Lundi, avril 29, 2019

Child Rights in Action Illumination #1: Girl child issues


Version française

Girl situation in the world


In many countries, especially in developing countries, girls are the first victims of violations of children's rights. Girls are subjected to double discrimination: because of their age but also because of their gender, often considered as "the weaker sex". In addition to this exposure to double discrimination, other factors (disability, poverty, etc.) are often added to their vulnerability…

This discriminatory situation, where girls are marginalized from the active life of society because of their gender will result in a deprivation of their rights. They are less likely to have a proper education, independence or emancipation. There are many obstacles and barriers to girls' empowerment around the world:

  • Cultural tradition and the weight of patriarchy: In some societies, girls are considered as inferior beings and as burdens whose destiny is directly linked to the performance of household tasks for their families. In these cases, parents will try to get rid of them very quickly by sending them in marriage.
  • Forced marriages: This tradition leads many girls to abandon their childhood and schooling for the label of "housewife". There are 12 million girls forcibly married each year, or 32,877 girls per day, nearly 1 girl every 2 seconds (plan international Canada 2019 statistics). These forced marriages, often early, lead to pregnancies for little girls; but above all, they expose them to physical and moral violence that they cannot fight because they are kept in a lower status than men.
  • Ignorance of laws on human and children's rights: The lack of education of some parents contributes to the culture of these discriminatory traditional practices that exclude girls in society. Thus, in many countries, violations of girls' rights are so widespread and even so normalized that they are commonplace.


90% of 10-year-old girls live in developing countries.


For many economists, progress in developing countries is largely based on the urgent improvement of the plight of the girl child. However, it is in these countries that girls are most exposed to issues related to gender discrimination. Indeed, in these countries, families often live in conditions of extreme poverty and to meet the various needs, some favour the education of boys rather than girls, who are reduced to household help or sent in marriage.

"The place given to women and girls in society is also problematic. Since they are not immune from physical abuse and submission within their homes, either to their father or then to their husband. In addition, girls often have no choice but to submit to a marriage arranged by their families and they bear the responsibility for its success. It is also in this context that many young girls are denied an education to which they are nevertheless entitled, because their families do not see the point of educating their daughters whose unique vocation, is to become wives and mothers.

In addition, girls who live in the poorest parts of the country face additional challenges. Indeed, the lack of sanitation is a major problem in slums. Lack of clean water is also an urgent problem, leading to many diseases that are not always cured due to the ignorance of girls on these diseases. The problem of girl's hygiene during menstruation also remains problematic: they do not have access to adequate protection and often use cotton that they have to wash and reuse. Criminal activities such as prostitution or trafficking in girls also remain a topical issue. "Aditi (India), member of Child Rights in Action team.


What solutions to this situation?


"There is no more effective development instrument than girls' education" Koffi Annan, The Annual gala on Women’s Health Coalition 2004

If girls are supported from childhood, they will be able to emancipate themselves and promote the economic growth, a major challenge in developing countries. This support for many intellectuals and world leaders is nothing more than girl’s education.

Indeed, education gives women the opportunity to overcome discriminations and thus change the weight of traditions and change things in their favour. Girls' education enables them to have a greater awareness of their rights, and to enjoy greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives, improve their health and chances of survival.

Furthermore, girls' education would be a powerful opportunity for developing countries to promote the economy, which is a major challenge for them.

According to Babatunde Osotimehin, former Executive Director of the National Population Fund, if developing countries' invests in the education, well-being and independence of 10-year-old girls they will have an increase of their economic growth up to $21 million per year. UN population fund’s (UNFPA) state of the world population 2016 report.

"Although girls' education is a powerful weapon for their emancipation and well-being, there is also a need to raise the awareness of people/communities around girls, because in many cases when girls have this opportunity to attend school, there are still barriers to their participation. Tradition and culture, which are very present in some countries, remain an important factor in the emancipation of young girls who, despite a very good school education, are nevertheless forced to obey their tradition against their will (excision, arranged/forced marriages, etc.). Raising awareness of girl’s situation is therefore an issue that should not be taken lightly as it is an important factor in their independence. " Lolita (of Cameroonian origin) Member of the Child Rights in Action team*