You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

McAsh's Thoughts

June 17, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 8:46 am


Behind every successful man is a woman, they say. She is the engine that propelled the success, but has been relegated to the behind. The state of inequality the women folk suffer is more than cultural, it is systemic. It is my experience growing up in Nigeria, that socio-cultural and domestic role play allot lots of chores to girls and less tedious ones to boys, on the pretext that the boy shall grow into a man and do all the work in the future. Lies. For a family like mine of 5 boys with no girl child, we had to import a girl-cousin to be the girl in the house in order to achieve the ying-yang equilibrium.

Isaac Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Since the opposite of girl is boy, it goes therefore that for every unfair treatment meted to a woman, there is a corresponding favouritism enjoyed by a man. This has gone on for so long that we would need more than 35% affirmative action to correct it.

With such a systematic though arbitrary background, I find it completely unjust that a man would review a book written in furtherance of the rights of women and the girl-child. That in itself is inequality! But when I realized that the Author/Editor-in-Chief is a man as well, I was quick to pick my pen and pay my own part of the price.

One other reason I could not reject this call is the personality of the honouree. Ignore the fact that we hail from the same town and she is my Big Auntie. She is by a long length the most relevant and impactful wife of the Vice-President of Nigeria in history, and I make bold to say of any country in Africa. It was when I had to study the activities of WOTCLEF at the Harvard Berkman Centre for Internet and Society in 2012 in conjunction with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government while at the Harvard Law School on the fight against child and human trafficking that I knew she is just a prophet with little honour in her home. That is why I associate with this move to honouring Her Excellency, and will do it over again because I know that if it was a man that had done half of what she has done, no airwave spectrum would be spared in singing his praises.

That said, let us commence our ride in earnest. It’s no roller-coaster, rest assured. Rather, it has the finesse of a goddess, reeks with feminine grace, a soulful glide with a silky touch. It’s a journey I had the privilege of taking before you, so let me to be the tour guide.

Our Pilot-in-Chief, Abayomi Okubote Esq, has provided the most efficient medium for this journey: A Porsche Cayene (I love Porsche) of five gears. In the first stretch of this journey, which is the Introductory part of the book, he introduces us to the realities and basis or causes of the inequality and discrimination faced by the girl-child, in what seems to be like all facets of her life, and the need for laws to be made on the recognition of women and the girl child’s rights as part of human rights.

When I engaged the first gear, which is the first chapter of the book, I could not ignore the generality and the fundamental nature of the concept it covers: human rights. The author maintains that human rights are universal, interdependent and indivisible. May I add that human rights are multigender. Human Rights is one of the few theories which provides no discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

Also in this chapter, the Editor-In-Chief gives a brief history of the struggle of women, both internationally and in the pre-colonial Nigeria, examining her desire to gain recognition, especially politically, from the state.

The various forms of discrimination against women were then next considered. The author raised issues in the definition of discrimination and violence against women and the girl child. One issue which caught my attention is the manner with which domestic violence is handled in Nigeria – as a private matter or family affair. The author showed concerns about the workability of the country’s approach to violence, since violence against women does not fit readily into the human right framework but within the domestic or private realm. Our law enforcement agencies are not helping matters either. Maybe by the time men start running to Police Stations to be rescued from their wives in the middle of the night, they will understand that no gender has the monopoly of domestic violence.

The author took it one gear up by examining the legal protection of human rights. A skim through this chapter will surely answer some of the most pertinent questions such as, “What causes inequality?” “How can true equality be derived?” “What is the main aim or final goal of the struggle for the recognition and acceptance of the human rights of women?” Betraying his chalkboard talents, the author addressed these issues with the aid of decided cases, statutory authorities, instruments and mechanisms that have been made and set up to protect the rights of women and the girl child.

Perhaps still worried about the state of the Chibok girls, our Pilot-in-Chief cum author devotes the following chapter to the concept of the girl-child right. By examining the definition and indefinite status of the girl child, the author explains in detail the various rights of the girl child, especially the right to education and non-discrimination from her male counterpart.

International regimes and national legislations such as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, Convention on Rights of the Child as well as the Matrimonial Causes Act were also considered as legal frame work for the protection and enforcement of the rights of the girl child in Nigeria. Before concluding this chapter, the author did not fail to itemize the various forms of domestic, traditional, and socio-cultural practices that militate against the girl child and enhances discrimination against her. One ravaging practice is the Female Genital Mutilation which, even in this 21st century, is still being practiced in some parts of the world.

Apart from highlighting the roles which government and non-governmental bodies have and should play in upholding the right of the girl child, the author also has a few maintenance tips on practical approaches to the protection of the rights of the girl in order to keep the wheels and their bearings oiled.

Different strokes for different folks, they say. But why are laws for women’s rights different from those of the girl-child? This is what the author dedicated the fifth and final chapter of this book to, as he examines how the conventions on women and those on the children, especially the girl child, complement each other. Bodies and mechanisms that have been set up to monitor compliance with the human right treaties on the rights of the girl child were also brought under the author’s beam light.

The author feels strongly that the inequality and discrimination faced by a woman starts from when she is a girl child and as such the actions that need to be taken to remedy her situation and stand in the society should as a matter of necessity also start from her childhood. I agree with him totally, for, as the saying goes, you achieve much success in felling an iroko tree when it is still a stalk, for when it is fully grown, it becomes a stand-alone forest. It is in the light of this reasoning that the author dedicates the final part of the book to providing the readers with the principal national and international legal instruments of the rights of women and the girl child. Some of the instruments examined include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Fourth World Conference on Women (otherwise known as the Beijing Declaration) and United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, to mention a few.

The ride is not without a hitch here and there. Blame the road situation if you will. This book is therefore not without a few shortcomings, one or two which would be highlighted here. A book on such important topic should leave no room for ambiguity but the author left the issue of a married girl child begging the question. What is the position of a girl child who is married off before she becomes an adult and the husband dies before she becomes an adult, especially in relation to property and inheritance? The author made mention of this issue on the surface but did not say more or enough on the matter to make the reader very clear and well learned on the issue.

Again, the chapters and parts of the book seem muddled up and may lead to some confusion to the reader. There is no clear cut demarcation in the chapters as to which chapter is dedicated to the woman’s right and which chapter is dedicated to the girl child’s right as each of the chapters seem to somehow end up discussing both women’s right and girl-child’s right. Did our Pilot-In-Chief misread the GPS map? Or is he saying both rights are one and the same? At this stage, I invite you to be the judge.

I thereby recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the protection of the rights of the girl, and the woman she will become – perhaps all persons of all walks of life should get a copy to appreciate the woman in their lives and what the law says about her rights. Because, if what is good for the goose is good for the gander, what is good for the gander must also be good for the goose.

Thank you.
David ‘Diya Ashaolu, LL.M (Harvard)



November, 2014