SAfAIDS Statement on International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC)
“Our Girls, Our Gems”
11th October 2019
“SAfAIDS joins like-minded stakeholders in commemorating IDGC2019; amplifying and reaffirming commitment towards gender equality and unlocking equal opportunities for girls in health, education and leadership, amongst other critical sectors. Our girls are a distinct cohort of our society. When we invest in nurturing a brave, resilient, innovative, educated and skilled girl child, we have invested in a society which is progressively rooted in sustainable development,” Ms. Rouzeh Eghtessadi, SAfAIDS Acting Executive Director
11th October 2019 marks the International Day of the Girl Day; a Day which seeks to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls’ face, whilst promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. The observation of the Day supports greater awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide; and bolsters opportunities for their development. Inequalities faced by girls include access to education, legal rights, medical care, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), as well as protection from discrimination and violence. A 2018 UNICEF Report highlights alarming gender disparities between boys and girls. Globally girls aged 5-9 years and 10-14 years spend 30% and 50% more of their time, respectively, on household chores, than boys of the same age. Meanwhile, 74% of new HIV infections among adolescents aged 10-19 years are among girls, worldwide. Additionally, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 -19 years have experienced forced sex in their lifetime; with 9 million of these girls being victimised within the past year. These startling statistics highlight the unequal socio-cultural and policy environment which significantly affects girls’ access to life choices, safety and dignity, thereafter stunting their development into empowered citizens.
This year, the International Day of the Girl Child comes at a critical time, when the global community is reflecting on the anniversaries of key global commitments towards gender equality and empowerment of girls, including the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, Beijing Declaration and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The theme of the International Day of the Girl Child 2019 is "GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable," which reflects the need to continue advocating gender equality in education, employment and health, amongst other sectors, for improved wellbeing of girls in our society. Our investment in girls should enable them to emerge in the public space, not only as beneficiaries of the gender equality discourse, but as leaders and change agents of their own future. The celebration of IDGC2019 reflects the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct leadership cadre in development policy, programming, campaigning and research. Girls across the SADC region continue to break barriers and walls of gender injustice, stepping out of the scripted and socially constructed roles and stereotypes perpetuating inequalities, and creating new and positive narratives for their empowerment across different sectors. Our role as civil society organisations, development partners and States is to support, invest in and create space for the advancement of the rights of the girl child.
Over the past few decades governments, policy makers, leaders as well as women and girls have spearheaded programmes and campaigns in line with global commitments and development agendas, providing women and girls with equal access to education and health care to promote access to comprehensive SRH services and rights. Implementing new legal frameworks and creating a conducive policy environment promoting gender equality and SRHR is fundamental to ending gender-based discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world. A UN Women (2019) report highlights that many of the commitments made to girls are still left unfulfilled; 12 million girls under the age of 18 years are married, 130 million girls worldwide are still out of school and approximately 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 years have experienced forced sex. Additionally, a large number of girls still cannot access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, limiting full enjoyment of their rights.
Through the Transforming Lives programme, the Rights, Action and Accountability (RAA) programme, and other initiatives, SAfAIDS and its partners continue to advocate policy advocacy, community agency and systems strengthening towards preventing sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), early and unintended pregnancy (EUP), child marriage and other social ills facing girls in our region. We draw continuous inspiration from trailblazing girls, who have illustrated their impeccable capabilities as productive citizens of their communities.
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