THE GIRL CANNOT WAIT
The situation of many girls today coupled with current diverse global challenges call for an urgent RESPONDSE to collectively invest in the girl child NOW. This Investment must be holistic, strategic and one that should trickles down to every girl. Investing in girls today is a strategic and most effective way of empowering and equipping her with skills, tools and resources to face the future and contribute effectively to national and international development today and tomorrow.
Globally, for every 100 boys out-of-school there are 122 girls. For instance, for every 100 boys out of school in Yemen there are 270 girls, in Iraq 316 girls, in India 426 girls, and in Benin 257 girls (UNESCO GMR, 2007). Recent statics from UNESCO shows that girls enrolment share in Ghana at the primary level is 47.4% and at the secondary level is 44.7% and at the tertiary level 3.3%.As a country and a generation we are doing well but we can do better. In Ghana for instance, girls’ enrolment has increased but we need to find ways to sustain girls in school and invest in them holistically.
Day after day, cultural factors, traditional norms and harsh economic challenges, diseases and current unfavorable climate change continue to compel most girls in Ghana and in developing countries to drop out of school, engage in petty trading to support families and in some cases marry early burying alive their potentials. Should this be the case?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which has been ratified by many nations including Ghana since 1990, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, The Children’s ACT 560 (of Ghana) all covers the girl up to 18 years. These documents bind us legally to invest in the girl child by protecting, promoting and respecting the girls’ rights at all levels.
Again, it is an undisputable fact that girls are vital to the world as they grow up to take the mantle from women who are contributing effectively to development today. Heroines and mentor like Her Excellency Helen Sir Leaf Johnson, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama are all products of yesterday’s investment in their life and education.
Development researchers, scholars and expert working for and with girls - Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, Melinda Gates, Managing Director of the World Bank- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, all attest to the need and recognize the significance of investing in girls and supports the campaign. According to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala "If you invest in girls, if you educate girls, if you get girls into jobs, you solve many problems, because educated girls have fewer children and they will be aware of measures to tackle climate change.”
Economically, Investing in the girl today can help tomorrow’s woman to gain economic independence. According to Girls Count, “at the macro economic level, the size and competiveness of tomorrow’s labor force will be shaped by today’s girls’ education and skills-building and by how much these girls use their education and skills in formal and informal economic activity”.
Health wise, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other health related Diseases will slow as educated mothers take better care of their children.
What practical ways can we all invest in girls today?
The four pillars of the UNCRC –Survival, Development, Participation, and Protection encompassed in Articles 2, 6, 19 and 28 require commitments from us as individuals, families, communities, orgnaisations and Governments in investing in our girls. Investing in the girl is more than just putting the girl in school. It includes consciously and passionately investing a portion of our time, talent and treasure in
-Promoting, protecting and respecting the rights of girls
-Promoting girls’ education and sustaining girls in school
-Supporting projects and programmes targeted at the girls’ empowerment by giving our time, talent or treasure
-Supporting Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health programmes
-Teaching, mentoring, encouraging, and supporting girls morally individually.
International organizations like UNICEF, Camfed, PLAN etc continue to help in the campaign and efforts to educate girls in Ghana. Investing in girls will improve Global Economy, slow down Global warming decelerate HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and maternal and infant mortality.
All around us there are girls-struggling to find a place and space in this world, fighting to gain feet, thirsty for encouragement, hungry for care, love and support for their education. Investing a portion of our time, talent and treasure .
Working with girls for over years on Child Rights media projects and programmes, I have no doubt in the potential of the girl when invested in.
"If investing in women is smart economics, then investing in girls ... is even smarter economics” says Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.