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Issue Number 41 • October 2013

Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child

Girls must be saved from bearing burden of inequalities

…By Carolyne Oyugi

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s the world celebrated the second International Day of the Girl Child, many girls all over the world have nothing to smile about. Their lives are full of burdens which they have to carry throughout their lives. Many a time girls are forced to sacrifice their playtime in order to do household chores and even worse sacrifice their childhood and get into early and forced marriages to solve family problems. These sacrifices have a big impact on girls’ academic performance and often leads to them discontinuing education. Adolescent girls in countries experiencing disasters such as drought, floods and epidemic as well as crises brought on by civic strife suffer more. A report launched by Plan International, a child rights’ organization paints a bleak picture about the situation of adolescent girls in Africa. The report titled Adolescent Girls and Disasters says drought, conflict, food crises and natural disasters have devastating effects on adolescent girls as some are forced into early marriage or sexual exploitation.

Survival “When crisis strikes, adolescent girls are forced to shoulder much of the burden of family survival. As a result they become victims of misguided and harmful coping strategies,” the report says. Speaking during the launch of the report in Nairobi, Gezahegn Kebebe, Regional Director of Plan International in Eastern and Southern Africa stressed that Africa governments and development organisations need to ensure that harmful coping strategies such as dropping out of school, early marriages and migration from home should be replaced by access to education at all levels. In Africa, some emergencies especially like drought and its resulting food shortages can last for decades. Globally, one in five girls is denied an education due to daily realities of poverty, discrimination and violence. Kebebe refers to this as “not only unjust but also a huge waste of potential with serious global consequences”. He says that drought, conflict, food crises and natural disasters have devastating effects on adolescent girls as some are forced into early marriages or sexual exploitation.

Exploitation The report further reveals that African adolescent girls are routinely disadvantaged in terms of nutrition, domestic workloads and education. In addition they are made to labour and their sexu-

ality exploited as commodities in the general struggle for survival in unprotected and risky living conditions. He states that girls have fewer opportunities to participate, make their voices heard, develop talents and contribute to societies, except in the most menial ways. “We must start to see emergencies and disasters in terms of the underlying conditions of poverty and gender inequality which invariably exacerbate the impact of disasters on the most vulnerable, especially adolescent girls,” cautions Kabede. “In Plan, we are playing our part through our ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign which is aims at helping girls break the inter-generational cycle of poverty. One key focus for the campaign is education. We are advocating for universal access for girls to receive at least nine years

Prof Rose Odhiambo,Secretary of the National Gender and Equality Commission,Gezahegn Kebebe,Regional Director of Plan International -East and South Africa and Carol Sherman, Country Directer Plan International- Kenya during the launch of the Report Because I am a Girl. Pictures: Plan International. of quality education,” he explains. His sentiments were echoed by Prof Rose Odhiambo, Secretary of the National Gender and Equality Commission who expressed disappointment with the society. She noted that it is very painful that some millions of people are still denied their rights to education and many other rights simply because of their gender.

Inequality “The evidence is clear: investing in girls and women is critical to fighting poverty. It is absolutely shocking that the biggest barrier to a healthy and successful life for millions of the world’s poorest

“We must start to see emergencies and disasters in terms of the underlying conditions of poverty and gender inequality which invariably exacerbate the impact of disasters on the most vulnerable, especially adolescent girls.” Gezahegn Kebebe,

people is their gender.” According to Odhiambo, The International Day of the Girl Child will help raise awareness on this inequality, reminding the world that giving girls and women better access to education, healthcare and jobs as well as a voice in decision making, helps makes societies healthier, more prosperous and peaceful. Odhiambo further shared that the odds are against girls in many parts of the world, particularly those from poor and most marginalized communities yet research shows that when girls reach their full potential, through improved status, better healthcare and education, it is an incredibly effective development tool for society as a whole. She called on governments and policy makers to help and give every girl quality education. “We want the issue of child marriage raised in the Human Rights Council and we want to pursue a General Assembly Resolution which addresses child marriage as a violation of children’s rights,” Odhiambo said. She added: “Plus we want to ensure that the minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls, with

or without parental consent.” Research shows that each extra year of a mother’s schooling cuts infant mortality by between five and 10 per cent. It has been estimated that universal secondary education for girls in subSaharan Africa could save as many as 1.8 million lives annually. An extra year of secondary school increases a girl’s potential income by 15 to 25 per cent. An increase of only one per cent in girls secondary education attendance, adds 0.3 per cent to a country’s GDP. Worldwide, disasters have increased from 90 a year in 1970s to almost 450 a year in the last decade. Experts differ, but reasons for this increase include climate change, rapid urbanization and environmental degradation. The International Day of the Girl Child was adopted by the United Nations last year to promote girls’ rights, highlight gender inequalities between girls and boys and address the various forms of discrimination suffered by girls around the globe. This year’s theme for the Day of the girl child is Innovating for Girls’ Education.

Foundation targets to empower girls in Coast region

…By Omar Mwalago

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ccess to information will now be easy for women and girls in Kwale following the establishment of a project that seeks to empower them. The initiative has been launched through the German Foundation for World Population (DSW) to facilitate the implementation of a three year project focusing on women and girls empowerment. The project dubbed ‘Women and

Girls Empowerment’ (WOGE), is an initiative of Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevolkerung (DSW) which has roped in various government departments in the county. The initiative targets both women and girls and seeks to equip them with skills and capacity to form viable groups that can engage in income generating activities. The project which is being implemented in four East African countries on a pilot basis covers Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

In Kenya, the project targets women and girls in organized groups at Kubo Division, Kwale County and Kikambala Division of Kilifi County in Coast region. According to George Ouma, Program Coordinator Coast Region, government departments will play a key role in the implementation process. Complement “The project aims at complimenting services already offered by the government and thus the need to involve relevant departments to identify ben-

eficiaries and avoid duplication of efforts,” noted Ouma. Already, ten groups have been identified and are slated to benefit from the project where government officers will offer technical support and facilitate in the forums. David Kobia, the programme’s officer in charge of Coast region, believes that the partnership will strongly have an impact in enabling the community access accurate information on time. According Kobia, an information resource centre will be set up in Lukore

to enable beneficiaries access information from the centre. The DSW plans to negotiate with the adult education office to utilize their Community Learning Resource Centre or a container structure still at the same site. The resource centre is aimed at ensuring that women and girls get information and skills on how they can manage and improve their lives and living standards. “For a long time women and girls have lagged behind in development due to lack of information,” Ouma said.

Kenyan Woman Issue 41  

October 2013 Issue | The Kenyan Woman newspaper is a monthly publication of African Woman & Child Feature Service.

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