A well-known African proverb that says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” summarises the 2023 theme of the International Day of the Girl Child, “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”.
UNICEF indicates that the International Day of the Girl Child observed every October 11, is a day dedicated to highlighting the challenges faced by girls around the world and promoting their empowerment, education, and rights.
This year’s theme, on its part, focuses on how intentionally promoting the rights of Girls is a profitable investment.
The theme brings out the need to focus on key areas that will enable girls obtain their rights towards achieving their full potential.
UNICEF’s call to action for global stakeholders in relation to the Girl Child from October 2023 – October 2024, encompasses five major axes:
1. Centre girls in the protection and promotion of rights
This call presses for protecting and promoting girls’ rights in relation to maternal healthcare, unpaid care work, or access to financial literacy and resources.
It is also a call for involving more girls in international debates and the crafting of national policies, making sure they are not abandoned to housekeeping roles against education and ensuring their financial emancipation.
2. Recognize, celebrate and support girls’ leadership
This means acknowledging the impacts girls have in shaping society, recognizing their achievements, and creating spaces for them to voice their opinions.
3. Introduce and scale up multi-sectoral programmes that support adolescent girls’ well-being.
This means designing programmes in schools and across communities to support girls. It could be healthcare or financial literacy programmes for girls or even mechanisms on how to prevent or report cases of violence.
4. Ensure information, services and systems meaningfully change to be adolescent-girl-friendly
On this level, focus should be on breaking barriers when it comes to girls accessing basic services like sexual and reproductive health services, menstrual health and hygiene services, and attending school when pregnant.
5. Make structural changes to scale up funding for girls (and not as a one-off)
With patriarchy and power dynamics giving boys comparative advantages compared to girls, this is a call on Governments to increase funding for girls’ education and other activities. This is about investing in girls… a huge investment as they will in turn, have families and nurture them towards a better society as a whole.
With these five points, UNICEF is pushing for Governments and their partners to invest in the rights of Girls, and note that the investment has huge benefits from better leadership to general wellbeing.
Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi