The International Day of the Girl Child is set aside by the global community under the United Nations framework and is celebrated worldwide on October 11. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls all over the world face.
Worldwide girls are faced with numerous sexual reproductive health and rights challenges, as well as lack of access to social opportunities.
Kenya is a country with a broad-based population structure. This means the country has more young people and children than adults. Half of this population are girls.
This generation of young people, including adolescent girls, has the potential to grow our country’s economy. Unfortunately, young people, especially girls, face some of the worst sexual reproductive health and rights challenges.
These include female genital mutilation, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, rape, gender-based violence, HIV and poor menstrual hygiene.
These issues are cultivated in an environment that exposes girls to harmful cultural practices. Most girls, the majority of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa, lack basic sexual reproductive health and rights information.
Studies have shown that empowering women and girls in a community has powerful ripple effect across all areas of the society and economy, and reaches forward to future generations.
When you educate a girl, she is empowered to stand up against all forms of abuse, including FGM. Women with an education can lift themselves and their community out of poverty. These women plan their families and give birth to healthy children.
Kenya’s policy and legal framework has good laws that protect girls and promote their sexual reproductive health and rights. Over the last decade alone, Kenya has passed robust legislation such as the Anti-FGM and Sexual Offences Acts. We have seen the review of the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights policy of 2015, which provides an environment for giving information and services to girls.
The governance space is also tilting slowly to accommodate more women. This is the general direction in terms of progress that will propel us towards achieving Vision 2030 and the sustainable goals.
The theme for this year is ‘EmPOWER girls: Emergency Response and Resilience Planning’. Empowering girls is important to realise the global goals for sustainable development. Kenya’s development agenda under the Vision 2030 framework includes investing in girls’ education.
The day also promotes girls’ empowerment and their human rights. In the next decade, 150 million girls are at the risk of undergoing FGM. These are 15 million girls every year.
In Kenya, the FGM prevalence is 21 per cent. One out of every five girls is at risk. Some communities have an FGM prevalence rate of almost 90 per cent. It is important to note that FGM and child marriage are the biggest obstacles to girls’ education. Millions of girls will drop out of school after undergoing the cut and end up as child brides.
We should make significant investments in education, health, increase job opportunities for women and provide an all-inclusive governance structure that accommodates girls and women.
Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance Kenya