By Matida Komma
Coordinator-The Girls’ Agenda
As the world celebrated International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) yesterday, 11th October, for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved, governments must invest on girls, especially adolescent girls.
Millions of girls all over the world face various challenges that delay the realization of their fullest potentials and progress. In The Gambia, girls face various challenges such as access to quality higher education, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination and sexual violence, lack of access to reproductive services, and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.
This year’s theme- is “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: What Counts for Girls,” is indeed timely. It is only when investments in programs for girls on issues that particularly affect them, due to both their age and gender are complemented with corresponding investments in data on girls, can we make real progress towards greater accountability in domains of critical importance to them. It is crucial to highlight that investing in adolescent girls’ empowerment and rights is necessary for the realization of such goals for a suitable future for the generation yet unborn.
“Educating girls helps reduce the rate of child marriage, disease and helps strengthen the economy by helping girls have access to higher paying jobs, be economically independent thus reducing dependency rate on family breadwinners,” Matida said.
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, literate, and healthy life, not only during childhood, but also as they mature into womanhood. As articulated by UN 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.”
Over the years, The Gambia has made some progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood. However adolescent girls continue to face challenges because of under investment in their needs and concerns as they mature into adults. They continue to encounter limited access to higher education, protection from child marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence. In addition, adequate access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services, protection of themselves from sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy continue to challenge their lives.
The Girls’ Agenda believes that if the SDGs are to be achieved, the rights of girls and women must be respected, protected and promoted. While we can applaud the ambition and potential of the SDGs for girls, and recognize how girls’ progress is good not only for girls, but also for families, communities and society at large, we must also take this opportunity to consider how existing gaps in data on girls and young women, lack of systematic analysis, and limited use of existing data significantly limit our ability to monitor and communicate the wellbeing and progress of half of our population. Much more can and needs to be done to harness the data required to ensure programs, policies and services effectively respond to the specific needs of girls.
When we invest in girls’ health, safety, education and rights – in times of peace and crisis – we empower them to reach their dreams and build better lives for themselves and their communities. To advance progress for girls, we call for an increased investment in order to enhance national capacity and systems to collect, analyze and disseminate gender data across the age spectrum to improve statistics on gender based violence, teenage pregnancy, sexual and reproductive health issues.
Girls have already changed the world for the better, and this generation has the power to magnify that change. We call everyone to join us in advancing progress for girls, share ideas, reaffirm commitments and advance investments in areas highlighted above, and beyond, to empower girls and achieve the SDGs by 2030.
We hope to empower the next generation of girls, both socially and politically – and enable them use their voices and work towards the protection of their sexual and reproductive health rights, end child marriage, FGM and related discriminated practices in a generation. Investing in these young people is an investment on the future. Their voices are important in our struggle to end all forms of violence and discrimination against girls and women.
About The Girls’ Agenda:
The Girls’ Agenda is a young women- led organization that promotes the respect, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of and advancement of girls and young women. It focuses mostly on the development of adolescent girls by empowering them with basic but crucial life skills to achieve their fullest potentials. In addition, it works with communities and groups to advocate for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.
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