A Milestone in Celebrating Girl’s Rights and Development
By Delphine Konda, Co-founder, VOW, October 2013
It has been a long journey for us all, but finally we are here celebrating an important milestone in the lives and rights of girl’s development across the globe.
This year, we have celebrated the 2nd Edition of the International day of the Girl with the theme, “Innovating for Girl’s Education”. How and why did this day come into existence is a very important question.
International Day of the Girl Child began from Plan International’s “Because I am a Girl” Campaign. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.
There have been many other incidences that provoked the observance of this day globally. Many young girls have been passing through untold and unimaginable suffering in the hands of the same people who are supposed to love, care, and cherish them.
Girls have been abused in different forms. A good example is the case of Malala Yousafzai, a teenage Pakistani girl who was shot on the head by Taliban gun men just because she wants to be educated. We do not need the example of Malala all the way from Pakistan. There are many Malala’s out here in Cameroon and other regions of the world today --many young girls who are going through so many challenges just to go to school.
Three months ago, one of the volunteers at VOW Initiative interviewed a girl who was raped and reported the story to us. We published the story on our website to raise awareness on sexual abuse of girls. The most disturbing part of the story is the fact that this 15 year-old girl was raped because she went to her 74 year old step- grandfather to plead for money to pay her schools fees. He grabbed her, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she ever told anybody. This is a story to us today, but it is the reality of millions of girls out there.
Education is the right of any child. Being productive is the responsibility of every citizen. But productivity is a factor that can only come from a good educational investment. Investing in education is very important in changing mindsets, raising awareness, enabling community conversation and socio-economic empowerment of women. We need more and more girls to enrolled and remain in schools from the grassroots to the urban areas.
We are talking about the Millennium Development Goals and how we have to focus on relevant MDGs: achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce the maternal mortality ratio, improve reproductive health for all, and ensure environmental sustainability, etc.
My point in highlighting all these goals is because they are intertwined and highly connected to the empowerment and education of girls.
Women and girls are the ones who are highly disadvantaged and vulnerable in the different areas where the MDGs are focusing. Sustainable development can only be achieved when everyone in the society, both men and women, equally participate as active partners of development.
This can only be possible if we start empowering them when they are still young.
Charity, they say, begins at home. The home is the first ground upon which the empowerment, education, confidence of girls is first grounded. What is it that we want a girl to know?
What kind of woman does she want to be?
What heights does she need to attain in life?
What level of excellence does she envisage?
The home, the parents, and the family, are the birthing grounds for these virtues. The same thing goes for boys. A responsible boy today is a responsible man tomorrow. It all depends on the education and mind set.
Let us stop the attitude of gender preference, favoring one child over another.
Harmful traditional practices and social discriminations are also issues that we have to explicitly frown on. The society is us and we are the society. Practices like breast ironing, child marriage, gendercide, rape, and female genital mutilation (FGM) have no place in the 21st century world.
Above all, poverty is one of the most difficult reasons why girls are not able to go to school, but investing in girl’s education is one sure way to eradicate poverty.
How can we innovate for girls' education?
What contributions are we making towards reducing some of the challenges that impairs girl’s education? Are we taking the responsibility to improve public and private means of transportation for girls to get to school? Are there feasible collaborations between school systems and the banking industry to facilitate secure and convenient pay delivery to female teachers and scholarship delivery to girls?
How reliable is the provision of science and technology courses targeted at girls in schools, universities and vocational education programmes? What corporate mentorship programmes have we encouraged to help girls acquire critical work and leadership skills to facilitate their transition from school to work?
If we have good practices and they are working, have we shared these good practices in other areas? Do we encourage revisions of school curricula to integrate positive messages on gender norms related to violence, child marriage, sexual and reproductive health, and male and female family roles?
Above all, do we deploy mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls, especially in remote areas?
Let us join forces in helping these girls get an education, engage them in getting their voices across to the authorities, and create a platform for them to participate in international campaigns. Like “My World Campaign” that is promoted by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
What is the world that we want after 2015?
Together let us join forces in helping these girls become the change that we want to see in the world.