UNDERSTANDING THE POWER OF A GIRL CHILD
- WHO IS A GIRL CHILD
- THE NEED FOR A FAMILY
- SOCIETAL MISREPRESENTATION OF A GIRL CHILD
- DANGERS OF IGNORANCE ( PARENTING )
- REJECTION AND ACCEPTANCE
- POWER OF A GIRL CHILD
I. WHO IS A GIRL CHILD ? :
II. THE NEED FOR A FAMILY :
Every adult problem is a child problem left unresolved. Every societal problem can be traced back to the family. For further elucidation on this topic, we would define the family and unfold why it is an integral element for the exploitation of the distinct qualities inherent in a girl child and the most critical factor for equality.
A childhood experience can birth a lifetime persuasion and philosophy. The role of the family in the life of a girl child cannot be trivialized. Parents must show good examples of how they live and communicate with each other. Traditions and customs that advocate the superiority of the male child over the female child should never be tolerated as a view. The girl child must be treated justly and fairly, without any form of bias or prejudice. She must not be constrained to any sort of role or responsibility based on gender, but rather, an effort must be made to make her a well-rounded, adaptable woman. She should be made aware of the various advantages of having a quality education. A mother who can communicate strength and values from a perspective of confidence rather than pride must be a role model. The girl child should be taught cautiously how to make and keep a home. It is important that she makes herself constantly available to learn diverse house chores and responsibilities. The family must assist her in learning the practice of good hygiene. The girl child should be confident in discussing issues with her parents. She must have parents who are readily available to listen to her, especially on sensitive issues such as the various natural changes (puberty) happening in her body, which have often been less talked about by parents. This is a necessary responsibility for parents to discuss, regardless of how uncomfortable it might seem. It is also critical that she gets such information from her parents rather than her peers or the internet because most of the sources of the information might not be reliable and could cause damage to her. She should be taught to love herself and value her contributions. The family should guide her toward self-awareness rather than self-consciousness. The family must be a source of hope and confidence for her at all times. Parents must help her recognize the need to be self-sufficient, thereby planting a desire in her to be productive. She should be nurtured with respect and honor. She must not be limited or discouraged but rather motivated and supported when she seems hell-bent on pursuing a particular vocation, especially one that is predominantly seen and occupied by the male gender. She must be inspired and passionately encouraged by her family.
A girl child who has received such tutelage and understanding of who she is and what she can do would go into society with no apprehension or sense of inferiority. The family is necessary for her self-image and confidence. The family is a potential asset or liability to the girl child. There is no substitution for the role of the family in instilling the foundational values and characters that help to shape the girl child into a strong, independent, and valuable asset to herself first and to society as a whole.
III. SOCIETAL MISREPRESENTATION AND INFLUENCE ON A GIRL CHILD :
Our society is a very critical factor in the development or destruction of a girl child. It is gradually becoming the norm for society to dictate values. As a result of these developments, there is so much pressure to receive validation from society in order to be esteemed and respected. These prevailing phenomena have led to diverse forms of social ills and regression. Society is gradually assuming the place and position of the family. The family has played a major role in leading to this jeopardy through its abdication of responsibility to society. Society's various misrepresentations and influences on the girl child are visible in almost every aspect of life. This is even more damning for a girl child coming from a destitute home.
Societal misrepresentation of the girl child cannot be understated. There are a lot of societal constructs and influences that have made it very difficult to harness the inherent qualities and potential of the girl child. We would like to enlist and explain some of these misrepresentations below.
- Tradition and customs -
This has been a very integral and recognized part of society and therefore cannot be abolished or said to be completely inconsequential. It is necessary to note that tradition and customs have played a positive role in the course of history amidst controversies and doom. We would discuss their misrepresentation and influence on the girl child in society.
If a poll is conducted among the young demographic of women for the abolition of traditions and customs, the majority of women will likely advocate for such legislation to be enacted. This is due to the disparity in equality and recognition that has been embedded in traditions and customs for centuries. Some third-world countries still have an antiquated view of the female gender, and this has translated over time into how they are treated and perceived, even right from childhood. Traditions and customs sell a certain narrative about the female gender that poses a significant threat to their consciousness, development, and output. In certain parts of the world, dowry payments are paid to the parents of the girl child at an early age of 8, which mandates her to abstain from every form of relationship with the opposite sex until she gets to a certain age where she goes to meet her mystery husband. These actions and procedures are conducted without her consent or approval. Her parents assume complete autonomy over her life and decisions, unable to envisage the looming disaster in exchange for money and, in some cases, full training and sponsorship of the girl child through high school or college. There have also been cases where women have been denied access to and complete ownership of their late husband's property because the tradition forbids women from ownership. These and a lot more are unfortunate obstacles that the girl child has no control over and, in essence, limit her effectiveness in all areas of life.
