The energy in the room was so strong; children will always be one of the wonders of the world! From the start of the event to its end, the female students expressed boundless excitement. Their eyes widened with interest and their pens moved swiftly over their notes as I reeled out one story after another. They were so eager to answer whatever questions I dropped intermittently during my presentation.
To mark this year’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, I had been asked to come and address all the female students in a secondary school and those in the upper primary school of a leading school on Lagos Mainland.
In the course of the engagement with the students, they were asked to name their mentors. While some three or four students mentioned their mothers as their mentors, the rest of them mentioned the names of numerous entertainers from the West. There was no attempt to query or interrogate the reason for the selection of these individuals whom these children have never met as their mentors but the mere attempted association with these cultural influencers is very significant. They live so far away from these children but through technology and the internet, their works have been brought so close to these children and caused them to regard them very highly.
I suppose a similar scenario might play out if the question were crafted differently and the girls were asked to broaden their list of ‘mentors’ to include Nigerian entertainers.
It is instructive that in recommending some ‘Ways to get involved’ in marking the International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations suggested four options. The last suggestion formed the anchor for the three stories I shared with the girls. The suggestion states as follows: “Amplify your commitment to raising awareness about and addressing factors that hold girls in your country and region back.”
Here is where the rubber meets the road: these innocent girls who have conferred their admiration on these cultural icons and selected them as their mentors and who typically ‘consume’ every offering from them without any kind of sieve, deserve some intentional consideration from these cultural icons.
Most of these innocent girls do not know the difference between the performer and the individual behind the performance. They assume they are the same. And they assume that whatever ‘acts’ are put out there by their ‘mentors’ are acceptable, normal, and worthy of emulation. Unfortunately, most adults know that is not the case. There is no question that some of these ‘acts’ have been emulated by many innocent girls who have suffered devastating consequences in the process. These ‘acts,’ are some of the factors that are holding some girls in our country and our region back because of how their unintended consequences typically disrupt the life of many girls and make them unable to attain heights they could easily have attained but for the interruption.