Girls have potential to change the world

Ranjan K Baruah

Every girl has equal rights but most of them do not get their own rights. We know that adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.

But the challenge ahead for us is that nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 globally are not in education, employment or training, compared to 1 in 10 boys. We should be aware that up to 10 million girls shall be at risk of child marriage. In spite of much discussion and initiatives related to education around the world it has been found that almost half of primary schools in Least Developed Countries lack single-sex toilets – an important factor in girls’ attendance – and more than two thirds are without electricity.

We should not forget that every day, hundreds of thousands of girls around the world are harmed physically or psychologically. Around the world rirls are primarily victims of sexual exploitation (72% of detected girl victims), while boys are mainly subjected to forced labour (66% of detected boy victims). The global internet user gender gap is growing, from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019, and widest in the world’s least developed countries at 43 per cent. Globally, the percentage of females among Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates is below 15 per cent in over two-thirds of countries.

Like many other countries, In India, the trend of decline in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), defined as number of girls per 1000 of boys between 0-6 years of age, has been unabated since 1961. The decline from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 918 in 2011 is alarming. There is no shadow of doubt that the decline in the CSR is a major indicator of women disempowerment. The Indian Government has announced the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative to ensure rights of the girl child. This is being implemented through a national campaign and is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Education.

This year, we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child .On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. In these last 10 years, there has been increased attention on issues that matter to girls amongst governments, policymakers and the general public, and more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard on the global stage.

There is positivity as with adversity, however, comes resourcefulness, creativity, tenacity, and resilience. The world's 600 million adolescent girls have shown time and time again that given the skills and the opportunities, they can be the change makers driving progress in their communities, building back stronger for all, including women, boys and men.

Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities. Empowering women and girls and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but it also has a multiplier effect across all other development areas as women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential.

Girls are ready for a decade of acceleration forward. It is time for us all to stand accountable – with and for girls – and to invest in a future that believes in their agency, leadership and potential. Girls would do wonderful if she is given the right spaces. Let us all ensure that our girls shine in their academic fields and contribute positively to achieve sustainable development. Together we can ensure rights for all the girls and empowered girls shall build a sustainable society for all of us.


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