Efforts to empower girls

BY MENGISTEAB TESHOME

Worldwide and collectively, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores than boys of the same age do. Globally, one in four girls is married before age 18.

Many girls around the world are vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and the perpetrators often go unpunished.

The Day of Girls helps raise awareness not only of the issues that girls face, but also of what is likely to happen when those problems are solved. For example, educating girls helps reduce the rate of child marriage, disease and helps strengthen the economy by helping girls have access to higher paying jobs.

According to the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey in 2016, 30 percent of Ethiopian women do not make decisions on individual and family issues. Instead, their husbands make decisions for them on choices including the option to use birth control methods, and whether to give birth in a health facility or seek the assistance of a trained provider. Additionally, harmful traditional practices—early marriage and childbearing, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence—all having adverse effects on Ethiopian women.

Last week Ministry of Women and Social Affairs and Plan International Ethiopia had celebrated the International Day of the Girl with a series of events in collaboration with the diplomatic community and girls and young women. The week-long celebration culminated into a roundtable discussion on Monday October 11, 2021. October 11 has been a key global moment to celebrate the power of girls and highlight the barriers they face since the UN adopted it as International Day of the Girl in December 2011.

According to Ministry of Women and Social Affairs Ethiopia is celebrating the 8th international girls’ day in the town of Debrebirhan under the motto ‘strengthening the capability of girls in withstanding and facing challenges today and in the days to come and anywhere.”

In his opening remarks at the roundtable discussion, Mudasser Siddiqui, Country Director of Plan International, stated that the International Day of the Girl is a foundation for advocacy and activism for many individuals, networks and organizations. He highlighted that Plan International has been celebrating this day strategically and meaningfully for the past few years. According to Siddiqui, the annual global celebration is a key opportunity for Plan International to forge hands with key stakeholders to bring attention to the disproportionate discrimination that girls experience while at the same time highlights their true potential.

One key strategy that Plan International uses to promote the empowerment of girls and to promote their true potential in decision making and leadership is through a symbolic gesture called Girls Takeover. Through the Girls Takeover, girls occupy leadership spaces where they are rarely seen or heard and making it clear they have the right to be there without being silenced or ignored. Plan International has been facilitating girls-takeover for many years and across the world in collaboration with senior leaders in government, businesses, diplomatic and civil society organizations. Each year hundreds of girls across the world step into the roles of politics, media, business and entertainment for a day to experience leadership.

This year, Plan International Ethiopia observed the day with a theme: Girls Deserve to be equally seen, heard and valued. The theme highlighted the promotion of the leadership and empowerments of girls and young women to become active agent of change in bringing positive impact in tackling issues related to gender equality, child and forced marriage other harmful traditional practices. As part of these celebrations Ethiopian girls took over leadership positions from the Ambassadors of Canada, Sweden, Finland and Norway for one day here in Addis Ababa. Moreover, Heads of Women, Children and Youth Affairs in Oromia, SNNPR and Amahara were all taken over for a day by girls as part of this symbolic exercise.

The roundtable discussion held on October 11 was the culmination of the week-long celebration. It was jointly organized with the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs; and brought together high-level representatives and senior leadership of the government offices, embassies, NGOs and business leaders as well as representatives of girls and young women. The participant jointly recognized that girls have always been undervalued, undermined and underestimated globally.

This often leaves them to be victims of violence, discrimination and outdated rules that deny them power and limit their freedom, which is unacceptable at all. There was a consensus at the end of the Roundtable that ensuring that girls and young women are equally SEEN, HEARD and VALUED, requires a concerted action and that all actors need to play their parts to empower girls and young women and support them in their journey to become leaders and role models in their own right.

International Day of the Girl Child is an international observance day declared by the United Nations; it is also called the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl. October 11, 2012, was the first Day of the Girl Child. The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage. The celebration of the day also «reflects the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct cohort in development policy, programming, campaigning and research.

International Day of the Girl increases awareness of issues faced by girls around the world. Many global development plans do not include or consider girls, and their issues become «invisible». More than 62 million girls around the world had no access to education, as of c. 2014, according to USAID.

The International Day of Girls initiative began as a project of Plan International, a non-governmental organization that operates worldwide. The idea for an international day of observance and celebration grew out of Plan International›s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular. Plan International representatives in Canada approached the Canadian federal government to seek to the coalition of supporters raised awareness of the initiative internationally. Eventually, Plan International urged the United Nations to become involved.

International Day of Girls was formally proposed as a resolution by Canada in the United Nations General Assembly. Rona Ambrose, Canada›s Minister for the Status of Women sponsored the resolution; a delegation of women and girls made presentations in support of the initiative at the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of Girls. The resolution states that the Day of Girls recognizes.

The Ethiopian Herald October 16/2021

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