International Day of the Girl Child

Friday 31 January 2014

Save the Children joins governments and NGOs across the world to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child that falls on 11 October, 2013. This year’s theme Innovating for the Girls’ Education highlights the structural violence that limits girls’ enjoyment of their rights and subsequent challenges in their education progression.

From the time girls and boys are born, girls, in many homes, are socialized to be the caretakers and cleaners of the home. When the boy child is studying, the girl child is, in most cases, in the kitchen sweeping, cooking or washing dishes. While this is an important process in child training, the time that the girl spends doing all these house chores is used by the boy child for recreation and studying. These stereotyped gender roles, coupled with pregnancy, early marriages, prioritizing boys’ education over that of the girls and other male dominated values have been identified as among the factors that contribute to girls’ school dropout rates. Evidence shows that over sixty percent of girls who marry early abandon formal education. It is also estimated that pregnancy related deaths for girls aged 15–19 years worldwide, account for 70,000 deaths each year.

Other challenges that girls face include long distances to schools, sexual harassment from male teachers and older boys, as well as lack of proper sanitation. Furthermore, the proliferation of weekly boarding houses, though aimed at alleviating the challenge of long distances, poses a challenge to both girls and boys as it puts these children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation; although girls are more vulnerable.   

Therefore, to promote girls’ education, policies and strategies that address the male dominance of our culture and the various stereotypes that have been internalized by both sexes from an early age need to be addressed. Innovative ways of improving girls’ education like Elimination of Child Marriage need to be encouraged. Improved sanitary facilities at schools and sanitary towel programming can all go a long way to help improve the girl’s learning environment. Others include engendering the education curricula to integrate gender norms that address violence, sexual and reproductive rights and stereotypes, creating more awareness on the re-entry policy and enshrining 18 years as the legal age for marriage, among others.