Globally, 11 October is earmarked, observed and celebrated as the International Day of the Girl. This day of the girl child focuses attention on the global need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
As such, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as the agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, launches campaigns with girls in order to amplify their voices and stand up for their rights.
This year, the day is celebrated under the theme “my voice, our equal future” so let’s seize the opportunity to reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls so that they are energized and recognized, counted and invested in.
Adolescent girls have the right to safety, to be educated, and the right to a healthy life as they mature into women. This year, the adolescent girls are asserting their power as change-makers, and they are demanding to live a life free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS.
They are demanding to be allowed to learn new skills towards the future they choose? and they want to lead as a generation of activists for accelerating social change. Indeed girls have the power and the potential of changing the world if they are effectively supported during their adolescent years.
It is a known fact that some people in society view/stereotype a girl child as a person of low status, defenceless, easy to target and in most instances, girls are at an increased risk of suffering because of gender which they didn’t choose.
It is unfortunate that many girls have to struggle and find ways to go through traditions, norms and harmful cultural beliefs and practices which define who she is and who she must be.
It is heartbreaking to know that in some families and communities, girls are seen as liabilities than autonomous and equal human beings. Gender norms and discrimination heighten the girls’ risks of unwanted adolescent pregnancies, while some girl children are left to take care of families and do domestic chores.
Some are forced into early marriages and some of them face a threat of gender-based violence.
In addition, some cultures and communities see menstruation as a secret and sometimes as a taboo and as a result, it cuts girls from receiving information for them to make their own decisions over their bodies and allow them to be safe and healthy.
In 2015, the United Nations introduced 17 sustainable development goals which should be met by 2030.
These sustainable development goals’ agenda embodies a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and that will hopefully leave no one behind.
Most importantly, each of the 17 sustainable development goal has an integral target of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Thus if the rights of women and girls across all the goals are ensured, nations will surely get to justice and inclusion, good economies which are working for all and a sustainable shared environment.
It is therefore important that society is reminded to know that there is a girl in the woman, and there is a woman in the girl child. The girl child is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend, a colleague and a citizen. She is free, she is autonomous and she should not be defined by traditions, theories and ideologies that by being a female is less human, inferior and is meant for submission.
She is an individual just like any other and she has the right to make her own informed choices; she deserves to be respected, she deserves to be supported and she should be protected from any danger or any form of discrimination.
As we celebrate the international day of the girl, we should all remember that she is the author of her own story, so she should be supported and allowed to hold the pen.
She is a 21st century woman who is versatile.
She is the captain of her own ship and that should be acknowledged. She is an innovator who has the power to recreate, therefore, she should not be subjected to be a passive recipient of traditions aimed at defining her.
She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
She is wonderfully and fearfully made and she is an equal human being who deserves an equal place in the banquet of life.
The girl child should be empowered to believe in herself and to take leadership of her own life. Just like anyone, she never chose to be born female, she entered the world and she is a member of the human family, she deserves to coexist so please honour and celebrate her.
Society must continuously ensure that she has a safe environment to live in. Sensitize the girl child about the dangers out there and train her on how to avoid them.
The girl child should be encouraged to be confident of her tomorrow. She will be confident of her tomorrow if she is provided the right and safe environment, where she can be all that she wants to be.
She should be reminded to always dare to dream and not have nightmares.
She should be encouraged to feel free to spread her wings and fly because she is unlimited.
Let us always think about and support that underprivileged girl child, let us support the hard to reach girls, but all in all, let us hold hands to support, educate, encourage and inform girls that they can do anything they want, even if it means allowing them to jump in the water so that they can learn how to swim later! Each day, every day, tell a girl child that she is special, she is precious, she is feminine, she is classy and she is a beautiful and a unique image of God who belongs to humanity!