GUYANA joined the rest of the world, on Thursday, to observe the United Nations International Day for the Girl Child.
For the occasion, the Ministry of Labour, Human Services & Social Security, in collaboration with the UN Population Fund Regional Office for the Caribbean/Guyana, hosted a ceremony which was dedicated to the first such observance.
The function, held at Duke Lodge, in Kingston, Georgetown, was attended by female students from various secondary schools in the city, government officials and several other special invitees.
Addressing the gathering, Chairperson of the Women and Gender Equality Commission, Mrs. Indra Chandarpal, said it was a very important day, since the challenges that are faced by girls could be highlighted without hesitation.
She said, every year, more than 10 billion girls are married and denied their rights to education and health, among others.
Chandarpal said it was a good day to highlight the challenges faced by young girls every day in Guyana and around the world.
According to her, like the rest of the world, Guyana has advanced tremendously as a nation and this is with regard to the customary way of life expected of young girls.
“More than one hundred and ten million children are not in school and 60 percent of them are girls. Worldwide, 130 million primary school children are not enrolled and 60 percent are girls,” she disclosed.
Chandarpal said statistics have shown that some countries have higher HIV rates, five times higher than boys and, despite all those challenging situations that are faced by girls worldwide, she expressed the view that it could be different, once the necessary steps are taken.
She pointed out that parents have a major role to play in nurturing their children in an environment that is suitable enough for them to progress positively.
In present-day society, it can be very difficult for children to get things done on their own, especially if a family is dysfunctional, Chandarpal remarked.
She said it is her belief that young people could be function better in environments that are conducive to learning.
Meanwhile, UNFPA Representative, Ms. Patrice La Fleur said figures have shown that girls are more vulnerable and are at a higher risk for human rights violations than boys.
She said many have questioned the setting aside of the day for girls and not boys, but studies have proven that females are more at risk than males.
La Fleur drew attention to the fact that, in today’s society, significant numbers of girls are becoming mothers when they are still babies themselves.
All this, she said, needs to be dealt with appropriately to curb this growing issue globally. “We need to ensure that we continue to empower girls starting with from the household.”
La Fleur challenged the various stakeholders, who were present, to join with the ministry in partnering with the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) to advance programmes that will empower the girl child.
She stated that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, in his message:“Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage.
“When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.
“Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides,” he said, urging governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector and families, especially men and boys, to promote the rights of girls.
October 11 was designated International Day of the Girl Child, a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2011, to recognise girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges they face worldwide.
The theme for this year’s observance was ‘Ending Child Marriage.’
Approximately 70 million young women today were married before age 18, the UN revealed, noting that child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse and jeopardises her health.
Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to almost always end a girl’s education, the world body said. Conversely, it said girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the most effective ways of combating child marriage.
Numerous events took place around the world on the theme of the day, including a parliamentary debate in Malawi on child marriage and special debates on television and radio in South Sudan.
Among the events at UN Headquarters in New York was a high-level panel discussion, featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu and representatives from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In addition, UNFPA launched a new report on child marriage and a photo exhibition entitled, ‘Too Young to Wed’ was opened at UN Headquarters.
Building on its ongoing work to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA has announced that it will invest an additional $20M, over the next five years, to reach the most marginalised adolescent girls in 12 countries with high rates of child marriage. The countries to be focused on include Guatemala, India, Niger and Zambia.
Also to mark the day, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and its partners have introduced the Tech Needs Girls Prize to inspire more of them to embrace technology and spark creativity.