October 11, 2013 is the second International Day of the Girl child established by the United Nations. The theme this year is to focus on innovations and technologies, which will help the millions of girls who have no access to education compared to their sisters in the developed world.
We live in a world where girls are considered a burden and inferior to boys and therefore denied education. The brilliant young girl, Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan has brought this up to the attention of the world’s community. A recent report done by UNICEF supports the notion that innovations in the digital sphere are important strategies when measures are taken to overcome barriers girls face. A project done in Uganda enabled the girls to use a digital mapping as a way of identifying places where they felt unsafe. The community leaders were engaged to address their concerns once this was brought to the attention of the larger community.
It is important to recognize that a holistic approach which takes into account the many barriers most girls face such as low rates schooling, early pregnancy, forced marriage, sexual violence, heavy burden of household chores such as fetching water and firewood etc must also be addressed.
Having just watched the Canadian government representative, Kelly Leitch, Minister for the Status of Women speaking at the General Assembly of United Nations in New York, I am forced to ask the question, do they want us Canadians and the world community to believe that Canada actually stand in support of Girls by ending forced marriages and rape of girls and women in conflict situations? The Minister stated that Canada condemns rape in war and child marriage. But only a few days ago Canada stated that no funds will be spent for abortion for women who were raped in war and girls who are affected by rape and unwanted pregnancies who are forced to marry. If Canada condemns rape as a weapon of war, it is a contradiction, to say the least, that women will then be denied funds to seek remedy of their choice.
I have always known that we have a lot of work to do to bring gender equality here and everywhere. One important aspect of it is that we need to understand the difference between standing for Human Rights and imposing one’s moral values on others.
Even though I am sad for this contradictory position of my own government in Canada, I want to celebrate this day applauding Girls such as Malala Yousafzai who speaks the truth for all of us who believe in gender equality and stand against male chauvinism all over the world.
Happy International Day of the Girl.
Patsy George Oct 11, 2013.