Over the years, people have questioned why girls seem to be celebrated and given much attention by the United Nations and other advocacy groups unlike their male counterparts. This same argument comes up whenever the world marks International Day of the Girl or International Women’s Day on March 8 each year. The concerns of gender are deeply ingrained, therefore it is important to appreciate the need to mark a day for the girl child.
Indeed, the importance of protecting boys cannot be over-looked. Issues around protecting children have been promoted by the UN especially with the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly in 1989, which later came into force in 1990. This recognizes the needs for promotion of children’s rights regardless of their gender, race or background and the importance of providing a safe environment for them to live and grow in freedom, equality and peace.
The Global theme this year is, “Empowering Girls; Before, During and After Conflict” with a global call to empower girls living in conflict areas worldwide. This notwithstanding, challenges girls face are numerous and may not be exclusive to what they go through in the aftermath of conflicts.
International Day of the Girl, is meant to address the unique challenges girls face worldwide, and is not just about celebrating girls. The United Nations General Assembly in 2011 recognized the need to declare October 11 each year as the International Day of the Girl Child to appreciate the rights of girls and the unique challenges they face in various societies and cultures worldwide.
However, it is important to acknowledge that girls face peculiar challenges in most societies relating to sexual exploitation and abuse, early, forced and child marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), limited access to education, child prostitution and pornography among others. Girls suffer the consequences of wrong sexual choices and are more likely to drop out of school as a result of teenage pregnancy and other adolescent sexual reproductive health challenges.
We need to synergize to protect girls, invest in girls and empower them to live their full potential to become responsible adults. The quality of girls we raise today is an indication of the world we are nurturing for future generations. Girls need to be taught to recognize that they are partners in development and can instigate action for global progress.
Even though empowering boys is important, the difference is clear. Girls are more exposed and prone to the dangers of various forms of abuse than boys. As we celebrate International Day of the Girl, it is important to call on boys to join mark this day because they are key stakeholders in advocating for the rights of girls.