Every year on October 11, the world commemorates the International Day of the Girl Child, to amplify their voices and stand up for their rights. This year, under the theme, “Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable”, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding Nigeria (WANEP- Nigeria) on behalf of its over 250 member organizations spread across the six geo political zones expresses deep concern over issues still besieging the girl child in Nigeria. Today issues like early marriage, female genital mutilation, education inequality, gender-based violence, low self-esteem, human trafficking, poor health and sanitation are some of the numerous problems that continue to pose challenges for girls.
WANEP–Nigeria, a network established to provide an organized platform for collaborative peacebuilding in Nigeria by indigenous Non- Governmental organizations working in the area of conflict, peace and security is particularly concerned over the increasing use of girls as tools of violence. Notably, the spate of violent conflicts spread across communities in the North East, North Central and North West geopolitical zones, remains worrisome with its negative impact on girls. Mirroring the North East geo-political zone, the Boko Haram insurgent group has continued to intensify attacks within communities in the BAY States – Bornu, Adamawa and Yobe.
Children particularly girls have been kidnapped, abused, used as machineries to convey weapons for the insurgents and as suicide bombers in densely populated urban centres. Community early warning reports validated by media reports have recorded devastating impact of the use of girls as suicide bombers in the ongoing insurgency in Nigeria. Major highlights include June 17, 2019 detonation of explosive at a community football viewing centre in Konduga, Bornu State by two girls and a boy which left 30 people dead and 40 others injured. This incident brings the number of children who have been used as human bombs to five, sine January 2019. In 2018, 48 children were used in suicide attacks with the number of girls placed at 38 within communities. 
Also, of great concern is the increasing number of out of school children in the country which hinders the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education. School participation remains a challenge across Nigeria, and obstacles are particularly severe in the northern states. In addition to issues of school access, family and school resources, as well as attitudes towards education, school attendance in northern Nigeria is impeded by the increasingly attacks by the extremism of Boko Haram. In Bornu State, feedback reports from the communities have revealed that majority of the out of school children particularly girls have taken to prostitution to survive with untold hardship and gender based violence. This has left a large number of girls traumatized and unable to speak out on the violence. If not nipped in the bud, this ultimately translates to a future with a higher number of women being illiterate, compared to men.
For girls to be unscripted and unstoppable, they need to break boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes, exclusion and conflict including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities. We commend the interventions of the Federal and State Governments as well as the efforts of the international community towards alleviating the plights of girls in Nigeria. However, we appeal to the state and non-state actors to synergize and implement strategies that are child friendly and focused at restoring peace to conflict prone areas in the country.
WANEP- Nigeria uses this platform to call for the protection and empowerment of girls as they are the women of tomorrow.
- State and non- state actors to partner with women groups and women focused civil society organisations in addressing the numerous problems that confront girls to bridge the gap to their dreams.
- The security agencies such as the Police, the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies to coordinate activities towards providing an integrated security framework that promotes civil-security relationship to adequately protect women and girls in conflict.
- Advocacy and Consultations with relevant state actors to enhance the adoption of the 2003 Child Rights Act, which domesticates the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Presently, 11 states in Northern Nigeria are yet to pass this law including Bornu and Yobe States.
- The establishment of Psychological counselling Centres to help girls heal from the trauma of conflict and make laudable contribution to the society.
- The establishment of rehabilitation centers within Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps for girls where they are taught vocational skills, peace education, human rights and other re- integration programmes. This will provide a safe space for girls to develop their potentials.
- The convening of a “National Conference on Girls in Conflict Situations”. The views of key stakeholders including the government, civil society organizations, international organizations, the media and girl survivors will be incorporated in a National Plan of Action on Child Protection in conflict areas across Nigeria.
WANEP reiterates her call for the empowerment of girls to mold them into becoming a stronger and more confident force in future.
October 15, 2019