Day of the girl: using data to transform the lives of girls and women by 2030
The World International Day for the Girl child is celebrated annually on October 11th and is marked by all United Nations member countries. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl child is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, which is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-dis-aggregated data. One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. There are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face. The International Day of the Girl Child initiative began as a project of Plan International, a non-governmental organization that operates worldwide. The idea for an international day of observance and celebration grew out of Plan International’s “Because I Am a Girl” campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and specifically in developing countries. On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls international Day of the Girl Child increases awareness of many issues and inequalities faced by girls around the world.
Many global development plans do not include or consider girls, and their issues and problems become “invisible”. More than 62 million girls around the world have no access to education. Worldwide and collectively, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours on household chores than boys of the same age. Globally, one in four girls are married before age 18.UN Women works around the world to empower women and girls to raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent child, early and forced marriage, and mobilize communities against the practice.
In Uganda, Plan international organized a Parliamentary takeover with the aim of transforming power relations and showcasing girls’ leadership potential in various fields when given opportunities and support. It was also an opportunity to make the SDGs come alive to multiple audiences for girls to learn, lead, decide and thrive.
The Parliamentary takeover took place on 11th October 2016 at the Parliament of Uganda. It started with a mock debate by the children’s parliament and the motion of the debate was urging the government of Uganda to prioritize girls’ education. The debate was chaired by Assumpta Muwanse, a primary seven pupil of Kamuli Girls who left many amazed with her wit. The primary and secondary school students from schools in Tororo, Kamuli, Lira, Bukedea, Gulu and Kampala district passionately deliberated on what they thought should be done regarding girls’ education in Uganda. Sited in the stranger’s gallery, Honorable members of Parliament and other stakeholders quietly observed the pupils and students deliberate on issues on girl child education.
The young Parliamentarians pointed out a number of challenges including; the fact that we live in a Patriarchal society that prefers education for boys therefore denying girls their right to education said Arach as she defended the motion. Joan Kyesubire from Kamuli girls talked about the failure of Government to attend to girls’ reproductive health needs especially sanitary pads causing many girls to miss school which was promised but not included in the budget of 2016/17.The head of Opposition from Kisoko boys Primary school, Tororo district, Charles Obbo pointed out that UPE is not as free as projected because of the various fees charged like development fee, lunch fee, among others. Samuel Obola from Kachumbala Primary school in Bukedea talked of the low levels of sensitization of rural communities about the rights of children. School inspectors failing to interact with pupils and students to identify issues affecting the girl is also a big problem because children’s views are not taken. Unfavorable ratio of female to male teachers was also noted as an issue because the girls end up lacking motivation to go to school and guidance because they have no one to talk to in regard to reproductive health issues.
The young stars implored the Government to;
• Enact Laws to encourage the maintenance and support of girls at school.
• Ensure that the National budget put into consideration gender equality in facilitating promotion of education of girls.
• Enact Laws for protection of Victims of sexual offences in their pursuit for justice in the courts of Law.
• Provide sanitary pads to girls as a necessary intervention to keep them in school.
• Sensitize rural people about the rights of children.
The Launch of a report by Plan International ”Counting the Invisible” was then presided over by Hon. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Plan International Director Rashid Javed started by congratulating the young Parliamentarians for being very elaborative in amplifying issues of the girl child. He noted that in facilitating the “Girls Take Over”, the aim is to change perceptions about what is possible for the girls and transform power relations in a way that girls learn, lead, decide and thrive in society.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga who was following the plenary proceedings commended the children for staging a skillful debate. Kadaga expressed optimism pledging that Parliament will adopt the children’s resolutions when it resumes in November. She then launched a report named “counting the Invisible” which reveals that girls are invisible to Governments because vital data about them is either incomplete or missing.
All in all, Agenda 2030 aims at leaving no one behind. With the release of a report by Plan International on Using Data to transform the lives of Girls and women by 2030, there is now relative data which indicates that all girls count. The government therefore has access to information to start taking steps in tackling issues of the girl child.
Compiled by Patricia Nyasuna, Program Assistant Gender ICT Policy Advocacy.