Every Child Matters—Let’s Promote the Rights of Every Girl
By Zahara | age 18 | Member of the National Girls Advocacy Alliance Youth Group, Uganda
Imagine a world where every child born is treated with all the care and love they deserve to grow and realize their dream without any limitation. This is the picture I often paint whenever I see a girl child who has been neglected especially on the streets. A girl child deserves the best—that is why I stand and advocate for quality education, gender equality and decent work for girls.
Uganda is one of the countries promoting the rights of women and girls. The government has put in place laws and policies to support girls to get education, jobs and live peacefully in community; however there are still many girls suffering especially in villages. At least in the towns, parents are trying to care for girls but in some villages there are many girls who do not go to school, cannot afford health care, do not participate in community while others are violated in different ways.
One of the reasons why girls are still suffering is because of the negative beliefs and cultures that do not value the girl. And as a result girls are often not treated the same like the boys. For instance, when a parent does not have enough money they prefer to take the boy to school, saying that the girl will get married. In most cases it is the girls who do the work at home and take care of the sick. In the end they so not have time to go to school or even to work.
These are some of the reasons why I am passionate and keep speaking about the rights of girls in my community. Since joining the National Girls Advocacy Alliance Youth Group which is a youth platform of the Girls Advocacy Alliance Project in Uganda, I have been advocating for the rights of girls at the district and national level.
Through our advocacy we aim to end child marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation economic exclusion child labor and child trafficking in our country. As a group we have been speaking to different leaders and asked them to protect girls. For example, this year we had a safety walk with the First lady of Uganda, Hon. Janet Museveni, and asked her to protect girls in the cities. As a result she promised to improve on lighting in one of the slum areas and they have started the work on it.
Days like the International Day of the Girl Child are important to me and many girls, because on this day we ask and hold our leaders against their promises to promote the rights of girls. On such days we are celebrated, and recognized not only as girls but leaders of tomorrow. When I got the news that I was going to take over the office of the UNFPA during the International Day of the Girl Child I was excited. I knew that this would be another opportunity for me to speak about the issues that affect girls and share my ideas on how our leaders can promote the rights of girls. I am hoping that when I take over the office of the Executive Director of UNFPA I will be inspired to continue my campaign of promoting the rights of girls. I hope that I will get the opportunity to support some of the UNFPA campaigns especially on ending teenage pregnancies. From this experience, I will build my skills and my understanding issues that affect girls since I will have interacted with different people. This will make my advocacy skills better.
I love mass communication and hope that when I become a journalist one day, I will make use of this to promote the rights of street children especially girls. In the future I wish to see no children on the streets because every child matters to a country. And using media will help me reach different stakeholders and my voice will be heard everywhere.
Together we can create a Better World for ALL Children
About the Author
Zahara, Member of the National Girls Advocacy Alliance Youth Group, Uganda
Key stats you should know
- Globally, less than two thirds of girls in low income countries complete primary education, and only one in three completes lower secondary school.
- There are an estimated 132 million girls out of school globally—this has immediate and long-term impacts on girls’ lives.
- For example, each additional year of education at the secondary level is associated with lower risks of marrying as a child and becoming an adolescent mother.
- According to the World Bank, “if secondary education were achieved, child marriage could be virtually eliminated, and the prevalence of early childbearing could be reduced by up to three fourths.”
- The World Health Organization found that the number one cause of death for girls age 15-19 is child birth.
- In terms of long-term impact, a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five, and educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.
- The World Bank found that women who have completed secondary education earn twice as much than women with no education, and women who have completed tertiary education earn nearly three times as much.
Plan International’s efforts in Uganda to improve access to education for girls
Plan International’s research and experience working in Uganda for the last 25 years has shown there are clear and evidenced barriers to adolescent girls’ access to safe, quality education. Yet, despite improvements to girls’ access to education over the last decade—particularly following the implementation of free, universal primary education—there remains a significant gap in secondary education, as noted by a 2014 report of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
Check out Plan International’s website for more about our research and efforts to support girls’ access to safe, quality, inclusive education around the world: https://plan-international.org/.