Thursday, 11 October 2012

Happy International Day for the Girl

‘On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.’
October11,2012 marks the first month that the world celebrates this unique day. So much has been written and said about empowering girls to the point that it is almost ‘cluttering’ people’s minds. Critics say that ‘the whole girl empowerment thing is a little over the top.’ Some ask about the boy child, and say that empowering the girls has been pushed too far at the expense of the boy child. Such critics only highlight just how we have a long way to go in ensuring gender mainstreaming. So much has been achieved yes, but still much more needs to be done. Society has a long way to go in accepting that there is need to empower women and ensure that they are at the same level of contribution/participation as their male counterparts.
The theme of this years’ Day of the Girl is Child marriage. A recent report on the Daily Nation newspaper stated that ‘Kenya ranked high on Teenage mothers list, out of wedlock, into school: combating child marriage through education, nearly 3 in every 10 girls are bearing a child, heavily disorganizing their school lives.’ Issues such as the preference for education of boys over girls, and forced early pregnancies for girls (as per the study), or the disregard of the utility of the added resource provided by women, continue to thrive as barriers to development. There is a cycle of undermining and marginalizing of girls, which reinforces systems in which girls (and later women) are undervalued at all levels of engagement, from community to state levels. This poses serious challenges, not least, stagnation around the quality of progress achieved for development. The potential is far from maximized for whole societies. We have seen the manifestation of this problem in the perennial gaps in women’s representation at the most senior levels and this remains a major stumbling block.
As a result of these challenges which are inherent in our society, it becomes urgent to ‘catch girls young’ (early intervention), and support them in achieving some degree of personal empowerment, which will form the basis for their personal values with their families, at school, university, and work – places that they constantly face exploitation, harassment and discrimination of some kind.
Today, as the world celebrates the Day for the Girls, the Resource Centre Women and Girls(RCWG) family will celebrate its Sheroes whose courage continues to inspire us even long after some are gone; Leaders who have dared bring the women agenda on the table for discussion in an effort to give us a voice; Mentors who have worked tirelessly to bring out the great potential within us;  Feminist and Women Rights activists who have challenged negative society norms that oppress girls; Institutions and Organizations that have thought it important to bring the girl child on the spotlight in their activities; parents, guardians, brothers, sisters and friends who have stood by their daughters, siblings or friends and supported them at times when they needed that support; Young girls who ‘get it’ and inspire their peers at that very low level.
It is such people whose tireless work, passion, solidarity, courage, wisdom and understanding that has brought Girls this far and will bring the change that is needed. It is them that will bring the girls on an equal level to exercise their full potential.
Thank you!

Posted by Rachel Sittoni

Rachel is a graduate from the RCWG camp. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the RCWG opinion.