- Patriarchy -
This is an issue that has generated a lot of controversy over the years, and it is believed to be at the forefront of the segregation, discrimination, and prejudice that have limited the enormous potential of the girl child. "Patriarchy" is simply described as a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. This is a sensitive issue that, understandably, some segments of aggrieved females have had quite an extreme view on as a result of the historical dominance of the male gender and subjugation of the female. In my brief explanation of patriarchy and how it has affected the girl child, I hope to bring further clarity and balance to the subject.
- Gender stereotyping -
This is a societal stigma that has affected both the male and female genders. A gender stereotype is a generalized view or preconception about characteristics or attributes that ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. This is harmful to society because it limits the capacity to develop personal abilities, professional careers, and personal decisions. Some of these stereotypes are perfectly conditioned to look rational, but they propagate and perpetuate inequality and dominance of one gender.
Gender stereotyping has arguably affected the female gender more and has led to discrimination in society. For example, the female gender is singled out for her role in gender-based violence on account of "improper" dressing or "immodest" behavior. There is also the belief that women are generally expected to be polite and nurturing, while their male counterparts are expected to be bold and aggressive. This is prevalent in our society today and has inadvertently affected our subconscious mind to perceive and believe things in this regard. Research has shown that gender stereotyping prevents the female gender from aspiring high and making significant life decisions. In some instances, gender stereotyping can even cause the female gender to question their ability, despite having sufficient skills to succeed. Our beliefs about ourselves are important in shaping our decisions, so the female gender is more likely to shrug off attainable positions as a result of disbelief that was induced by an external factor that goes on to introduce limitations to her potential advancement and productivity.
Gender stereotyping can damage the inherent qualities dormant in a girl child by making her settle for what is generally accepted by society rather than what she could achieve without this limitation. Society must begin to encourage and create an environment that makes it possible for any and every gender to thrive, especially the girl child.
- The Trap Of Poverty -
A global prevalence with diverse social and economic effects. Poverty is a deprivation of the well-being of a person and comprises many dimensions. Low levels of health and education, inadequate physical security, violations of human rights, a lack of inclusion, susceptibility to violence, environmental pollution, natural disasters, and low or no access to income and credit loans are various dimensions of absolute and relative poverty that emasculate the girl child. Social factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability can aggravate issues of poverty, with children and women frequently bearing the loftier weights of poverty. Raising a girl child necessitates significant financial investment. Resources are necessary to mitigate and control the possibilities of failure, enable a fair and equal chance of succeeding, and increase her prospect of becoming a force in a male-dominated society. Poverty is a trap that eliminates options and choices. A girl child from a relatively wealthy background has so many of society's repulsive constructs to contend with; how much worse could it get for a girl child who has no advantage whatsoever? In a society where she is unable to receive a quality education, has no safe place to call home, is unable to access food and clean water, has no proper quality health care, and is vulnerable to prejudice and exploitation, she is twice as likely to never discover her potential as the girl child coming from an affluent background. Studies consistently show that lack of access to or completion of education as a result of low income, living in remote locations, or a disability directly affects a child's self-image. The stigmatization of living in poverty is detrimental to the well-being of the girl child and the development of her identity. The trap of poverty manifests itself in various ways. An inferiority complex, a result of a perception of deficiency in some area of life, can affect her mental state. She is full of negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and tendencies. There is no level playing field or support, so she never believes she can accomplish anything. The world keeps playing like a movie in her face; she is never an actor nor a contributor, and all she does is watch different movie scenes play out. She probably thinks the actors are more special and unique; unfortunately, poverty didn't give her a choice or a chance; she would have possibly played the lead role in the movie. The trap of poverty is disastrous; it creates isolation and rejection; it constantly keeps the girl child helpless and defenseless; and it drives enthusiasm and passion. There is strong evidence that growing up in poverty feeds back into the behaviors that increase the chance of poverty for the subsequent generation. Poverty can destroy her chances and create conditions for a generational cycle of hardship. The effect of poverty on the development and output of the girl child cannot be trivialized. Every measure to reduce poverty must be put in place to aid the cause of the innocent girl child who never chose to tread this path. Government policies that support economic freedoms and financial services must be prioritized. Free, quality education must be standardized and made a fundamental right for every child. Proper orientation and awareness of different challenges are necessary, especially on the issues regarding the dangers of early marriage and the effects of a lack of productivity. Promoting inclusiveness and equality in every area of society. These and a lot more can redeem the girl child from the limitations enshrouded in the trap of poverty.
