Girls are the future of the world and it is time the discrimination they face is understood, corrected and ultimately prevented
“On International Day of the Girl (11 October) we remain committed to providing what we all want for our daughters: a future of limitless possibility”
– Barack Obama
The history of the gender equity movement is centuries old and includes changes in how women were represented intellectually, politically, socially and economically. As far back as the first five centuries AD, women’s inferiority to men was justified by their physiological weakness.
The views of Greek philosopher and medical doctor Galen (AD 129-200) justified the mostly held dominant view that women were physiologically, intellectually and spiritually inferior to men. Even today centuries later, the position of women in the society in many countries around the world has not changed much.
UNICEF recognises the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination as central to the consideration of gender equality and believes that gender-based discrimination is one of the most ubiquitous forms of discrimination that children face. In order to promote equal outcomes for girls and boys, the international body advocates efforts to contribute to poverty reduction through result-oriented, effective and well-coordinated action plans.UNICEF’s Gender Action Plan (GAP) 2014-2017 specifies how the organisation will promote gender equality across all of its work in alignment with its Strategic Plan 2014-2017. The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is central focus.
Photo caption: Lil Shira presenting at the CSW
Education is the key that unlocks many doors for not only does it sustain human values but is also the foundation for learning and critical thinking. Education is the only way a girl can be an informed citizen and have her voice heard in society.It would also provide girls with the skills to become more self-reliant and endowing them with the knowledge to manage their health and well being.
A study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau stated that only three out five girls received primary education when compared to the three out four boys. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines education as a universal human right and so the differences however minor have to be eliminated. Article 21 of the Indian Constitutionalso clearly states that girls and boys have an equal opportunity to attend school from the age of six to fourteen, and that primary education is a fundamental right.
Girls are also often pulled out of school to take on domestic responsibilities and they are less able to advocate for themselves and their rights. CARE is an organization that works to help girls’ complete primary education through accelerated learning methodology by providing them support to enhance the quality of learning. They help nurture leadership skills amongst girls and offer alternative education opportunities for women and girls who have never been enrolled or have dropped out early from school.
When women have a voice there can be changes made to existing laws changing the future for young girls too. Child marriage is another great impediment. Girls who are married early often face a cascade of many human rights violations and are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. Child marriages are often followed by pregnancy even when a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready for it. Educated girls are more likely to delay marriage and pregnancy. Studies show that with secondary schooling, girls are almost six times less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education.
Following an extensive campaign by Plan, United Nations declared 11 October as the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’. “By designating 11 October as Day of the Girl we are all agreeing to put a special focus on the rights of girls throughout the world. We know that in many countries girls get left behind in all areas of life from school to work and many are prevented from fulfilling their true potential by severe discrimination and prejudice,” said Nigel Chapman, Chief Executive Officer of Plan.
Photo caption: Leymah Gbowee
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, said, “I think the International Day of the Girl Child would be a great day for the issues of the girl child to be brought to light for media institutions, for government institutions, and for educational institutions to take the time to think: Girls are the future of the world and we definitely need a day dedicated to their issues.”
Girls around the world face double discrimination due to their gender and age, and are the most marginalised and discriminated group across the globe. Let us all work together to ensure that this new World Day will aid the prioritisation and promotion of girls’ rights in the coming decades because girls’ progress is good not only for girls, but also for families, communities and society at large. This thought echoes in the words of Lil Shira, a young woman from Cameroon who was among a Plan-supported delegation of girls at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. “Girls,” she said, “are being neglected, marginalised, and discriminated in families and society. Most of the girls are ignorant about their rights. The Day of the Girl will make girls feel respected, recognised and their contributions valued in society.”
International Day of the Girl: “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls”