Although all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, irrespective of gender, age, social status or religion, the girl-child continues to fight for this basic right.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that childhood is separate from adulthood, and lasts until 18years; it is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. Unfortunately, the story of most girls is not like what the convention states. Why, then, is it so hard for girls to enjoy these basic rights?
Ten years after the institution of the International Day of the Girl-Child, girls are still considered to be lesser compared to males in most parts of the world, their rights rarely acknowledged and basic needs sometimes denied. They are exploited and discriminated against simply based on their gender.
Despite initiatives, advocacy and efforts of girl-child activists over the years to increase awareness of girls’ rights and to beseech policy-makers and governments to pass and amend laws, the situation seems to be pertinent.
Data from the Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys, the Multi-cluster Indicator Surveys, and the Maternal Health Surveys indicate that Ghana is home to over two million child brides, including currently married girls along with women who were first married in childhood. Nine out of ten of these women do not attend school. How sad can it be that this is still happening in this 21st century?
In Ghana, successive governments, girl-child activists, civil society organisations, and non-governmental organisations have introduced and implemented interventions to eliminate barriers such as child marriage, the violence of all kinds, poverty, and lack of access to education that hinder the rights of the girl-child and continue to stall the initiatives and measures being put in place.
One such intervention is the abolishment of cultural practices, such as ‘Trokosi’ and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which have caused so much damage and wreaked havoc on young girls. Though upholding the rights of the girl-child has steadily improved, there need to be more targetted interventions that will reduce gender gaps, and promote and protect the girl-child’s rights.
Personally, I believe girl-child education is exceedingly important and crucial for the development of a nation. As the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, once said: “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. To have a society full of empowered women is only when the girl-child is educated and empowered.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl, let’s raise our collective voices to promote and protect the rights of the Ghanaian girl-child by giving them equal opportunities. Girls’ rights are human rights, the time is now; let us help to secure their future.
>>>the writer is a Public Relations Professional, Gender Activist and Sports enthusiast. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the University of Ghana and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. She can be reached on [email protected]