- The role of the media -
As a society, we must not fail to acknowledge and appreciate the positive contribution the media has made, which has aided our advancement and development. In today's modern society, the media is the primary source of information and awareness. Security, health, food, entertainment, production, etc. are all relevant sectors of our society, and the effective conveying of valuable information from the various sectors has been possible because of the availability and functionality of the media. Unfortunately, it has not come without consequences. Its negative impact on the girl child cannot be downplayed. Information from the media is being relayed through various mediums and sources. As a result of this phenomenon, it is more difficult for parents and guardians to regulate what the child sees, hears, and acts upon at all times. What we see and hear most of the time forms a large part of our convictions and beliefs. Our beliefs and convictions are responsible for our character and attitudes toward life.
The media unfortunately cannot be regulated to fit only a certain narrative or demography of people because it is a vast and complex platform that is available for every kind of person. We would like to enlist and explain below some of the negative effects of the media on the girl child.
1. Objectification and exploitation of the female gender -
The media has normalized dominance and aggression against the female gender by constantly showcasing them as objects of pleasure. They are hardly portrayed without their physical appearance and sexuality playing a significant role in their self-evaluation. Advertisements, music, videos, and movies dehumanize girls and women and portray them as commodities. They are used to market every kind of product, ranging from fashion to health to even automobiles. This has had severe consequences for the mental health of the girl child. She perceives that her physical beauty is a measure of the amount of love and power she should receive, putting immense pressure on her to conform to conventional beauty standards. She becomes overly concerned about how others may perceive her physical appearance. Girls who see objectifying behavior in the media may be more likely to self-objectify. This is a result of an increasing acceptance of the obscenity of the media in a system that largely embraces materialism and objectification. Unfortunately, this has aided the male gender's perception and view of the female gender. They internalize the message of objectification, and it influences their subconscious biases, hence the continuous debate on gender inequality and patriarchy. It is increasingly unlikely that this stigma will go away because of the enormous finances and fortunes it generates and its effectiveness in delivering desired results.
2. Cyber-bullying and the pressure to fit in -
There is a non-existent or imaginary pressure in the social media space where everyone, mostly young people, desires approval and is eager to be recognized among the numerous people on the platform. The level of dishonesty and inauthentic lifestyles on social media cannot be overstated. Young people who are easily affected by what they see can become victims of this occurrence by trying to live above their means or imitating a lifestyle that is beyond their reach. A girl child who is still growing and trying to understand herself can fall into this devastating trap and start to believe that she is missing out or being left behind. This can affect her mental health and tarnish her self-image. In some cases where they are disapproving of her and her contributions, it could lead to anxiety and depression. She suddenly starts to believe that a certain level of height in society is not attainable. Such experiences can have a very long and lasting effect on her perception of herself and the world. Cyber-bullying is also prevalent in the social media space. The girl child needs to have a very strong perception of herself to not be affected by the cruelty and bullying that are dominant in the space. Such attacks frequently leave deep psychological scars and, in some cases, may cause unnecessary harm. There have also been reported cases of suicide among teens. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide rates among children between the ages of 10 and 14 are very low but are gradually creeping up.
The media and technology have changed the way we live, work, and socialize, but they can't replace parenting. Therefore, parents must take responsibility to put specific measures in place to regulate the excessive use of social media or develop a strategy to always keep the girl child inspired, regardless of what she hears or sees in the media. The media has brought a lot of benefits to our society, but unfortunately, they have come at a cost.
IV. DANGERS OF IGNORANCE ( PARENTING ) :
Ignorance is simply the absence of information. Ignorance is costly and sometimes does not present another opportunity to set things right. This has been one of the principal reasons for the constant failure that is evident in the role and contribution of the girl child in society. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscious stupidity." Wrong information can also be classified as ignorance because it is purposeless and impractical. Ignorance itself is neither immoral nor displeasing, but acting on that ignorance can be both. It is the actions resulting from the implications derived from ignorance that lead to harm. Willfully ignoring useful and practicable information is negligence and imprudence. Information and knowledge do not come to us voluntarily. It is a desire and commitment, coupled with our efficient use of time that relevant knowledge is garnered. We must also acknowledge that, depending on what is ignored, ignorance can be relatively harmless or safe.
