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SAfAIDS Statement on the International Day of the Girl Child

SAfAIDS Media desk, 11 October 2016 (SAfAIDS) - SAfAIDS joins countries worldwide in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated by the UN on 11 October each year. UN Women works to empower women and girls and raise awareness on their rights, advocating for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent child marriage and mobilising communities against the practice.

 

The 2016 commemorations are running under the themes: Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Data Movement.

 

SAfAIDS works tirelessly to protect the rights of the girl child and ensure gender equality by empowering adolescent girls and young women. In its efforts to do this, SAfAIDS plays an active role in community engagement, involving community leaders, (traditional and religious leaders, parents and the community at large, to enlighten them on issues affecting the girl child. The SAfAIDS SCORE programme and the DREAMS project focus on capacitating adolescent girls and young women on GBV and HIV risk reduction issues, and empower them with the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

 

As we commemorate the 2016 International Day of the Girl Child, let us all bear in mind ‘’A Global Girl Data Movement’’. This means addressing the gender inequalities faced by girls, which include access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and child protection. Improving the data available on girls and addressing their issues creates a safer environment and takes us a step towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

Child marriage is a major factor worldwide standing in the way of girls’ progress. UNICEF has reported that rates of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 girls marry before age 18; about one in eight were married or in union before age of 15.

 

According to Plan International 3 out of every 10 girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday (Chronicle, 2015) and Zimbabwe’s overall child marriage rate stands at 30% in 2015. Girls who marry early are more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. Current statistics show that one in three women world wide will suffer physical and sexual violence.

 

This makes it imperative that Zimbabwe and other countries work together to address those issues that impede girls’ abilities to achieve their life goals.

 

Emma Watson UN goodwill ambassador on the HeforShe campaign in New York (2014) said ‘’Let us address gender inequality because the reality in Africa is that 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education’’.


With so many reported cases of child discrimination, violence and child marriage, Africa must stand firm in addressing gender disparities between men and women, to ensure the African girl child receives the same treatment and support as the boy child.

 

What counts for girls should be every one’s priority. Because educating a girl child addresses the issues of fertility and child marriage and improves family health. Educated women are more likely to be politically active and better informed about their legal rights and how to exercise them.

 

SAfAIDS and other civil society organisations, government and individuals must work together to increase awareness of the value of the girl child.

Source: SAfAIDS Media desk