This day is set aside by the United Nations (UN) to highlight the gender inequality that girls face on a daily basis. Every girl deserves equal opportunities to excel in every facet of their lives and attain a bright future. However, this right continues to be violated gravely. UN Women reports that every 10 minutes an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence somewhere in the world. Nineteen percent of all women and girls between the ages of 15 to 49 years have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Child marriage is rampant in most African communities and the voice of the girl child is all too often silenced.
The welfare and rights of the girl child are pronounced in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which emphasises the need for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through more vigorous efforts, including legal frameworks, in order to address deeply rooted gender-based discrimination. SDG 4 focuses on the need to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all, bearing in mind that education is a right.
SAfAIDS joins the UN family and like-minded stakeholders in commemorating this important day. Through our work across the SADC region, we have identified how girls continue to face unsurmountable challenges in realizing their sexual reproductive health services and rights, and accessing SRH information and services. SAfAIDS therefore lobbies for the creation of a conducive environment from policy level to the community, to ensure the girl child is safeguarded as stated in the Constitutions of our Member States.
“Considering that our governments are signatories to various conventions that advocate for the rights of the girl child at UN and SADC level, the time for us to pay lip-service is over. We need to ensure that what we committed to do for the girl child comes to fruition. We demand an end to child marriage, equal access to education, easy access to health services and an end to all forms of violence and discrimination against the girl child,” said Lois Chingandu, SAfAIDS Executive Director.
SAfAIDS believes that girls have the same capacity as boys, and their potential needs to be unleashed so that they contribute as young citizen to positive change in the community, national, regional and international spheres. Our Regional Young People’s Leadership Academy has been a documented testimony that with the necessary support and investment, girls can break all the barriers and excel on any platform – globally. As we commemorate this day, let us commit to investing in, empowering and amplifying the voice of, the girl child so that she is accorded her rightful space without any form of discrimination. The Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved if the challenges facing the girl child are not addressed.
Let us Empower and Invest in the Girl Child. Before, During and After Crises!