11 Oct 2020
International Day of the Girl 2020: My Voice, Our Equal Future
Twenty-five years ago, some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China, for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognise women’s rights as human rights. The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality.
In the years following, women pressed this agenda forward, leading global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay.
Today, these movements have expanded. They are being organised by and for adolescent girls – girls from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence and poor learning opportunities.
My voice, our equal future
Every year on 11 October, the International Day of the Girl, UNICEF launches an annual campaign with girls to amplify their voices and stand up for their rights. This year, under the theme, “My voice, our equal future”, let’s seize the opportunity to reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls – energised and recognised, counted and invested in.
As adolescent girls worldwide assert their power as change-makers, International Day of the Girl 2020 will focus on their demands to:
- Live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS
- Learn new skills towards the futures they choose
- Lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change
- More than 1.6 billion children in 184 countries were out of school at the peak of the lockdown
- 13 million additional child marriages could take place in the next 10 years because of the coronavirus crisis
- 1 in 5 girls aged between 14 and 21 experienced public sexual harassment during lockdown in the UK
A platform for action
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls. Now, nearly 25 years later, the Platform for Action remains a powerful foundation for assessing progress on gender equality. It calls for a world where every girl and woman can realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to attend and complete school, to choose when and whom she marries, and to earn equal pay for equal work.
The Platform for Action specifically calls on the global community to:
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls
- Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls
- Promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential
- Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training
- Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition
- Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect young girls at work
- Eradicate violence against girls
- Promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life
- Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls.
Coping with COVID-19
As COVID-19 tears through communities across the globe, children have become the hidden victims of the pandemic. School closures and other lockdown measures adopted to stem the spread of the virus have cut off millions of children from quality learning, critical vaccines, and nutritious diets.
For girls, disruptions also come at the cost of their safety.
The risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices soars during an emergency – especially for girls living under restricted movement and socioeconomic decline. Many girls kept from school today will never return, their childhood stolen by child marriage or pregnancy.
These are the stories of young girls living through COVID-19 – coping with the fears of child marriage, the struggles of distance learning, and the burden of isolation.
They are also the stories of a world reimagined. Armed only with mobile phones, 16 girls from nine countries film their hardships, fears and hopes for a fair world.
Watch the 5 episodes here
Africa in View
Technology is an ever-greater disruptive force for good by enhancing human existence, and arguably for bad also, with many jobs being given over to machines and artificial intelligence.
As with technology, so we need creative and disruptive approaches to how we achieve development, address the learning crisis and avoid continuing to have millions of girls out of school, and those in school not learning or completing their education.Without drastic action, the global community will have failed a generation and a generation to come by not attaining the SDGs by 2030. Africa is at the forefront in the discourse and fight for gender equality and gender transformative disruption. A unique set of African leaders and actors are trying to stem the tide to right this wrong.
Women and girls still lag far behind
Women are responsible for 60% of work done globally yet earn just 10% income and 1% of property. In Africa, 70% of women are excluded financially. The continent has a US$42 billion financing gap between men and women.
According to McKinsey’s Power of Parity Report: Advancing Women’s Equality in Africa, Africa’s gender parity stands at 0.58 (1 would be full parity). For the continent to achieve full parity could be 140 years without drastic action.
Closing the gender gap for women and girls in all spheres of life is urgent globally, and particularly in Africa, with girls at risk of being left behind—millions are not in school now, and 4 million may never set foot in a classroom.
The disadvantages faced by African women and girls in education and training start in the early years, and this even though 25% of political representatives in Africa are women, ahead of the global average of 21% (albeit limited to a small subset of countries).
Yet, advancing women’s equality the African economy could add 10% to GDP, or US$316 billion by 2025. As the world, experience a rapidly changing global context and recognises the crucial role of education and skills for the youth of tomorrow, Africa is the fulcrum for change.
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