Thursday, 11 October 2012

Day of the Girl Child - making progress equitable and broad-based

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The world celebrates the first International Day of the Girl Child today October 11, 2012, with a call of eliminating child marriages by it being a key political priority for governments to protect the rights of girls and women.

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki several times he has cited school drop -out as a result of teenage pregnancy, early marriage and negative social cultural attitudes as impediments to fully empower them noting that education was key to their woes.

“Education holds the key to unlocking many of their obstacles facing women and girls. However, attaining and ensuring completion of education by girls is still a challenge due to dropout rates as a result of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, and negative social cultural attitudes.”
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Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. Says, 
“The first global Day of the Girl should usher in a renewed global commitment to put a stop to marriages of children below age eighteen. Governments should work harder to prevent child marriage and to increase awareness of the harm that they cause.”

Gender parity is an issue to address because it is important to ensure education provided opportunities for the women. “More importantly the concern is whether the education provided to girls is free from gender bias and whether it provides equal access to the job market.”

According to the 2007 MDG Civil Society report education for women has been identified as key to their participation in national development. Education is crucial because it enhances the life opportunities of women, and their families. Girl’s education is critically important not only for harnessing the nation’s human resource for development, but also for raising the self-esteem and confidence, and widening the life choices of females, their access to information and knowledge.

 "behind every successful woman there is always a father who recognized the value of his daughter."
   with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early & child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s educationEmpowering girls and safeguarding their rights is at the heart of the issue. Child Marriages MUST end. When girls are able to stay in school & avoid being married early,they can build a foundation 4 a better life 4 themselves & their families

Pertinent questions that need to be addressed with urgency, is that access to education is not enough, to see real change for women in Kenya, Africa and the world as a whole.

The Human Rights Watch says: Child marriage almost inevitably disrupts girls’ education and exposes them to domestic violence.

Girls who marry young are more susceptible to early pregnancies and reproductive health complications associated with early pregnancy.

In order to effectively address the problem of child marriages, Human Rights Watch recommends that states:

  • Enact legislation that sets the minimum age for marriage at 18, and include requirements for the verification of the full and meaningful consent of both spouses.
  • Take the necessary legislative and other measures to ensure that anyone who intentionally forces an adult or a child to enter into a marriage is appropriately penalized, and that marriages concluded under force may be voided, annulled, or dissolved without undue burden placed on the victim(s).
  • Safeguard by law a victim’s right to seek financial compensation after voiding, annulling, divorcing, or otherwise dissolving the marriage and protect the rights of children born out of such a marriage.
  • Provide training to law enforcement officials on gender discrimination and violence against women, including investigations into child marriages.
  • Ensure that government or nongovernment efforts at discouraging child marriages do not directly or indirectly punish victims of child marriages by excluding them from health, education, employment or other services that protect, fulfill, and promote their human rights.
A girl who marries later is more empowered to choose whether, when & how many children to have
  • Recognize marital rape as a criminal offense.
  • Increase and improve access to reproductive healthcare for all girls and women in rural and urban areas by allocating greater resources from national health expenditure and more personnel.
  • Ensure that access to emergency obstetric care, including monitoring of labor, trained birth attendants, newborn care, and contraception, is available to all girls and women in rural and urban areas.
  • Raise awareness among health workers and the public on the importance of registering births, including home deliveries.
  • Provide continuing formal education and vocational training opportunities for married girls and women.

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“Child marriage is almost always also forced marriage. It disrupts girls’ education and exposes them to domestic violence and preventable health crises,” said Gerntholtz. “By working to tackle and end the marriage of children, the UN and global governments will help protect the rights of women and girls worldwide.”

In conclusion, Governments need to understand the local context in development policy by placing people at the centre of development is more than an intellectual exercise.

It means making progress equitable and broad-based, enabling women to become active participants in change and ensuring that achievements are not attained at the expense of future generations.