two orphans named Edith and Chidera from Enugu state, south-eastern Nigeria were left to the guardianship of their father’s brother (their uncle), and the love and compassion this uncle could show to these poor orphans was to take advantage of their helpless situation and sold off their father’s house (which is the only accommodation they had) on the ground that “women do not inherit property in Ibo land”. What a wicked, barbaric, and discriminatory culture! There exists a lot of discrimination against women both as daughters and wives, under various customary laws of inheritance in Nigeria. This ought not to be so in a modern society. Both selfishness and greed will not allow some men to abandon such cultures, as they know what they gain from such wicked and barbaric customs. The truth is that those who indulge in such wickedness are in pursuit of disaster unto themselves. To such people, it is written:
What he laboured for and earned, he must give up; he cannot swallow it; what he acquired by trading will afford him no joy, because he has crushed and neglected the poor and has seized houses which he had never built. Because his greed enjoyed no rest within him, he will not save anything that he desires.
—The Bible (Job 20:18-20)
Mordecai did none of such wickedness to Esther. Rather than abandon her destitute, he invested upon her life. You may call it a waste, but to Mordecai, it was an investment. He was simply in pursuit of true success. “A man there was, though some did count him mad, the more he cast away, the more he had,” says John Bunyan.” Since a person will reap whatever he sow; it was time for Mordecai to reap what he sowed in the life of Esther. Remember what Job said was the secret behind his success: “the blessings of him that was ready to perish came upon me.…” The blessing upon the life of this poor orphan girl came upon Mordecai. Through Esther, (as the first lady of Persia (Iran)), Mordecai was elevated from grass to grace; from poverty to riches; from a nobody to a somebody. Mordecai was made the second in command after the king of Persia; he became the vice president of Iran, and by his position, one of the richest, most honourable and most influential men on earth. “There never was a person who did anything worth doing, who did not receive more than he gave”, says Henry Ward Beecher.
Not only did the love, kindness, and sound upbringing given to an orphan girl became a blessing to her Guardian – Mordecai, it also became a blessing and salvation to the entire Jewish Nation, as she was the one who saved the nation of Israel from being wiped out from the surface of the earth by the wicked conspiracy of Haman. Indeed, the life you saved might be your own. By saving the life of a poor orphan girl, Mordecai discovered that he not only saved his own life, but the life of a nation. The important lessons to be learned here is:
(1) that abandoned girl child, that street child, that helpless orphan, (regardless of his/her colour, language, religion, or nationality) might be the deliverance your family/your nation is long praying for; and showing love and kindness to them might be the answer to your prayer, and ignoring them might mean your perpetuity in poverty.
(2) The female child has a great potential to cause desired political, economic, scientific, or technological breakthrough in the family/nation, if regarded as such, and given adequate sound education like their male counter parts. The earlier we stop discrimination, and empower the girl child, the better it will be for the world.
I hope this story will make you change your perception of the girl child and the way and manner you treat her. I hope it will change your orientation and perception of the girl child, and women generally; especially for those who feel that female children don’t deserve education as much as the male children do. “If a society consisting of men and women is content to apply progress and education to one half of itself, such a society is weakened by half,” says Kemal Ataturk.
I hope this story will help you understand that the girl child is an asset – as important as the boy child. The fact that the girl child is to be married into another family does not in any way make her un-useful or less important to her family of birth. By marriage, she is only extending her family of birth into a larger family. If you pay adequate attention to her like you do to the boy child; if you educate her equally with the boy child, and give all your children (both males and females), equal opportunity in all things; if you make her feel important, wanted and loved just like the boy child, the family will be better for it: for whatever glory she attains in her family of marriage, will surely extend to her family of birth. “Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man”, says Margaret Mead. She could be the messiah her family of birth has been waiting for. Every child, male or female, has a unique role he/she was born to play in the family, in the nation, in the world, and proper upbringing through equal opportunity to quality education will enhance this. “Educating girls and giving them the tools to shape their own future has an incredible multiplier effect on economic growth. It leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals but for their communities and their societies. It provides returns for decades”. Says Ban Ki-moon. To this, Greg Mortenson lending his voice says:
“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community”.
(To read more on this, request for CRACO’s new book titled “IN PURSUIT OF TRUE SUCCESS”).