Perspective

Have we done enough? 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 695 Views 0 Comments

 

On 19th December 2011, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 66/170 adopting October 11th as the official International day of the Girl. One question that we must ask ourselves, have we done enough for the Girl Child? As Africans, can we stand up and confidently say that we have done our best? There are many gaps that have to be filled and heights that have to be soared in order to say that we have done enough. Some of the problems that affect the girl child are: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriage, access to education, gender violence and gender based discrimination.

 

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Gender based violence is still a menace in our society.  It undermines health and security and also hinders development. Yet in Africa there is a culture of silence especially if it involves women. In regard to FGM, 200 million women and girls wake up to the harmful effects of FGM. For the purpose of emphasis, 200 million women, that is enough for us to heed to the wakeup call to end the cut.  According to UNFPA, 500 women and girls die every day from complications related to childbirth and pregnancy in humanitarian and fragile settings. Let us look at those statistics again, 500 women every day which translates to 3500 women every week and about 182,000 every year.

 

 

Women refugees are in my opinion ‘casualties of war’ (as a result of conflict) rape and torture are used as weapons of war. Many of the women who go through these ordeals endure isolation, embarrassment and discrimination. Not to mention unwanted pregnancies which in turn affect a generation. The insecurity and hostility faces by these women more often than not result to them taking drastic actions such as marrying off their daughters or engaging in prostitution to meet their basic needs.

“…Investing in our girls means giving them more access to education, creating awareness on issues that affect them and facilitating states to allocate more resources in dissemination of information to the community at large….”

 

Looking closer at adolescent girls in conflict affected areas, statistics show that there are 26 million women and girls in their child bearing years in need of humanitarian assistance. 830 women die every day due to complications from birth and pregnancy, 500 women die in countries that are in a fragile state because of conflict. That constitutes 3/5 of maternal deaths.

 

In conflict prone areas, the probability of girls engaging in sexual behaviour, early forced marriages and childbearing are high because of exposure. The lack of a family setting adversely affects and influences these statistics. In 2015, 15 million adolescent girls between the age of 15-19 gave birth, 13 million of them had no access to contraceptives. Access to these environments are a barrier to reducing the numbers. 60% of refugees and 80% of IDPs (internally Displaced Persons) live in urban areas but challenges such as cultural and linguistic barriers have hindered access to contraceptives.

 

The Boko Haram is a group that is notorious for flaunting the rights of women and children. In April 2014, two hundred and seventy six girls between the ages of 16-19 were abducted in the town of Chibok, Nigeria. The Boko Haram believes that girls should not be educated and use them as sex slaves. This incident sparked international attention and even created a trend #bringbackourgirls (bring back our girls) As a result of Boko Haram activities, 2,200,000 people have been displaced and 510,555 are women.

 

The rights of girls are still not respected especially in Africa. This in itself is a barrier to achieving SDG 5 of Gender Equality. In crisis situation, women and girls have no or little access to education. Without the proper infrastructure, funding and resources more and more women have no access to contraceptives. This means that they do not have control over their fertility, a right that every woman should have. In addition to that, many young girls are traded as slaves or married off early.

 

Investing in our girls means giving them more access to education, creating awareness on issues that affect them and facilitating states to allocate more resources in dissemination of information to the community at large. It can be noted that countries that support women empowerment have shown significant growth in the economy when compared to the states that don’t. It also ends a cycle of poverty and raising the status of generations to come therefore creating a more sustainable world.

Have we done enough for our girls?

No we haven’t, there is still a long way to go but we must celebrate the strides that we have taken so far.

 

Claire Kinyanjui

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