MUGECHA: Let's create platforms for girls to voice their opinions

The world is celebrating the Day of the Girl Child today.

In Summary

•The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

•This collective indifference extends beyond age and encompasses the entire spectrum of femininity.

Day of the girl Child is being commemorated today, October 11, 2023
Day of the girl Child is being commemorated today, October 11, 2023
Image: FILE

Far too often, because of culture, society chooses to avert its gaze, ignoring the pressing issues that our young girls, ladies, and women face daily.

This collective indifference extends beyond age and encompasses the entire spectrum of femininity.

Whether it's the challenges and vulnerabilities experienced by young girls as they navigate the complexities of adolescence, the aspirations and dreams of young women striving for empowerment, or the daily struggles and accomplishments of women in all stages of life, society often turns a blind eye.

In Kenya, millions of young girls and young women are compounded by limited access to essential feminine hygiene products! If today about 65 per cent of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads, how will tomorrow be?

Gender Based Violence is at the top of the human rights violations and in particular it is dominant in our girls as this is contributed by some backward cultures and society's that still continue to uphold and groom male superiority.

In Kenya, GBV  has begotten physical and sexual violence against women and girls which affect 34 per cent and 13 per cent of women according to the 2022 KDHS report.

Despite Female Genital Mutilation being outlawed in Kenya in 2011, this menace issue continues to devour our girls mostly in remote places.

Our girls are then married off at a tender age and become pregnant shutting the dreams of our breathtaking generations.

If men in these societies were made aware of the fatal side effects, then and only then would great results toward ending FGM be met!

Men play a catalytic role in keeping the fire burning by demeaning girls who are not cut! It is also men through education around this can do away with this practice!

Our girls deserve all this! Just imagine, today approximately 130 million girls are denied their right to education around the world.

This fundamental transformative and empowering right for every Human being should be made accessible to all our girls.  

All like-minded partners need to prioritise girls' rights in their efforts to combat gender equality setbacks, whether in maternal healthcare, parenting support, unpaid care work, or access to financial literacy and resources.

Moreover, we need to recognize, celebrate, and support girls' leadership by creating spaces and platforms for them to voice their opinions at all policy-making levels, allocate resources directly to girls' movements and networks, and make girls' voices, agency, and leadership central to all programs.

It's crucial to introduce and expand multi-sectoral programs that cater to adolescent girls' well-being.

As articulated by UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate, "girls don't live single-issue lives."

Therefore, we need to develop programs based on existing support systems, such as youth friendly health clinics providing gender-based violence referrals, cash transfer programs with financial literacy training, adolescent-friendly maternal health clinics with parenting programs, or school-based violence prevention programs.

Additionally, we need to ensure that information, services, and systems become truly adolescent-girl-friendly, addressing the stigma and poor treatment often faced by adolescent girls when accessing essential services like sexual and reproductive health services, attending school during pregnancy or after childbirth, and managing menstrual health and hygiene.

Lastly, we should make structural changes to significantly increase funding for adolescent girls, not as a one-time effort but as an ongoing commitment.

The inadequacy of funding for issues affecting adolescent girls is evident, and it is imperative for international development and humanitarian actors, governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations to play their roles in implementing policy decisions that secure funding for adolescent girls.

This investment is not only the right thing to do but also a smart one, representing an investment in a demographic dividend that will pay off if we invest in girls today.

Today I’m retweeting Vanessa Nakate's call at Women Deliver for $1 billion in new investments for adolescent girls by 2025, substantial increases in public finance commitments from national policymakers for girl-centered policies and programs in the long term, and a significant boost in funding for girl-led groups, organisations and networks by 2025.

As we commemorate the day of the girl child it is imperative that we collectively open our eyes to the multifaceted experiences and needs of females of all ages, acknowledging and addressing the issues they confront, and working together to create a more equitable and supportive world for them to thrive in.

Let's all shed light on the theme of today "Invest in Girls' Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being" and let’s channel our energies toward creating a society where girls are empowered and protected.

Happy girl child day to you all.

The writer is RHNK youth advocate

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