Panelists at a roundtable discussion organized by a non-governmental organisation, Linda Hope Initiative Foundation In Abuja on Saturday have fingered sexual assault, economic deprivation, forced marriage, misunderstanding by parents as cardinal in the plethora of challenges African teenage girls face in the contemporary society. 

This is even as they lament lack of punitive measures against identified culprits by law enforcement agencies, which according to them has emboldened sexual predators, rapists and pedophiles to continue in their nefarious trade. 

Linda Hope Initiative Foundation had brought together the panelists as a matter of deliberate efforts to identify, examine and proffer solutions to challenges the girl child in Africa is faced with in an effort to maximize her potentials for nation building. 

The panel made up of Alfreda Francis, Chika Philip-Ogo and Hon. Bernard Mikko also had two teenagers in attendance 

The panel discussion had as its theme, "Existential Challenges Teenage African Girls Live With". 

At executive summary of the discussion made available to our correspondent, the panelists insist that sexual assault against the teenage girls comes with a lot of stigma associated with it along with the psychological trauma the victims live with for many part of their life. 

They also pointed out that economic deprivation is a challenge that leaves them with no option than resort to prostitution, while also adding that forced marriage, and misunderstanding by parents are consequences of cultural dissonance. 

The summary partly reads, "Sexual assault was identified as a rampant phenomenon that remains inadequately addressed from the perspective of law enforcement and holding perpetrators accountable. The teenagers on the panel pointed out the trauma and stigma associated with sexual assault, and the injurious effects of this trauma on the psychological well being of the victim. Child sexual abuse was acknowledged as a particularly heinous crime with everlasting damage to victims. Panelists shared knowledge of the histories of many victims who became promiscuous and prostitutes in their teen years.

"Economic deprivation makes it difficult to make ends meet. This condition made it easy for young women to be lured into compromising situations inimical to healthy relationships and self esteem. Many are blackmailed and sucked into subsequent worse situations. Others turn to prostitution to survive. The view was expressed about forced marriage often arising out of unwanted pregnancy. Parents, motivated to avert the shame associated with having a child out of wedlock, goad their pregnant daughter into marriage. The panel was unanimous in agreeing that this was not the best approach to deal with a daughter’s unwanted pregnancy. 

"Parent-daughter misunderstanding may be attributable to cultural dissonance, a state of being characterized by differing views about values and certain social behaviors, which cause conflict between parent and daughter. Globalization and the influence of social media contribute to the cultural dissonance. It was pointed out that African parents tend to be conservative and heavily disciplinarian."

The audience were also not left out as they align with the panelists that there ought to be a better and stricter enforcement of the laws on sexual assault such that perpetrators are held fully accountable. 

In addition to making available professional therapists for victims of sexual Assault, the panel and contributors were also in agreement that empowerment programs be provided for young women. 

This they believe will make young women less prone to being enticed into compromising situations

Reasonable application of discipline and love in parent-daughter relationships to encourage self esteem and confidence was also spotted as a key factor in solving the problems teenage girls face in Africa. 

The panel concluded with an an urge to parents reduce cultural dissonance by seeking to understand their daughters better, and work towards a middle ground.

The panel was hosted by the founder of Linda Hope Initiative Foundation, Linda Turner while Prof. Matthew Uzukwu served as co-host.



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