By Robin Gomes
On the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, the United Nations celebrated the world’s one billion young girls saying they are an “unscripted and unstoppable” force for change.
Every day, girls under-18 are challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers, and leading movements to tackle the issues that affect them, and beyond, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted in his message for this year’s Day which had as its theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.”
In their undertakings, from eliminating child marriage, to closing the education gap, addressing violence and standing strong against the climate crisis, he said, they are increasingly proving to be unscripted and unstoppable.
The Day is an opportunity to recognize developments in the livelihoods of girls since the adoption of a visionary blueprint for the empowerment of women and girls in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which grew out of a meeting involving some 30,000 men and women at the Fourth World Conference on Women, in China.
Since the landmark policy agenda was put into force, Guterres highlighted that “we have seen more girls attending and completing school, fewer getting married or becoming mothers while still children themselves, and gaining the skills they need to excel in the workplace.”
Figures from the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF) indicate that in the past decade, the proportion of young women who were married as children has decreased by 15 per cent, and from the year 2000 to 2016, the number of girls out of school at the primary level, fell from 58 to 34 million.
Yet, the UN chief noted, many are still barred from reaching their full potential. He said, “It is no longer acceptable for girls to have to scale back their dreams or be made to believe they were unreachable in the first place.''
Guterres pointed out that harmful gender norms can take hold of girls’ livelihoods, as they “influence everything they do.” Such expectations, he said, dictate their marriages, limit school attendance, access to health services or earning a living, among other vital aspects of their lives.
Two hundred million girls and women are subjected to female genital mutilation. Three out of four victims of human trafficking are women and girls. Conflicts trap millions in violence, uncertainty and despair.
Making the difference
The UN Secretary-General called for concerted efforts and investments in their education, health, safety and twenty-first-century skills. Every year of secondary schooling a girl receives, he said, boosts her earning power by as much as 25 per cent. If all girls and boys complete secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty, Guterres said, stressing that all generations would benefit from it. (Source: UN News)