2018 Day of the Girl Child - For Justice and equality
The 11th October marks the annual celebration of International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s UN theme is “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force” and aims to empower girl world wide to “inspire, innovate and take charge of their own future.”
Girls across the world continue to face disempowering challenges, from entrenched societal and patriarchal systems that defines who they are as women and the decisions they can make for themselves, to gender based violence which remains rife in many societies. Today, despite the presence of more girls in classrooms, millions of girls around the world confront discrimination, violence, neglect, exploitation and abuse.
On this day, political leader, education stakeholders must commit to tangible actions that will reduce gender based discrimination and protect the girl child from gender disparities. Girls who never attend school or are forced to drop out it at early stages, are often amongst those who find themselves with limited life and career choices. They are most likely to resort to domestic work, caregivers to other children and relatives, or simply, living in areas far removed from schools where education becomes a far and distant aspiration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1 states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is should remain the ultimate guiding principle to achieving inclusive quality education that prioritises the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
Throughout the GCE network, Girls Educations is of paramount importance. Not only because we believe gender based discrimination excludes girls from their basic human right to attain education that has the potential to change the course of their lives forever, but because we know that if you educate a girl you educate a whole nation.
International organisations step up
Today, for the 3rd year, Plan International is asking #GirlsTakeOver leadership positions in governments around the world. They’ll be ‘taking over’ the roles of leaders in a demonstration of girls’ power and a call to action to get more girls and young women on the path to leadership. 1000+ takeovers are planned so far, including the Vice Presidents of Uganda and Indonesia, the National Assembly of Vietnam, the Parliament of Senegal, Finland’s Minister of Foreign Trade and the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines. The organisation is also launching a global campaign, #GirlsGetEqual, to call for a new world with new rules, where girls are seen, heard and valued as equals. The campaign is articulated around pledges and stories, and appeal to young activists as the main drivers of the campaign.
The Malala Fund also launched a new report, Full Force: why the world works better when girls go to school revealing that almost one billion girls and young women worldwide lack the education and skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world of work. Full Force argues that the G20 must act. It makes the case for girls’ education as central to the G20’s core agenda and provides clear recommendations on how G20 leaders can accelerate progress to ensure this is a moment of promise, not peril, for girls and boys everywhere. Over the coming months, Malala Fund’s Full Force campaign will engage political leaders, economists, feminists, business leaders and girls themselves on this very point — intensifying the case for investment in girls’ education as an urgent economic priority.
A powerful message from Pakistan
Pakistan is the world's fifth-most-populous country, just behind Indonesia and slightly ahead of Brazil, in which 64% is below the age of 30, and 29% is between the ages of 15-29 years. While this number may look daunting at first glance, it shows that we have a young, energetic population and potentially a space for fresh thinking which may lead to the betterment of society.
Education plays a vital role in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous society leading to an environment which enables active and productive citizenship and emancipated communities who stand up for their rights. This cannot be achieved only by imparting learning through text books and assessment. As a representative from the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), I am not denying the importance of textbook learning and assessing outcomes, but I am making a case against archaic teaching and learning methods that still prevalent in schools.
This cannot and will not work! I am strong advocate for an enabling environment that leads to joyful learning all while imparting knowledge and life skills. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are countries who have made great strides in advanced pedagogical methodology and have transformed their education by working on new theories which are child centred based on skills, values and attitudes that will lead to Holistic development of a child.
The need for the hour is that we need to equip our children in such way that they can play a productive role in society and have skills to overcome the issues and challenges of present time that include clean water, climate change, safe water, food security, poverty, global citizenship that lead to sustainable and peaceful communities. They can trust their own capabilities and conquer the world on their own. As the saying goes ‘with a little seed of imagination you can grow a field of hope’ we need to build imagination of our children to a prosperous and non-violent world.
