The Kenya Forum | UN marks International Day of the Girl Child - The Kenya Forum

October 11, 2013

Summary

UN marks International Day of the Girl Child. The day is used to promote a platform for publicising the plight of female children.

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UN marks International Day of the Girl Child

UN marks International Day of the Girl Child

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Today marks the annual International Day of the Girl Child, an observation set aside globally by the United Nations to support more opportunity for girls and increase awareness of inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence and child marriage.

Thanks to such initiatives the girl child in Africa has been more empowered with time and her place in the society is equally recognized just as that of the boy child. However some communities have still clung to old traditions that tend to discriminate and oppress the girl child but luckily most countries have come up with legislation to protect girls from this exploitation.

FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND EARLY MARRIAGE

In Kenya for instance, we still have communities that uphold circumcision of girls and early marriages, but this vice has been controlled in part and it still happens even though it’s a crime punishable by law.

Girls are now more aware of themselves and the opportunities that life has granted them. In the north-eastern communities where female circumcision and early marriages are rife, girls are now bold enough to break taboos and go against their parents’ plans. Instead they are increasingly choosing to pursue education even if it means running away from home. Anecdotal accounts suggest that this is an increasingly obvious trend.

Generally, women have been so empowered both socially and economically not to forget in the political spheres as well, so much that observers feel that attention needs now to be shifted to the boy child. However the reality is that even with all the accomplishments in empowering the girl child, there is still so much to be done.

MORE TO BE DONE

Even though there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education, education still remains elusive to many girls especially those in marginalized areas. We still have scores of girls dropping out of school due to early pregnancies, lack of fees and – something that has become a source of national shame – lack of sanitary towels.

Kenyan adolescent girls lose an average of 3.5 million learning days per month and according to  UNESCO, one in 10 African adolescent girls miss school during menstrual cycles. Many eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues, such as the inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, the social taboos related to menstruation, and the culture of silence that surrounds it .

All too often, women and female children have it very difficult here in Kenya. If she is not worried about being married off to a man as old as her father, she is missing school because of lack of sanitary towels and, as if that is not enough, the girl in Kenya is not safe even in the comfort of her home because rape has become so rampant.

THE HORROR OF RAPE

Lately it seems like the girl in Kenya has been under attack going by the recent cases of rape in the country. Hardly a day goes by without a child or two is reported raped and, recent reports suggest, that perpetrators don’t just rape them, they then kill them after the ordeal. According to statistics, a child is raped every 30 minutes in Kenya.

Although there are adequate laws in the Kenyan criminal code to protect girls from rape, they are not well enforced and perpetrators often walk away scot free, much to the distress of victims. Ninety percent of the victims have been raped by people they know — fathers, uncles, brothers, neighbours, teachers and even priests.

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