Ever since the world met for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, there has been some significant improvement in the socio-economic, health and livelihoods of girls across the globe. The echo of girls’ empowerment has resulted in many girls now playing an active role in the development of their communities and societies. Girls and women now participate in politics, academia, commerce and many more. Girls like Greta Thunberg and others are continually demonstrating to the world that girls actually matter and that there is the need to invest heavily in girls and their development.
In spite of the seemingly significant strides in making girls matter in every sphere of life, there are still some significant proportion of girls living in poverty. Many girls continue to be subjected to all forms of abuse and violence. In conflict-prone situations, girls are mostly affected as they are used as sex objects and subjected to the cruellest of maltreatment. Available statistics show that every two seconds, one girl under the age 18 is married off – translating to 12 million girls per annum; 130 million girls across the globe are attending primary or secondary school; 2 million girls under age 15 become pregnant each year; 60% of all undernourished people across the globe are women or girls.1 These statistics are startling because they can seriously impede the quest to promote the health and well-being as well as the overall emancipation and development of girls.
Owing to the premise set in this article, the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child has been dedicated to making the Girl Child’s Voice Be Heard because it is Our Common Future. Specifically, it calls on governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and individuals to rally behind the course of girls by ensuring that girls live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices and HIV/AIDS; learn new skills towards the future they choose; and, lead a generation of activists who will champions and accelerate social change.2
Practically, what can be done? Worldwide, governments have laws and policies governing programmes and interventions to ensure that the voice of the girl child is heard. However, the problem has been about enforcing those laws and implementing those policies. As such, as the world marks the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child, policymakers and interventionists must go back to the drawing board, assess what they have done so far and then strengthen the enforcement and implementation of laws and policies governing the rights of the girl child. This is the surest way to ensure that the objectives of the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child is achieved. Again, there is a need for stronger collaboration and partnership for goals as stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 17. Individual governments and its concomitant agencies must as a matter of urgency collaborate with private partners, NGOs and CSOs in other to develop and implement interventions that are targeted at ensuring that girls are free from gender-based violence, harmful practices and HIV/AIDS.
In the quest to achieve these goals, it is important not to neglect the education and sensitization of males. This is because until we reach the point where equality can actually be felt, males will still have a significant influence over the lives of girls. Therefore, neglecting boys in these interventions will result in slow empowerment of girls. Hence, it is important to involve the males in every step of the journey towards the emancipation of the girl child. This would hasten the entire process and bring about the desired outcome.
- Plan International (2020). Girls’ Right Statistics. Accessed from: https://plancanada.ca/girl-facts
- UNICEF (2020). International Day of the Girl Child 2020. Accessed from: https://www.unicef.org/gender-equality/international-day-girl-2020