The United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution: 66/170 on December 19, 2011 to declare 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child to promote girls' rights and highlight gender inequalities between girls and boys. The United Nations has selected the theme of this year as 'The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030'. On the other hand, in Bangladesh, we will observe October 12 the National Girl Child Day. Bangladesh National Girl Child Advocacy Forum in collaboration with the government will organize events to observe the day. The objectives of observing the National Girl Child Day is similar to the International Day of the Girl Child.
If we take a close look at our girls, what do we find? They face discrimination even when in wombs. If the medical report of a pregnant woman shows that she is going to be a mother of a girl child, that woman gets negligence and hatred since that day for the so-called fault of carrying a girl child. Though, according to the medical science, women are absolutely innocent for carrying baby girls. So, it is a must to be aware that women are not responsible for giving birth to girl children rather men are and their 'Y' chromosome.
If we talk about human rights, food, nutrition and security of the girls, we get a gloomy scenario revealed through different researches and studies. Girls are always lagging behind in terms of enjoying their rights, getting proper care, food, nutrition etc.
Girls are under-evaluated, misunderstood, misevaluated, underserved everywhere even in the so-called educated society. That is why we urgently need to end all the discriminations, deprivation, and violence against girls in Bangladesh as well as in other countries. We must keep in mind that if we do not try to become a part of the solution in this regard, certainly we are a part of the problem.
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world - both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow's workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders. An investment in realizing the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.
It is estimated that 14 million girls are married off before they attain the age of 18 every year across the globe. Especially in developing countries, one in three girls are married off by 18. About 125 million women and girls today are being forced to undergo horror of female genital mutilation. These practices expose women and girls to serious health risks and perpetuate a cycle of poverty for families, communities, as well as all the nations. Though these harmful and inhuman practices are condemned globally, very little has been done to stop these.
Girls with disabilities face the problems of double burden everywhere, including in their families, and only they know how miserable their lives are. I have heard from many girls with disabilities that the negligence, discrimination, deprivation, violence, negative and unacceptable attitudes towards them, make them cry silently. It seems there is none to listen to their sorrows, to be sympathetic and to treat them as human beings. In fact, the girl children of most of the developing or poor countries face more or less the same problems in diverse ways. Collective approach is essential to solve the problems.
Girls are assets like boys, if properly educated. They are never a burden. So, let us raise our voice and join social and global movement ending the scourges they face. Let's give girls a choice, think positive about them, and make opportunities available to them for a bright future. Moreover, together 'WE CAN' definitely think globally and act locally.
Considering all the issues the United Nations recommended to invest in high quality education, skill development, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership. The world body also urge the governments to invest in health and nutrition, suitable to the adolescent years, including puberty education, menstrual hygiene management, sexual and reproductive health education and services, creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civic and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement to promote zero tolerance against physical, mental, and sexual violence, gender-responsive legislation and policies across all areas, especially for adolescent girls with disabilities, vulnerable and marginalized, and victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. It is also required to enact and consistently implement social, economic, and policy mechanisms to combat early marriage and female genital mutilation.
Therefore, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, the commitment by the global community have to be fulfilled in realizing the potential of adolescent to directly translate into the girls as powerful and positive change agents for their own empowerment, advancing gender equality and attaining sustainable advancement of their nations.
United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon perfectly said, "The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals rightly include key targets for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They offer an opportunity for a global commitment to breaking intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination - and realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all."
Parvez Babul is an award-winning media person, a member of Bangladesh National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, and an author of books on women's empowerment, climate change, media and contemporary issues. Email: [email protected]