Give Voice To Girls

by | Sep 12, 2019 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N.

“GIVE VOICE TO GIRLS”

October 11, 2019  International Day of the Girl Child

This is Madelyn.  She is only two years old.  She has dreams, that from all indicators, she will have a good chance to realize. Those indicators are a strong family life,  living in a developed country with access to health care, education, sanitation, potable water and jobs, and in an area that offers relative safety.

All girls dream.  Not all will realize their dreams unless we are attentive to the systemic issues that prevent those dreams from becoming a reality.

Last year at this time, my colleague in AIC International Representation, Isabelle Chaperon, along with about 30 NGOs organized a forum at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France to celebrate the International Day of the Girl.  Testimonies from local agencies gave voice to young girls dreams but also enabled them to speak about their fears and difficulties.

Here is what they heard:

  • “At 14 my parents already offer me in marriage to a man. It is with a twinge of heart that I give this testimony, I have no one to confide to me. I hope to escape this sad fate to which my parents want to destine me.”
  • “I am 12 years old, there is violence everywhere, especially domestic violence; I have suffered an attempted rape, there is a lot of prostitution in the streets, young girls, it makes me sad, they sell their bodies. My dream is to become a police officer.” (AIC- Brazil)
  • ” I’m 14 years old; my father was murdered; at school the teacher tried to rape me; my dream is to be prison guardian.” (AIC-Colombia)
  • “I was 15 years old; I was in 4th; I was raped by a 28 year old man like many girls in the village. I had suffered and I continue to suffer psychologically; there are many early pregnancies; girls no longer go to school. I want to do science.”
  • ” I am 10 years old; I witnessed the death of five women who wanted to give birth in the village; I have the chance to go to school, I wish that all the girls go to school.  My dream is to be a midwife.”

The discussion at UNESCO featured programs from the NGOs to alleviate the obstacles to achieving the girls’ dreams including an AIC-Philippines project of a girls’ shelter for victims of violence in their family, a program for training workshops for income-generating activities in parallel with schooling  to help girls avoid dropping out of school by AIC-El Salvador, and an AIC-Mexico project hosting and supporting children victims of violence, which included working with the entire family, raising awareness and offering training.

Since 2012, 11 October has been marked as the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations collaborating with UNICEF and UNWomen. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The 2019 theme is “Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable.” It will celebrate achievements by, with and for girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action nearly 25 years ago.  While measuring achievements, we will be aware that despite international conventions and numerous legal instruments, girls still must overcome many obstacles as basic as the right to be born and to have that birth registered, to achieve their dreams as the testimonies indicate.

The Vincentian Family can and will continue to promote the equality of the girl child and offer programs that promote their dignity and right to life, to education, to health care and to employment.  Our actions must not only promote and protect these rights they must also give voice to girls.  Helping them organize themselves to tackle issues like child marriage, educational inequality, gender based violence, climate change, self-esteem and girls right to enter places of worship or public spaces during menstruation.  Let us give girls the ability to prove they are unscripted and unstoppable.

As C. Paisant concluded at the UNESCO forum, “The golden thread is the ray of light at the end of the tunnel: to go to school, to be a doctor, a midwife, a nurse, a judge, a lawyer, a prison guard, a member of Parliament! In their dreams, girls marked by the experience of violence express their desire for justice, caring for others, and political commitment. They are the ones who show us the way.”

 

The Beijing Platform of Action nine indicators for girls:

  1. Eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls
  2. Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
  3. Promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential.
  4. Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.
  5. Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.
  6. Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect young girls at work.
  7. Eradicate violence against girls.
  8. Promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.
  9. Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls

 

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