International Day of the Girl: My Voice, Our Equal Future
The fight for women and girls’ rights has progressed rapidly in the past 25 years, spearheaded by the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: a motion which focused on 12 critical aspects to further the acknowledgment and advancement of such rights. Since then, gender equality has seen a worldwide improvement, with the implementation of new laws protecting women, greater representation of women in the workplace and developments in education, to name but a few.
The International Day of the Girl, held annually on 11th October, aims to empower and fulfil girls’ human rights on a global scale, alongside illustrating the dangers, injustices and challenges that many girls still face today, such as child marriage and unequal access to education. It is crucial that we acknowledge girls’ achievements in the face of adversity, offering support and empowerment in addition to directing a focus on the tasks we must still address.
As adolescent girls worldwide assert their power as change-makers, International Day of the Girl 2020 is focusing 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
Although there have been clear advancements to girls’ rights, there is still a very long way to go before gender equality is reached. The Covid-19 pandemic has posed the threat of reversing the efforts which have come so far in the battle for girls’ rights, particularly in low-income countries which do not possess equal access to aid and resources to adapt to and mitigate the disastrous effects of the pandemic.
Across the world, each year, approximately 12 million girls are subjected to child marriage, with an estimated 4 million more girls predicted to also experience this in the next two years. Covid-19 is further impacting these challenges. In Kenya alone, 17 million girls have been removed from education since March 2020, and the risk of child pregnancy and marriage has heightened dramatically due to school closures. Domestic and gender-based violence has also risen as a result of Covid-19, with sexual assault reported as 1/3 of all crimes across Kenya. In Ndhiwa, the sub-county where we work, 80% of women and children are classed as ‘multidimensionally poor’. This means that they suffer from multiple disadvantages such as poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, disempowerment and threat of violence.
We work to support girls and women in Ndhiwa because we know there is great need. And in 2020 that need is ever greater. But there is also great potential. The girls and women we work with never fail to inspire us with their resilience, their commitment to education and their hopes for the future. And this year, as part of the International Day of the Girl, we want to amplify the voices of the girls we work with.
At the moment we are working to support over 480 girls. Each one of those is a girl who deserves to be able to access opportunities. To be safe from harm. To be well-nourished. And we know from over 12 years experience of working in Ndhiwa that, given support, these girls can go on to achieve great things. Each one has her own story to tell. And each one is rising up in the face of all of these statistics, against great odds.
One of these girls is Anatalia (pictured above). Anatalia was coerced into sex with the deputy headteacher of her primary school at just 14 years old. Being threatened with violence if she refused him, she was led into an abusive relationship, fell pregnant and was forced to marry the teacher. After giving birth to her daughter Serafin, she was out of school for five years and sadly discovered that both she and her daughter were HIV positive.
In 2011, we supported her negotiation out of marriage and back into the classroom. Anatalia has now completed secondary school and is studying BSc Business at Maseno University, whilst Serafin is one of the top performing pupils in her class! Anatalia plans to return to Ndhiwa to support other girls in her community to complete their education. You can read more about her story, including a video from Anatalia here.
On this International Day of the Girl, we are asking you to join us.
- Can you help us to share the inspirational stories of the girls we work with who are leading efforts towards positive social change, including gender equality, in their communities and nations? Let’s use our voice to amplify their leadership, actions and impact to inspire others. Please share our stories on your social media with the hashtag #MyVoiceOurEqualFuture.
- Can you support our work so that we can continue to support the communities in Ndhiwa to overcome some of the increased challenges that they are facing in 2020? Donate today