International Day Of The Girl Child

October 19, 2020

The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities, and those living in marginalized communities. While there ‘are’ girls and young women reaching for the stars and opening doors and opportunities, there are still a lot of doors that need keys to be opened.

Children have an amazing way of becoming exactly who we tell them they are and can become. If we tell them they are strong, they become strong. If we tell them they are kind, they become kind. If we tell them they are capable, they become capable. Speaking life into our children helps them navigate the many challenges they will face growing up, and it will help them have what it takes to tackle their own life one day. This is especially true for the girl child.

Every day, girls are breaking boundaries and barriers, tackling issues like child marriage, education inequality, violence, climate justice, and inequitable access to healthcare. Girls are proving they are unstoppable. It has taken a lot of effort for the voice of the girl child to be heard, and the struggle continues as in parts of the world, especially in Africa and parts of Asia, the girl child still faces a lot of oppression. While in Kenya, we are fighting FGM and child marriages, in Douala Cameroon, young girls go through what is called ‘breast ironing’ a process in which the breasts of young girls are flattened using a hot stone. The procedure is supposed to stop the breasts from growing thus avoiding unwanted attention from men.  Like FGM, this is done in the secrecy of homes. In some instances, some girls actually have both breasts removed, just like the cutting that happens during FGM. The aim, all-in-all, is to control the girl’s sexuality. It is tragic that in an effort to control the sexuality of young girls and women, body parts are removed. This has now, finally, becoming recognized as a form of child abuse.

A girl with gauge on her breasts after being ‘breast ironed.’

Below Is a stone being heated for ‘ironing’

This traumatic experience affects the young girls all of their lives. Psychologically and emotionally, these girls are not able to fit in with society. Their self-esteem is brought down; they are not able to undress in front of their partners later in life because of shame. These are horrific acts which no woman should endure. This is violence just like any other crime and should be treated as such and the perpetrators brought to justice. Girls are often seen as an economic burden particularly in poor, rural areas, and many parents marry off their children in the hope of improving their own financial security. There are parents who have been forced to marry off their daughters to their rapists because of the disgrace associated with pre-marital sex. In India, incidents of infanticide are high. One daughter is considered a burden, two an economic impossibility. Husbands are known to kill their daughters immediately upon their birth. These situations represent an ancient and pervasive discrimination against women.

A young African girl carrying a basket on her head on her way to the market.

A young girl carrying a gourd of milk on her head.


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