This transformation cannot be achieved without an active and important role of media, academia, teachers, peer groups, elders, parents and other stakeholders in creating a positive environment for our young population. Alongside this, there is a need for an inclusive, transparent and open policy process which is vital to empower our youth in order to place them at the heart of decision making which concerns their future. A future where youth especially girls and other marginalized groups have ample space to raise their voice against injustice, discrimination and lawlessness, nourish their brains and become critical thinkers who have competency to ask thought provoking questions, set target, reflect, analyse and solve problem.
Perspectives from Latin America
(full blog here in English and Spanish)
Legal and political advances to ensure gender equality in education find strong obstacles to their implementation in schools in various countries of Latin America and the Caribbean due to cultural barriers, a lack of governmental will and the advance of fundamentalist conservative and religious trends, among other factors of exclusion and inequality that affect girls and women.
As the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), we have been following the challenges and advances in order to guarantee gender equality and respect for diversity in education, in our region and in the world.
Girls and women are discriminated against during education in terms of access, permanence, completion, treatment, learning outcomes and career choices, resulting in disadvantages that go beyond schooling and the school environment.
The presence of gender stereotypes in curricula, textbooks and teaching processes; the violence they face in and out of school; structural and ideological constraints as well as male dominance in certain academic and professional fields are factors that prevent girls and women from claiming and exercising their human right to education on an equal stands.
The celebrations of this year's International Women's Day especially honored activist women, drawing attention to the high levels of violence against human rights defenders around the world, and calling on States to ensure protection and justice to these women.
The International Day to Fight Violence Suffered by Women is celebrated by the UN on November 25, when the three Mirabal sisters - Minerva, María Teresa and Patria -, known as "las Mariposas" (the Butterflies), were murdered in 1960 for having formed a movement of direct opposition against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, cases like this have not gone down in history alone. On the eve of the celebrations of March 8, we also remembered the 2-year anniversary of the murder of the environmental activist and indigenous leader of Honduras, Berta Cáceres. A few days later, we received with dismay and indignation the news of the brutal murder of feminist, black, lesbian and fighter for equal rights and against discrimination and violence, Marielle Franco, in Rio de Janeiro.
Cases such as these can’t go unpunished, and addressing them in education and in other spheres and spaces of our society is fundamental, so that these forms of violence and injustice have their existence recognized and can be overcome.
Lerato Balendran, Communications Officer of GCE
Lerato Balendran is the Communications Officer of the Global Campaign for Education. She is a passionate communications and media professional with a proven record in the environmental, media, supporting strategic campaigns, programmes and content delivery. In her role, she focuses on ensuring GCE’s and its members visibility on our digital channels and developing strong media relations with key international journalists. She joined the GCE team early July 2018, after having worked for two years for 350.org as their Africa Communications Coordinator.
Zehra Arshad, National Coordinator of Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE)
Ms. K. Zehra Arshad is the National Coordinator of Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) and has been advocating for quality education for more than 18 years. She has conducted several researches and author of reports, and articles related to her area of work including education, women rights etc. She also has been working on development issues related to women, peace, health and education in various national and international professional organizations, networks and forums for last 20years. She is a human rights activist and strong believer of inclusive and pluralistic approach for development. She is vocal and assertive about rights based approach, active citizenship and social accountability.
Fabíola Munhoz, communication and mobilization coordinator of CLADE
Fabíola Munhoz is the Coordinator of Communications and Mobilization of the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), where she works since 2012. She is a journalist with a degree from the School of Social Communication of the University of Cásper Libero (São Paulo, Brazil) and an attorney with a degree from the State University of Londrina (Brazil). She has a postgraduate degree in Communications and Education from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain), and since 2004 she has been working as an editor and reporter in projects and media, focusing on social movements and human rights issues. In 2011, she participated in the coverage of the demonstrations and occupations of squares and public spaces in different European countries, against the austerity policies which were then adopted by governments of the European Community that cut the budget for social rights, in view of the financial crisis at global level. She has extensive experience in communications for the third sector, a field in which she has been working since 2008 and, since 2012, she has been working particularly with non-governmental organizations that defend the right to education.