As a child, I was sexually abused by a male adult relative who was close to my family at that time. I was just 5 years old and I remember this went on till I was about age 10. It wasn’t just one male adult relative. It was an unpleasant experience. It was horrific. It always happened in the dark of the night. There was no one to call out to. Even when I thought of telling my parents, I didn’t trust that they would handle it in a way that would lead to a peaceful coexistence, since the perpetrator was a close family member and it was sex related; how could I have communicated that? I couldn’t even dare!
He would wake me up from sleep and make me give him a blow job. Other times, he would try to have sex with me but he never tried to penetrate me because I was too young. He never stopped trying though. I remember how sometimes he would ejaculate on me. I was too young to understand or comprehend what was going on. The act didn’t feel right though but I just never knew standing up for myself was an option.
I became very insecure as a teenager because I later found out that what had happened was called “child abuse/sexual abuse” and it really hurt me so bad because at the time I was defenseless and helpless. The worse could have happened. What if he had infected me with HIV or an STI or something….?
I am sharing this today because it’s the International Day of the Girl and I believe in the vision of promoting the rights of the girl child. It is everyone’s responsibility! Too many girls out there are being violated either by being forced into child marriage by family members; being sexually abused by close relatives like I was or strangers; or even being denied access to education just because they are girls.
It’s actually more complicated because the girls hardly report cases of abuse and I guess that’s why we have very little data on these cases. Statistics on child marriage show that“one in seven girls will be forced to marry by the age of 15. And, if child marriage continues at its current rate, 100 million more girls will be married in the next decade.” We honestly can’t afford to let that happen. Not in this generation, not in our time.
We must speak up to protect the right and preserve the lives of girls all around the world. The role women play in the development of every society can’t be overemphasized. Imagine if women like Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Adichie, Tambisa Moyo and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala were married off as child brides? It doesn’t look right in your mind, right? My point exactly! These women have continually proven to be key agents for progressive change in our society. Why don’t we give this generation of girls the chance to become productive citizens and catalysts of change in the world?
Every form of child abuse is a human rights violation.
As the world celebrates the girl child today, let us all actively commit to empowering girls around our communities by supporting girls to go to school; providing them with the adequate information they need to protect themselves from abuse; or starting up a conversation about the need to promote equal access to education.