Giving the floor to the girls – in order to insure that this day was truly dedicated to girls, thirty NGOs working with UNESCO, including the AIC, wanted to give the floor to the girls in order to truly celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child at the UNESCO headquarters.
In preparation for this day, the AIC participated in collecting hundreds of stories from girls supported by NGOs at local the level … stories that expressed their fears, their difficulties and their dreams.
“I’m 12 years old … there is violence everywhere, especially domestic violence. Someone attempted to rape me. There is a lot of prostitution on the streets … sometimes the girls are underage, it makes me sad, they are selling their bodies. My dream? To become a policewoman.” (A girl being supported by AIC-Brazil)
“I’m 14, my father was assassinated. At school, the teacher tried to rape me. My dream is to be a prison guard.” (A girl being supported by AIC-Colombia)
The voices of these girls, and many more, were heard at the international level.
The NGOs present pointed out that these testimonies demonstrate three major types of issues that girls today:
- Issues linked to the local and family context (explored in a session presented by Isabelle Chaperon, AIC International Representative)
Girls’ birth rights are still often contested; in some regions the number of births are not registered with the state; mutilation practices continue; very young girls are forced into marriages by their families; girls are all too often victims of their parents’ choices and are prevented from having access to education, girls do the majority of the housework; they are the first victims when family problems arise; violence remains an ongoing problem for girls, including in family life.
This session provided an opportunity to present a project from AIC-Philippines – a refuge center for girls who have been victims of violence within their families.
- Issues linked to conditions at school
In some regions, the lack of access to toilet facilities mainly affects girls; insecurity and violence can be a problem both on the way to school and within the school itself; a lack of emotional and sexual education leads to early pregnancies which have serious consequences for the health and education of these young girls; a lack of quality teaching, a lack of access to computers and school books and as well as a lack access for people with disabilities …. all of these present obstacles to the many girls who seek an education.
During this session, there was a presentation of a project of the AIC-El Salvador through which girls can attend training workshops to set up income generating activities at the same time that they are going to school.
- Issues linked to the attitudes/behavior of the larger society
The issues linked to violence against girls leads us to pose questions about society’s responsibilities with regard to that situation. Girls are victims of trafficking and smuggling: they are abducted and sold, particularly to “supply” wives, or they are enlisted in the armed forces; prostitution is trivialized, it involves younger and younger girls who are sometimes encouraged by their families; rape is often trivialized and used as a weapon or as a factor for exclusion.
The AIC is among those organizations that are addressing these situations and is taking a stand and becoming better organized on the local level. The AIC’s work in this area was illustrated via a video presentation of a project from AIC-Mexico … welcoming and supporting children who have been victims of violence. This project also includes training and raising awareness in families.
The day was a big success and the girls who spoke about their participation in different projects and their dreams for a better life … this girls were greatly admired by all who were present. That admiration is highlighted in the following conclusion: “The take-home message from this gathering is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, girls are able to go to school and study to becom a doctor, midwife, nurse, judge, lawyer, prison guard, or minister! In their dreams, the girls, marked by their experience of violence, express their desire for justice, caring for others, and political action. They are showing us the way forward.”
AIC would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of the day. Without you, it would not have been possible!