PROJECTION OF THE GIRL-CHILD IN NIGERIAN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
A STUDY OF SELECTED WORKS OF AKACHI ADIMORA-EZEIGBO AND MABEL SEGUN
The thrust of this dissertation examines the projection of the girl-child in Nigerian children‟s literature, using Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo‟s The Prize and Seyi’s Strong Voice alongside Mabel Segun‟s My Father’s Daughter and My Mother’s Daughter. The research aims at exploring new ways to reintegrate the girl-child into private and public sphere that is devoid of stereotype and under representation. As a result of this, liberal feminist theory is used to question the underline assumption of the projection of girl-child in the Nigerian children‟s literature. This research employs the use of qualitative research method of gathering information. This method enables the researcher to discover that the manner in which the girl-child is portrayed has either positive or negative impact on the child reader’s approach, consciousness, perception and disposition of gender appropriate behaviour. In addition, it is discovered that children who are very impressionable should be exposed early in life to the kind of literature that is aimed at bringing out the best in the girl-child irrespective of cultural background or upbringing. However, this research provides alternative role models who can inspire the child-reader to be productive and adopt an egalitarian attitude. Furthermore, that children‟s literature is a powerful tool used to create improving social awareness regarding the girl-child‟s ability and potentials. To this end, this research projects that the girl-child is also an indispensable being that could contribute toward the positive development of the Nigerian nation.
The place of a girl-child in the Nigerian society has influenced literary interest. This is why, some scholars and writers like Adimora-Ezeigbo, Segun Mabel, Ameh Teresa Oyibo, among others have continued to express interest in themes that border on the representation of the girl-child in the Nigerian children‟s literature. In line with the mimetic demands on literature, Nigerian children‟s literature often depicts the social limitations that the children are confronted with especially on the basis of gender roles prescribed by the society. Being a product of a patriarchal structure, most often, the girl-child is often imbued with varying experience(s) of discrimination. In recent times, there appears to be a gradual shift in the way and manner a girl-child is being treated. As a result of this, some Nigerian children’s literature writers, being a product of the society, reflect the girl-child shifting roles in their literary texts. As a current process, some writers of Nigerian children’s literature have adjusted their literary lenses to focus on alternative reading and presentation of the girl-child. This is brought into lime light through a creative rejection of underrepresentation and marginalisation of the girl-child’s character and capabilities.
Issues that surround the maltreatment of the girl-child in the Nigerian children’s literature have become prevalent fields that need to be taken into consideration. These motifs indirectly have impact on the development of “new” Nigerian children’s literature. In line with this discovery, there is an on-going quest by some writers of Nigerian children‟s literature to portray the girl-child in a new light. This research taps into this on-going quest to examine the projection of girl-child in Nigerian children’s literature, by drawing inferences from selected works of Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo and Mabel Segun.
The interest of this research stems from the understanding that children are intelligent, thoughtful and tactical human beings who often have insight into the world around them. Hunt (2005:1-2) posits that just as children‟s books do not exist in a vacuum (they have real, argumentative readers and visible, practical, consequential uses)…childhood is an important phase in our lives (as is almost universally acknowledged), and that children are vulnerable, susceptible, and must be protected from manipulation. The words of Hunt buttresses the fact that, literature is not left out of the several endeavours that shape the life of a child. It regularly reflects culture, norms and traditions of any particular society it seeks to project to the child-reader. This could be easily carried out through the use of simple languages, illustrations and pictures. These forestalled tools can easily make a child identify with the girl-child in children’s literary texts. In addition, children’s literature is a genre that is instrumental in challenging the hegemonic views of the girl-child. It embroils projecting the girl-child in divergent ways. This is made visible through what children read and see in the course of reading their literature(s).
Nigerian children’s literature consistently shapes the thinking or view of Nigerian children towards the girl (ren) gender. It develops them into a strong and competent member(s) of the Nigerian society. As such, there is the need for an early exposure of a child-reader to new trends in showcasing the potentials of the girl-child. This will aid the child-reader to find suitable role model(s) and change thinking pattern. All aforesaid indicate that, it is important to consider how children’s literature writers have tried to carve out emerging roles for the girl-child. Hence, the place and importance of the girl-child within the context of Nigerian children’s literature is a matter that requires a critical look.
1.2 Background to the Study
Children’s literature in Nigeria may be described as a male-centred art. This could be partly true because, most early Nigerian children’s literature describe the roles of the girl-child sometimes as, silent, played down and deprived. These attributes are painted with the use of undesirable imagery, illustrations and dictions. This research delves into mainstream children’s literature to capture broken images of the girl-child that are discriminatory and marginalising.
The Beijing‟s Declaration and Platform for Action (1995:166) attests to the discriminatory and marginalised roles of the girl-child that:
In many countries, available indicators show that the girl child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood… girls are often treated as inferior and are socialised to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream…
The above quotation buttresses the fact that from time immemorial the girl-child is faced with discrimination and treated as inferior at different stages in life. This is also applicable and traceable to the Nigerian society and its children‟s literature. The Nigerian girl-child is being treated as inferior and regarded as a second-class citizen in various phases of life. This ranges from private to public sphere. These discriminations and image of inferiority tend to undermine her self-esteem and worth, thereby having an adverse effect on her personality. Some of these adverse effect include deprivation and marginalisation. Sometimes, these mannerisms could create exclusion from social, political, economic, cultural and religious activities of the Nigerian society. These traits are incorporated into children’s literature. Consequently, these negative attributes and maltreatment of the girl-child might have adverse effect on the child-reader. Thereby promoting a variety of conflicting or confusing messages and illustrations about the role of a girl-child.