On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.The International Day of the Girl focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
On special days like these, we remind ourselves that, girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during their formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported and educated, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, political leaders, and mothers. An investment in realising the power of girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.
The theme for 2023 anchors on the theme “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”. UNESCO believes girls’ empowerment is key to advance gender equality. Supporting girls, their training, and their full ability to make their voices and ideas heard are drivers for sustainable development and peace. In too many cases across the globe, adolescent girls drop out of school, due to forced marriages or child labor. UNESCO is committed to celebrating this day to ensure that all girls have access to quality education and a dignified life.
Meanwhile, UNICEF , governments and civil society partners have collectively called for global stakeholders to:
- Centre girls in the protection and promotion of rights
All like-minded partners must centre girls’ rights in their work to tackle the pushback against gender equality. Whether it is on maternal health care, parenting support, unpaid care work or access to financial literacy and resources, adolescent girls tend to be sidelined. Whether it is a debate in an international resolution, the crafting of a national policy, the funding of grassroots movements in response to a humanitarian emergency – start with the most marginalized girls at the centre to stop this happening.
- Recognize, celebrate and support girls’ leadership
Investing in girls’ leadership includes creating space and platforms for girls to raise their voices at every level of policy-making, directly resourcing girls’ movements and networks, and centering girls’ voices, agency and leadership in all programmes.
- Introduce and scale up multi-sectoral programmes that support adolescent girls’ well-being
To quote many girl leaders, including most recently UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and climate activist Vanessa Nakate, we know that “girls don’t live single-issue lives.” We also know that our best chance of scaling up sustainable programming to support girls’ well-being is building programmes around what already exists, and where girls are already finding support. Whether it is a health clinic that provides gender-based violence referrals, a cash transfer programme that includes financial literacy training, an adolescent-friendly maternal health clinic that includes a parenting programme, or a violence-prevention programme that takes place at school, we must introduce and scale-up multi-sectoral programming that address adolescent girls’ needs.
- Ensure information, services and systems meaningfully change to be adolescent-girl-friendly. This includes tackling the stigma and poor treatment many adolescent girls have highlighted in accessing essential services, such as sexual and reproductive health services; coming to school if pregnant/having given birth; or in managing menstrual health and hygiene.
- Make structural changes to scale up funding for girls (and not as a one-off)
The paucity of funding for the issues affecting adolescent girls is stark. Major international development and humanitarian actors, governments, the private sector and civil society organizations can and must play their parts to make structural changes and policy decisions to fund adolescent girls. It is the right thing to do. But is also a smart investment – an investment in a demographic dividend that will only pay off if we invest in girls today. We are therefore amplifying Vanessa Nakate’s call at Women Deliver for $1 billion in new investments from the international development community for adolescent girls by 2025; a significant increase in public finance commitments by national policymakers, earmarked for girl-centred national policies and programmes in the long-term; and a significant increase in funding for girl-led groups, organizations and networks by 2025.
Point 4 aligns with the position of SOGOC geared towards advocating for accessibility to essential SRHR services and safe abortion services as well in relation to the Cameroon Penal Code.
THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!!!