International Day of the Girl art

Women and girls have limitless potential. Any nation’s growth and prosperity depends on its citizens having equal rights, opportunities, and abilities to shape their own destiny. It is not just an ethical necessity, but also a strategic imperative, to ensure that girls reach their full potential. Women’s and girls’ status, as well as economic wealth, are inextricably linked. When the girls succeed, we all succeed. Our communities are healthier and our economies are stronger when we invest in girls’ education.

Only 29% of Kenyan women can engage equally and effectively in political, economic, and cultural life, according to a recent study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). The cycle of poverty is broken when girls are empowered, and economies become more sustainable and resilient. Thousands of civil society organizations, activists, girls, and supporters came together in digital and physical spaces this year to celebrate the importance of empowering girls and eliminating barriers to accessing opportunity and equality under the official theme “Digital generation, our generation.”

Samburu Girls celebrating the International Day of the Girl at UASO girls Secondary School

Samburu Girls celebrating the International Day of the Girl at UASO girls Secondary School

Gender bias and discrimination affect girls all around the world, putting them in dangerous situations that jeopardize their safety, education, and opportunities. Girls in marginalized communities face ingrained, pervasive, and structural obstacles to achieving gender equality. Girls continue to be neglected in terms of equal opportunity and resources in education and leadership, and gender stereotypes continue to limit their involvement in STEM education, limiting their access to stable and well-paying professions. Girls’ education is further impeded by the risk of sexual assault, and other forms of gender-based violence, with Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data showing that 4-in-10 young women are victims of abuse (KDHS).

Samburu girls leading the campaign to end inequality on the International Day of the Girl 2021

Samburu girls leading the campaign to end inequality on the International Day of the Girl 2021

In Kenya, an estimated 25-30% of girls are forced into child marriages, exposing them to violence, unintended pregnancy, and depriving them of their basic rights to childhood, all of which have a negative impact on their education, health, and economic prospects, perpetuating a poverty cycle that is difficult to break. Despite the protections provided by the Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011, girls continue to be subjected to harmful practices such as female genital cutting, unintended pregnancy, discriminatory laws, exclusion from civic and political processes, and sexual assault. Girls’ rights and opportunities are limited mainly by social norms that place a low value on their lives.

Girls at Komesi Women Network Resource Center in West Pokot County celebrating the International Day of the Girl 2021.

Girls at Komesi Women Network Resource Center in West Pokot County celebrating the International Day of the Girl 2021.

The COVID-19 epidemic has worsened already-existing health, economic, political, and inequality issues that disproportionately affect girls globally. Access to sexual and reproductive health care remains a barrier in many parts of Kenya for those who are members of vulnerable and marginalized communities. Education and learning are some of the most effective strategies to empower girls and protect them from systemic gender stereotypes and social marginalization by giving them the chance to improve their lives, their families’ lives, and their communities’ lives. However, as schools closed, due to a global barrier, many families in rural Kenya with school going children were far less likely to have access to the gadgets needed for virtual schooling. As we solve these challenges, improving the status of women and girls’ as well as boys and men must be a key component of our efforts to build back better.

Boys and girls at Komesi Women Network Resource Center in West Pokot County celebrating International Day of the Girl 2021

Boys and girls at Komesi Women Network Resource Center in West Pokot County celebrating International Day of the Girl 2021

On this year’s International Day of the Girl, MenEndFGM reaffirms its commitment to protecting and advancing the rights of girls in all forms by creating an enabling environment in which they feel safe, heard, and supported, allowing them to reach their full potential and lead social change in their communities. We are committed to a future where girls can dream big and lead the drive against 21st-century challenges and regressive customs, because they must be at the center of any endeavor to better their lives and health.

Activities to mark the occasion

We organized an online campaign to elevate girls’ voices and profile solutions through a series of questions, in order to improve equality and opportunity.

 

 

 

We also organized an intergenerational dialogue at UASO Girls Secondary school in Samburu County with our consortium partner, Pastoralist Child Foundation, bringing together girls and decision makers in one space, while at the same time, engaging parents, boys and girls at Komesi Women Network Resource Center in West Pokot County with our partner Umoja Development Organization.

West Pokot County Girls advocating for a society free from all harmful practices.

West Pokot County Girls advocating for a society free from all harmful practices.

It was an opportunity to openly raise awareness about the connections between ending FGM and child marriage and achieving a more equal future free of power systems that perpetuate gender discrimination, a future that Men End FGM Foundation will continue to advance.

 

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