V. REJECTION AND ACCEPTANCE :
The society that we live in has regrettably initiated non-negotiable conditions that must be met by the girl child before she becomes relevant to herself and society. Social misrepresentations have played a pivotal role in the emergence of this phenomenon. The girl child is constantly fighting a battle for acceptance in her society. With her enormous potential, skills, and capabilities, she remains unqualified for whatever position she desires. She is considered based on her physical appearance rather than her intellect. She is never valued for her contribution but rather for her attractiveness. Because of the possibility of what she could become, her potential is deliberately never allowed to fully develop. Male dominance is widely accepted and seen as the norm, so a potential female threat is quickly truncated. She is made to believe that a certain class or position in life does not accept her gender. The normalcy of male dominance has unfortunately been instilled in her subconscious mind, so she limits her aspirations and desires to fit into the constructed place that society has made. She is rejected not because she is incapable or impeded by society; she is rejected because she limited herself to society's construct. Unfortunately, there is a hefty price for her acceptance into society, and her unconditional, unwavering, and resolute will is the antidote for a male-dominated society. The ones who are unwilling to pay the hefty price risk rejection and then go on to become subservient to the misrepresentation of the female gender in society.
A girl child who must go on to achieve the monumental task of withstanding and decimating barriers and social constructs must be mentally strong and intellectually sound. She must be willing to face unprecedented battles. She must not be afraid of failing. She must be able to show courage in the face of adversity, regardless of the outcome. She must solely set her eyes on the price until it is achieved. She must be ready to face the harassment and subtle embarrassment that society has been unable to prevent. She must care more about being respected than being liked. She must be a steady learner, which helps her become more confident, valuable, and indispensable. She must identify the people and the environment where she is supported and build a network around them. She must maintain her positive attitude by focusing on her previous victories rather than her losses. She should seek to become a person of character and integrity. She must break free from the trap of comparison and competition and realize her true worth. She must be able to strategize and map out concise plans, which she would duly follow in achieving a set task. She must activate and exercise completely the human will that is present in her. This is critical because humans have the ability to make decisions regardless of the outcome. The former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Benjamin Disraeli, stated that "nothing can resist the human will that will stake even its existence on its stated purpose." Hence, the outcome of acceptance and rejection lies in the decisions she can strongly uphold. This is a daunting task and must be accomplished by a dauntless girl child.
VI. POWER OF A GIRL CHILD :
The girl child who can circumvent these gigantic and intimidating obstacles will become a force to be reckoned with in society. This is evident throughout history, where women have risen to the highest and most enviable positions in society amidst the disadvantages and difficulties that are present in our male-dominated society. Because of the rarity of such a unique achievement and occurrence in our society, she undoubtedly and deservedly becomes a role model to many other oppressed girl children in society. Her accomplishments cannot be trivialized. She has achieved a unique task without identifying, associating with, or submitting herself to the societal norms and prerequisites that have been set by a male-dominated society. She is her own woman: powerful, fearless, and compassionate. She has surrounded herself with systems and structures that were consolidated throughout the struggle. She has become an emblem of light and hope that resonates with the common woman, who has already started to believe and accept society's constructed beliefs and views about the female gender.
The girl child who evaded hurdles has ultimately become a powerful woman in society and, throughout the years, developed empathy and compassion as a result of the harsh and unfavorable conditions. She is now able to understand the fundamental problems facing the female gender, and she then begins to initiate measures to mitigate the devastating effects of women's subjugation in society. She has risen to prominence, and her voice is being heard and respected. With her status and influence, she can create an environment that could produce many other powerful women in society.
There are many examples of such women who have risen to unprecedented heights and have made huge contributions to different areas of life and society. We would like to highlight two of these powerful women and their accomplishments below.
