International Day of the Girl Child and the vision for 2030: How HART works to empower and protect adolescent girls in its partner countries

2 October 2015


HART and its partners firmly believe in enabling the power of the adolescent girl. Read on to find out more about the International Day of the Girl Child and how HART is contributing to achieving the vision of the sustainable development goals for 2030.

2015 sees the 15th anniversary of the UNSCR 1325 framework on Women, Peace and Security and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the launch of Goal 5 for gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, the fourth International Day of the Girl Child will be held on October 11th, to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. It is therefore an apt year to emphasise gender issues.

The focus of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is on highlighting the importance of and encouraging investment in adolescent girls. An 11 Days of Action to achieve this end will begin on October 1st. Although some progress has been made globally on improving girls’ lives during their early childhood, the challenges they face as adolescents have rarely been addressed by the international community. Some of the most pressing issues for young women are:

  • obtaining quality secondary and higher education;
  • avoiding forced early marriage;
  • accessing reproductive and sexual health services;
  • obtaining protection against gender-based violence.

The UN states that, ‘social, economic, and political investment in the power of adolescent girls is fundamental to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination and to achieving equitable and sustainable development outcomes’ and is calling upon all relevant actors to:

  • ‘Invest in high-quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives which prepare girls for life, jobs and leadership.
  • Invest in health and nutrition suitable for the adolescent years, including puberty education, menstrual hygiene management, and reproductive health education and services.
  • Promote zero tolerance against physical, mental and sexual violence.
  • Enact and consistently implement social, economic and policy mechanisms to combat early marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • Invest in the creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civic and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement.
  • Promote gender-responsive legislation and policies across all areas, especially for adolescent girls who are disabled, vulnerable, marginalised and victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation.’

For many years, HART and its partners have been providing aid and advocacy to empower young women and tackle the problems they face.

In India, young girls from vulnerable sections of society face bonded labour and sexual exploitation in the form of the Devadasi system, a practice of ritualised prostitution. HART works with the NGO Operation Mercy (OMIF) to provide holistic support for these women, supporting their access to much needed medical services which are often denied due to stigmatisation. OMIF also advocates for the rights of the Devadasi and campaigns for the effective enforcement of legislation designed to prevent the illegal practice.

In South Sudan, access to education is severely limited, especially for girls, who are more likely to die in pregnancy or child birth than complete primary education. The country has the world’s lowest female literacy rate and retaining adolescent girls at secondary school level is especially difficult. The Marol Academy, HART’s partner in Bahr-El-Ghazal, emphasises the need to promote female education in order to ‘build healthy communities, states and a nation. The Academy provides schooling for girls at both the primary and secondary level, and has succeeded in enrolling an increasing number of women at the Secondary School, who attend classes daily.

In Burma and amongst displaced populations in Thailand, adolescent girls face numerous gendered challenges. On-going state-sponsored sexual violence in ethnic communities poses a constant threat; maternal, infant and child mortality rates are high and migrant women and children are particularly vulnerable to illness and domestic violence. HART supports Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), who run community-based programmes related to women and girls’ health, education and empowerment, as well as advocacy and research projects. Amongst other initiatives, SWAN train community health workers in reproductive and family planning, provide emergency assistance to survivors of gender based violence and organise ‘exchange sessions’ in order to bring vulnerable women together to support and empower one another.

In Nigeria and Sudan, girls in conflict and post-conflict settings often lack safe or sustainable educational and economic opportunities. HART’s partner in central Nigeria, the Mai Adiko Peace Project in Jos, runs income generation activities for women and young people; it provides teaching, skills training, equipment, meeting space and microloans to participants. NRRDO, a community-based organisation in the Nuba Mountains, is supported by HART to promote inclusive participation of girls on issues affecting their lives in the community, improve access to primary and secondary education, provide psycho-social support and advocate for women’s rights.

In Uganda, many young girls are vulnerable to or are living with HIV. Compounding this issue is the stigmatisation that accompanies the disease – the consequences of which are more severe for women and girls. HART’s partner PAORINHER in Patongo provides a range of clinical and social services to children living with HIV, the majority of whom are girls. The Centre also conducts extensive outreach programmes to raise awareness about the realities of HIV and promote the reintegration of previously ostracised families and individuals, as well as encourage more people to seek their treatment and support. Finally, PAORINHER provides integrated and inclusive education to children in the community, including reproductive health education, which helps to break down the isolating stigma surrounding HIV.

As such, HART and its partners have been and will continue to work towards the goals set out by the UN for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child. HART believes that if the global community commit to realising the potential of adolescent girls, through promoting their protection and empowerment, this will have a powerful impact on both the advancement of gender equality and the sustainable development of nations worldwide.

Disclaimer: This blog is a space for discussion and personal reflection. Any opinions expressed within the blog are those of the author and are not necessarily held by HART. Individual authors are responsible for the accuracy of statements made within the blog.


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