By Seliphar Machoni
Girls are change makers, girls are leaders, and girls are driving good and growth around the world. They are a fundamental source of transformational change for gender equality and investing in their rights is the only way of supporting their work and protecting their dignity.
International Girls’ Day is a day that every girl celebrates her uniqueness, quirks, and everything that makes her happy. It’s a special day to celebrate the rights and achievements of the girls around the world and raise awareness on the challenges that the girl child still faces.
It is unfortunate that in the 21st century communities in our country and the world at large still commit untold atrocities against the girl child.
Despite the consorted efforts by activists, leaders, NGOs, and governments to champion gender equality and women empowerment, the girl child is still forced into early marriages, early child labor, teenage pregnancies, genital mutilation, sexual exploitation, and lack of basic education.
It is so saddening that in most cases when a baby girl is born, she is already disadvantaged only because she is born a girl. Life to her becomes unbearable for the day she faces the world for the first time.
According to the statistics by the United Nations Population Fund, over 640 million women were married off in their childhood, this translates to 8 percent of the world population. In addition to that, in developing countries, 1 in every 3 girls begin to bear children in their adolescent years.
Also, UNESCO reports that globally we have 122 million girls who are yet to receive any form of formal education. Even though there have been intensified efforts to champion girls’ rights, the statistics give a different story, and that is why there is a special day in the calendar to celebrate create awareness, and intensify efforts to champion girls’ rights.
This year’s theme calls for Investing in a Girl’s Rights. According to the UN women statement it calls upon everyone to work together to ensure that girls are connected, supported, and empowered so that we are co-leading in all sectors.
When it comes to power dynamics, almost every country affords boys comparative advantages over time. During adolescence paths diverge considerably. Social and gender norms constrict adolescent girls’ access to public spaces, socialize to be docile and obedient, and reinforce perceptions that girls’ appearances and potential and actual role in care work are valued more than their studies in school, leadership, business, or voice in policy making.
This divergent path is fought with multifaceted challenges and interconnected violations of girls’ rights. As a result, these patriarchal dynamics are playing out at every level – from formal policy-making institutions to community norms, family behaviors, and individual attitudes.
UNICEF reports that globally, girls aged 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 adolescents with serious implications for girls’ well-being.
Adolescent girls continue to account for 3 in 4 new HIV infections among adolescents. Also, adolescent girls using family planning methods have been increasing but in a slow manner from 55 percent to 60 percent since 2022. This means that 4 in 10 adolescent girls aged 9-15 who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern method and teenage pregnancy is a leading cause of mortality for adolescent girls.