October 11th was declared International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations General Assembly on December 19, 2011. It was created to resolve the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
UNESCO highlights that adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during critical formative years but also as they mature into women.
Therefore, this day was carved out specifically for the girl child because of the unequal gender-based discrimination they face. It’s easy to see why this is a necessity when we consider areas such as access to education, legal rights, nutrition, medical care, protection from discrimination, gender-based violence and forced child marriage.
- It is estimated that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
- According to global statistics, just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45%), urban girls (59%) and urban boys (60%)
- Every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20%. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.
- Girl's deficits in education have long-term implications for family well-being and poverty reduction.
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child
- Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls
- Promote and protect the rights of the girl child and increase awareness of her needs and potential
- Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training
- Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition
- Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect young girls at work
- Eradicate violence against the girl child
- Promote the girl child’s awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life
- Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of the girl child
2020 was supposed to be the year we looked back on the achievements made towards gender equality, and a time to kick things up a gear. The outlook, however is grim, and the pandemic seems to have extensively impacted the progress that has been made so far.
Keeping the promises made to girls in Beijing in 1995
In 1995 the Fourth World Conference on Women brought about the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: which is the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality.
This year UN human rights experts are using this day to call on governments to keep the promises they made to girls 25 years ago. They promised to take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against girls, provide equal opportunities, promote and safeguard girls’ rights, eliminate economic exploitation and empower girls socially, politically and culturally.
By now, they had vowed to facilitate “an enabling environment where the spiritual, intellectual and material needs for the survival, protection and development of girls are met.”
The call to government is renewed because COVID-19 has reminded us of the existing vulnerabilities, inequalities and discrimination girls face. The global lockdown has increased educational and economic gaps as well as the levels of gender-based violence, child marriage and early pregnancy. In fact, the restrictions on health services to cater to the pandemic have caused an even greater decline in SRH services, negatively impacting girls at a time when GBV and sexual exploitation are at a high.
School closures and the digital divide is making it worse, because obviously, the bulk of learners cannot attend online classes. This takes a toll on the progress that has been made in the education of girls around the world.
'Overall, about 11 million girls might not return to school this year, adding to the 130 million who were already out of school before the pandemic.'
It has not been a good year for progress, and the UN’s recommitment is needed now more than ever if we are to recover the gains lost and move even further in the journey to equal rights and freedoms.
How are you, as a girl, dealing with being home from school?