INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD
Despite our endeavor of having a just and fair society with equality, equity and a uniform access for all; the women across the globe particularly girls are still being confronted with some basic issues like access to quality education, adequate nutrition, health care, legal rights, political representation, forced marriage, domestic violence and empowerment. A report of the United Nations says that the world is home to more than 1.1 billion girls under age 18, who are poised to become the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers the world has ever seen. Many global development plans do not include or consider girls, and their issues become ‘invisible’. More than 62 million girls around the world had no access to education, as of 2014, according to USAID.
Worldwide and collectively, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores than boys of the same age do. Globally, one in four girls is married before age 18. Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 years is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. In the poorest countries, only 13% of girls who manage to enroll in secondary school complete their education. COVID-19 has further deteriorated the things for women. In the aftermath of COVID-19, reports also revealed that in the year 2021 around 435 million women and girls would have been living on less than $1.90 a day including 47 million who had been pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19. One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence. Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls and particularly domestic violence has intensified. At least 60% of the countries still discriminate against daughters’ rights to inherit land and non land assets in either law or practice.
Of the two sexes; unfortunately, it is the woman who seem to suffer disproportionately from reproductive health issues. This is despite the fact that sound reproductive health of women is integral to the vision that every child is needed, every birth is safe, every young person is free from HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity. Implicit in this vision is the idea that women will be able to exercise their rights to information on and access to safe, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation as well as quality health care services. Every year millions of girls face unintended pregnancies, exposing them to risks during childbirth or unsafe abortions and interfering with their ability to go to school.
As women bear children, and also often bear the responsibility for nurturing them, sexual and reproductive health and rights issues cannot be separated from gender equality. Cumulatively, the denial of these rights exacerbates poverty and gender inequality. This is seen most acutely in developing countries, where reproductive health problems are a leading cause of ill health and death for women and girls of childbearing age. Impoverished women suffer disproportionately from unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion, maternal death and disability, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gender-based violence, and other related problems. This is despite the fact that women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. Moreover, it has been shown that empowering women spurs productivity and economic growth.
International Day Of The Girl Child
To promote girl’s empowerment and fulfillment of their human rights while also highlighting the challenges that girls all over the world face, each year’s International Day of the Girl is celebrated on Oct. 11 with a particular theme Launched in 2012 by the United Nations general assembly, amongst the issues focused on by the International Day of the Girl Child are education, equality, child marriage, access to services regarding puberty and sexual health and addressing issues around gender-based violence. This year the day is celebrated under the theme, ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future’. Twenty-five years ago, some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China, for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognize women's rights as human rights.
The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality. In the years following, women pressed this agenda forward, leading global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay. Today, these movements have expanded. They are being organized by and for adolescent girls, girls from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence and poor learning opportunities. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls. On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. In 2016, London held a Women of the World (WOW) festival where 250 London school-aged girls were paired with women mentors.
In the year 2016, the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, issued a proclamation supporting an end to gender disparity. A clear narrative and actions related to the needs and opportunities of adolescent girls and their solutions is central to the Generation Equality mission. The Platform for Action remains a powerful foundation for assessing progress on gender equality. It calls for a world where every girl and woman can realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to attend and complete school, to choose when and whom she marries, and to earn equal pay for equal work. The Platform for Action specifically calls on the global community to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls, eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls, promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their 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 girls, promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life, strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls.
Girls and SDG 2030
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, embody a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals. Only by ensuring the rights of women and girls across all the goals will we get to justice and inclusion, economies that work for all, and sustaining our shared environment now and for future generations.
Theme For 2023
The year 2023 marks the eleventh anniversary of International Day of the Girls and it is being celebrated with the theme ‘Empowering Girls: Unleashing their Potential’ under which the international day 2023 is being celebrated. Empowerment plays a pivotal role in uplifting women and breaking the cycle of poverty. By providing them equal opportunities in education, training, employments, health, decision making and by ensuring that they get the legal protection as well as enjoy their legal rights; they can be empowered socially as well as economically. Government of India has also started many initiatives aimed at ensuring education, health and their well being of the girl child. The initiatives have started giving results. The female literacy rate and sex ratio have already increased. Parents are now more aware and are providing equal opportunities to their girl child.
Once being empowered in the true sense their potential as leaders, entrepreneurs, change agents and contributors to the development of nation can be exploited to the fullest. All of us must shoulder the responsibility to create a society where girls can live free from gender-based violence and to provide them an enabling environment where they can nurture freely and become of activists accelerating social change.
(The author is Scientist at SKUAST-K and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)