Invest in girls’ rights: our leadership and well-being. This is this year’s theme for the International Day of the Girl (IDG). We want to see a world where girls are being given space to shape government policy and spending, to inform the rules and norms by which businesses should operate, and to direct the priorities for new research and innovations. This year more than ever it is important, as we are seeing a range of movements and actions to curtail girls’ and women’s rights and roll back progress on gender equality.
Today, girls are still being left behind.
- 1 in 5 girls are still not completing lower secondary education and 4 in 10 girls are not completing upper secondary school today. In certain regions, the numbers are even more dismal. Around 90 per cent of adolescent girls and young women do not use the internet in low-income countries, while their male peers are twice as likely to be online.
- Globally, girls ages 5-14 spend 160 million more hours every day on unpaid care and domestic work than boys of the same age. This unequal distribution in unpaid work intensifies in adolescence with serious implications for girls’ well-being.
- Adolescent girls continue to account for 3 in 4 new HIV infections among adolescents.
- More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is practiced.
- FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
- 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year. That is 23 girls every minute.
The United Nations first adopted October 11 as the International Day of the Girl, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world, but it should be noted that The Beijing Declaration in 1995 was the first to specifically call out for girls’ rights.
Investing in girls
Targeted and evidence-based investments in key areas that promote girls’ leadership and well-being are needed to secure their rights and development – in every setting and context. It is imperative to increase funding in key areas including girls’ health, education, violence prevention, and economic empowerment initiatives. Such investments represent a critical step to realize girls’ rights under the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Currently, it seems likely that the international community will not meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets related to investing in adolescent girls. We know, when supported, these can deliver returns and powerful change for girls themselves, their families, communities, and their societies.
Get involved and make a difference.
Look for organisations working in these areas; partner with them to raise funds, raise awareness, campaign, and lobby policy makers.
- Education: For every additional year of secondary education a girl receives, her potential income increases by about 10-20%. This translates into greater economic productivity, reduced poverty rates, and improved overall well-being. Education also confers protective effects, so that girls can make informed choices against harmful practices which impact their health and well-being.
- Health: Every dollar invested in sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescent girls can lead to economic returns of up to $120, leading to improved health outcomes and increased economic opportunities.
- Harmful practices: Despite the imperative to prevent child marriage, a 2022 review of official development assistance (ODA) found that only 0.07% of official development assistance in 2020 went to fighting child marriage. The Sustainable Development Goals has set a target to abandon the practice of FGM by 2030. There is still a long way to go.
- This year, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is using IDG celebrations to help girls develop the resilience needed to face the pressures and challenges of growing up in a changing world. #PreparedToChangeTheWorld
- The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Sign the UNICEF campaign https://www.unicef.org.uk/climaterisk/
Soroptimists in action.
Soroptimists supported the Girls in Education Movement (GEM), setting up clubs in Zimbabwe focusing on enabling girls to stay in school.
Clubs have taken up the initiative to raise awareness of FMG by distribution of posters and booklets and using social media to raise awareness of this criminal offence.
Lobbying MPs and signing petitions is a keyway in which Soroptimists can take action and advocate for the rights of girls.
SI Medway and Maidstone.