What comes to your mind when one talks about “A GIRL”?
One can say an individual who contributes to the continuity of the human race on earth, but that’s not all. Women/girls contribute to more than half of the earth’s population, which means that they are more than half of the world’s potential that drives global development. This statement alone brings about the impetus as to why we need gender equality.
To some people, gender equality is some sort of disrespectful ideal that simply empowers women to become disobedient. The dawn of time had predetermined the position of a woman in society to be subordinate to her male counterpart. Because of this, women and girls have been toiled on, pushed to the side, systemically disempowered, and oppressed forgetting that it is a fundamental human right to enjoy gender equality.
It’s almost two years now into the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects are threatening to undo decades of investment in girls’ and women’s access to education, economic opportunity, and safety. When disasters, conflicts, and other crises similar to COVID-19 occur, women and girls often suffer the most. The girl child experiences violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation, all of which have a devastating effect on their lives. Far too often, the structures and systems meant to protect the girl child against abuse are rendered less effective in times of emergency.
We all know the list of horrors that girls around the world face, from deliberately being kept out of school, getting married off at a young age, getting trafficked into the wilderness, and often becoming young mothers. Unfortunately, these horrors are accompanied by shame and stigma which continuously hinders the girl child from performing to their full potential.
The situation gets overwhelming when young girls are only groomed to become loving mothers and wives and forced to believe that they are living in a male world. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 states that gender equality has to do away with all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere and violence against them in the public and private spheres, including trafficking, sexual and other types of exploitation.
According to UNICEF’s report on child protection, 51 percent of the child population worldwide is believed to be vulnerable. Girls, in particular, are at risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and female genital mutilation/cutting. This is very strange to have to list reasons why girls are to some extent ignored, looked down at plus being considered very weak. This breeds inequality in all walks of life. Isn’t their humanity enough? Should we not just value them and invest in them because they’re citizens of our communities?
As we rebuild in the months and years ahead, the question I keep returning to is how we can create a world with a stronger foundation; one that is more equitable for girls. It starts with taking the power of girls and young women seriously. If girls and women achieve equality and empowerment, are valued by their families and communities, and have viable pathways to quality education, sexual reproductive health, employment, and full participation in civic and political life the world will become a haven for them.
Although this might seem obvious, culturally, we continue to treat girls and their interests as frivolous, not yet fully formed and so not yet worthy of being taken seriously.
Elevating girls should be one of the best investments that we focus on in our collective plans. It’s a driver of economic growth and crucial to the well-being of communities. Their education is also one of the most cost-effective strategies to tackle equality.
As we celebrate Girls’ Day this 11th October 2021, let’s give girls a microphone to understand that their words, opinions, and voices have value and empower them in all walks of life, make the world a haven for them.
Judith Grace Amoit
The writer is an Assistant Publicity Officer at River Flow International – Science Teacher’s Initiative (RIFI-STI).