The plight of The Girl Child: Celebrating the International Day of The Girl Child

Every year on the 11th of October, the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child. This day is celebrated in an effort to recognize women’s rights as human rights. The fifth sustainable development goal for 2030 aims at achieving a society where we can: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Twenty-five years ago, 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China, for the Fourth World Conference on Women. The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality.

In the following years, women pressed this agenda forward, leading global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay. Today, these movements have expanded. They are being organized by and for adolescent girls — from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence, and poor learning opportunities. International Day of the Girl 2020 will focus on the girl child’s demands to Live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS, learn new skills towards the futures they choose & to lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.

Every day, all over the world, women are confronted with discrimination and inequality. They face violence, abuse, and unequal treatment at home, work, and in their wider communities — and are denied opportunities to learn, to earn, and to lead. The primary development policies in many countries, known as poverty reduction strategies, still do not take into account differences in income and power between men and women, hampering efforts to finance programmes that reduce inequality. In addition, the majority of African women are still denied education and employment and have limited opportunities in trade, industry, and government.

Women form the majority of those living in poverty. They have fewer resources, less power, and less influence compared to men, and can experience further inequality because of their class, ethnicity, and age. Gender inequality is a key driver of poverty. And a fundamental denial of women’s rights.

The colonial legacy of African underdevelopment explains gender inequality and female disempowerment, while African men were educated and employed in the white-collar (high-status) economy built by the Europeans. Women, on the other hand, were slower to obtain education and employment in the white-collar economy. This disparity contributed to the gender inequality gap in the pre-colonial period, however, the gender gap gradually decreased during the late colonial era. The gender gap is also believed to have been rooted in indigenous social norms.

Gender-based violence is pandemic and can be found in all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives around the world. According to the UN, 1 in 3 girls and women experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Globally, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, with many of these incidents taking place within schools. It is estimated that 150 million girls have experienced sexual violence worldwide. Gender-based violence comes in different forms, including physical, sexual, and psychological or emotional violence. Different forms of gender-based violence include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological or emotional violence.

There has been increasing evidence of widespread violations of girl’s and women’s rights, including elevated risks of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). At the same time, the increase in GBV cases has been accompanied by a decrease in the capacity of the justice sector to respond to the rights and needs of survivors. The ‘justice gap’ for GBV survivors is worsening, according to the Justice for Women Amidst COVID-19 report, developed by IDLO, UN Women, and other partners. Transitional justice responses to gender-based violations during the conflict and authoritarian rule are essential for ensuring justice for victims, combating women’s marginalization, and preventing future violations against women and other communities targeted for their gender. Of equal importance is ensuring that transitional justice measures meaningfully address the causes and consequences of all abuses against women.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the Right to Education. However, the statistics are that globally, an estimated 130 million girls are not in school, and many girls who are in school struggle to stay there and finish their education. In developing countries, a wide range of barriers prevents girls from receiving the quality education they deserve, like poverty, child marriage, violence in school, the long distance to get to school. This denies them the empowerment they would get through education like their male counterparts, with an education, a girl has the opportunity to decide her own future and make informed decisions about her career, body, and health.

Child marriage is a human rights violation taking place on a vast scale in Africa which disproportionately affects girls. Every year, nearly 12 million girls around the world are affected by child, early, or forced marriage. Child marriage violates girls’ human rights, limits their education, and can jeopardize their health. Girls married at an early age are often forced to drop out of school and become mothers when still children themselves.

The practice of child marriage contributes to the cycle of poverty, with daughters of young mothers more likely to lose out on their education and marry early as well. Girls who marry young often drop out of school and face physical risks, especially during pregnancy. Due to the social, health, and economic impacts of child marriage, the practice is a major obstacle to sustainable development.

We as HiiL have carried out various justice needs across different countries in Africa and issues like gender-based domestic violence remain as prevalent issues that they face. The data (The sample was from Kenya) shows that between 1.3 and 1.6 million people had to deal with violent crime or domestic violence during the past four years. There is a significant

and growing demand for justice people need accessible, affordable, quick, and fair justice journeys. As an organisation, we are committed to making justice accessible to all people including the girl child.

HiiL (The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law) is a social enterprise devoted to user-friendly justice i.e accessible, easy to understand, and affordable.