World still violent, discriminating against girls-report

World governments have to do more to protect girl children against violence and discrimination

Girls in the entire world are still facing discrimination and violence, according to a new report released by international organisations.

The report released by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Plant International and UN Women says that although today more girls attain primary and secondary education leading to a reduction in illiteracy levels, they are still subjected to violence.

Titled ‘ A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress’, the reports indicates that 25 years later after the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, violence and discrimination continue plaguing girls.

Ahead of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the report says that there still remain child marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and rape. The report adds that these harmful acts put girls at disadvantage more than their male counterparts.

The UNICEF Executive Director, Ms Henrietta Fore calls upon countries in the entire world to scale up their efforts so that girls can live in a safer environment.

She says that until governments consider protection, girls will continue being subjected to violence and discrimination.

“Twenty-five years ago, the world’s governments made a commitment to women and girls. But they have only made partial good on that promise. While the world has mustered the political will to send many girls to school, it has come up embarrassingly short on equipping them with the skills and support they need not only to shape their own destinies but to live in safety and dignity.”

Ms Fore continues that there is need for people’s attitudinal change so that girls are given a chance to prevail.

“Access to education is not enough-we must also change people’s behaviours and attitudes towards girls. True equality will only come when all girls are safe from violence, free to exercise their rights, and are able to enjoy equal opportunities in life.”

UNICEF statistics indicate that girls and women accounted for 70 percent of detected trafficking victims globally most of them for sexual exploitation in 2016. Figures estimate that one in every 20 girls between 15-19 years old has been raped.

In Uganda, 2018 the Violence Against Children Survey showed that one in every three girls experience sexual violence during childhood while three in 10 experience physical violence. Eight in 10 girls experienced emotional violence.

Also, early marriage and female genital mutilation continue to be practised in some parts of the country with an estimated 40.4 percent of 20-49-year-old women were married by the age of 18; 11.6 percent were married by the age of 15 and one in four teenage girls from 15-19 years are pregnant or have a child.

The Plan International Chief Executive Officer, Ms Birgitte Albrectsen, says that the report findings give a holistic image for girls 25 years after the Beijing Declaration adding that if nothing is done to end discrimination against girls, the world will not ably achieve the 2030 gender equality agenda.

“Adolescent girls, in particular, suffer heightened discrimination as a result of their age and gender and yet continue to be sidelined in their communities and in decision making spaces, largely invisible in government policy”.

“Empowering adolescent girls yields a triple societal benefit for girls today, the adults they become, and the next generation of children. If we fail to grasp this and to end the discrimination girls continue to face the world over, we will stand little chance of achieving the gender equality ambitions set out in Agenda 2030,” she says.

It has further been noted that girls today are more liable to suffer from mental ill-health than before. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19, surpassed only by maternal conditions.

Girls also remain at high risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, with 970,000 adolescents aged 10-19 with HIV today compared to 740,000 girls in 1995. Adolescent girls aged 10-19 still account for around three in four new infections among adolescents worldwide.

The UN Women Executive Director, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, notes that even if girls are educated, they will not be able to take up their rightful positions at the workplace if other factors such as violence are not dealt with.

“Since 1995 in Beijing, when a specific focus on ‘girl-child’ issues first emerged, we have increasingly heard girls assert their rights and call us to account. But the world has not kept up with their expectations of responsible stewardship of the planet, a life without violence, and their hopes for economic independence”.

“As long as women and girls have to use three times the time and energy of men on looking after the household, equal opportunities for girls to move from school into good jobs in safe workplaces are going to be out of reach,” Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka observes.

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