1. Marie Curie, 1867-1934 :
She was born in Warsaw, in Congress Poland, in the Russian Empire. She is the fifth and youngest child born to well-known teachers. Her paternal and maternal families lost fortunes and properties through patriotic investments aimed at restoring Poland's independence. This affected the subsequent generations, including Marie and her siblings. Marie's parents had to improvise to be able to sustain the family after they lost money on a bad investment. Marie's mother died of tuberculosis when she was only 10 years old. Discrimination against women was prevalent in those days, so she was unable to enroll in a regular institution of higher education because she was a woman. Marie's sister, who had earlier gotten married and moved to France, invited her to join them in Paris. She joined her sister in Paris, where she continued her studies in physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the University of Paris. It was said that Marie focused so hard on her studies that sometimes she forgot to eat. She was awarded two degrees in physics and later began working in an industrial laboratory. She met her soon-to-be husband, Pierre Curie, at the university; their mutual interest and passion for natural science brought them together. They both went on to discover new elements, "polonium," which was named after her native Poland, and "radium," which is known as radioactivity. After the death of her husband, she raised a small fortune in the US and Europe to fund laboratories and develop cancer treatments. She was awarded various honors and degrees, even though sometimes she wasn't allowed to speak at events because she was a woman. She became the first woman to be awarded a Nobel prize and the first person to win or share two Nobel prizes. Her student also became the first woman elected to membership in the academy after Marie lost out by two votes in her previous bid to be elected into the academy. She was known for her honesty and modesty. She insisted that monetary gifts and awards be given to the scientific institutions she was affiliated with rather than to her. She faced so much opposition and criticism. She was vilified by sections of the press as a foreigner and an atheist. Marie later went on to procure x-ray equipment and develop radiography units during the First World War that were used to treat wounded soldiers. Her physical and societal work contributed to shaping the world of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She had to overcome barriers in both her native and adoptive countries that were placed in her way because she was a woman. She didn't let society's construct of women limit her beliefs and convictions. She rose to the top and most enviable position through dogged determination and mental capacity. She has become an icon in the scientific world and has received enormous tributes across the globe. Various entities have also been named in her honor, and numerous biographies are devoted to her to this day. She has demonstrated to her society and the world at large the enormous potential residing in the girl child and the indisputable power of a woman.
2. Oprah Winfrey, 1954 - Present :
TV host, business mogul, and philanthropist born to a single mother who worked as a housemaid. Oprah lived the first six years of her life in rural poverty with her maternal grandmother. Her grandmother was so poor that Oprah often wore dresses made of potato stacks, for which other children made fun of her. She remained with her grandmother, who taught her how to read before the age of 3, although she was said to be abusive towards Oprah. At 6 years old, Oprah went to live with her mother, who was less supportive and encouraging than her grandmother, largely as a result of the long hours her mother worked as a maid. Things got worse to the extent that Oprah's mother, who gave birth to a third daughter, had to put the child up for adoption to ease the financial stress that was solely upon her. On one of Oprah's episodes of her TV show on sexual abuse, she announced that she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and family friend, starting when she was 9 years old, although she was not believed when she reportedly first made this known to her family members. She once commented that she had chosen not to be a mother because she had not been mothered well. At age 13, she reportedly ran away from home after suffering what she describes as years of abuse. At 14, she became pregnant, but her son was born prematurely and died shortly after birth. Oprah attended a high school where she became an honors student and was voted the most popular girl. At 17, Oprah won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant and an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically black institution, where she studied communication. Oprah was then sent to live with her father, where she landed a job in radio while still in high school. She was a co-anchor for the local evening news. Her often emotional and impromptu deliveries eventually led to her transfer to the daytime talk show arena. She later launched her own production company after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place. In 1993, Oprah hosted a rare primetime interview with Michael Jackson, which became the fourth-most-watched event in American television history as well as the most-watched interview ever. Oprah became a millionaire at the age of 32 when her talk show received national syndication. She replaced Bill Cosby as the only African American woman on the Forbes 400 at the age of 41.As of 2014, Oprah had a net worth of over $2.9 billion and had overtaken former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America. Oprah was called "arguably the world's most powerful woman" by CNN and TIME. In 2005, she was named the greatest woman in American history as part of a public poll of "The Greatest Americans." She was ranked ninth overall on the list of the greatest Americans. Her opinion and endorsement, especially to influence public opinion and consumer purchasing choices, were so effective that they coined the term "the Oprah Effect" after her. She was involved in numerous philanthropic works, particularly in education and humanitarian causes, and she received numerous awards for her generosity. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. Her success story looks glossy and enviable, but it did not come without a fight. She never put her success in the hands of fate and spoke about things she considered fundamental when climbing the ladder. She was able to attain success and influence despite a brutal childhood.
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