My name is Achieng Awino*. I am 25 years old and was born in the rural area of Kisumu County in Kenya. I am the firstborn in a family of six children.
I live with my mother, who is a victim of rape and early marriage. She separated from my father when we were still very young. She did not have a decent job to send all of us to school, so it was just our second-born brother and me.
Life in the village was difficult. Children growing up there, especially girls, are deprived of their fundamental rights. Accessing education was a challenge, but my mother supported my studies, ensuring I remained in school.
She found several part-time jobs—on farms, washing clothes and doing other house chores for our neighbours to get money for my school fees. She believed that I was the light of the family; that by getting an education, I would return and help the rest of them.
Today, I am the only girl in the family and the village who completed their education and achieved their dreams.
Not so many young girls have my strength and resilience.
Globally, millions of young girls are yet to access their rights.
The gains on girls’ rights have been slow, fragile and unequal in the last ten years, says Plan International while marking the International Day of the Girl Child 2022.
In a report dubbed “Realizing Every Girl’s Right to flourish” evaluating the progress of girl child rights over the last ten years, Plan International found that a combination of factors has profoundly set back progress on girls’ rights.
Kenya, among them, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, conflict, cultural mindsets and the rise of stereotypes.
Plan International-Kenya Country Director Atieno Onyonyi noted that globally, girls and young women are still being denied the right to shape decisions that impact their lives most.
“Our new report Equal Power Now: Girls, Young Women and Political Participation, has revealed that girls and women worldwide feel excluded from politics and are poorly represented by the politicians elected to serve.”
While there have been improvements in crucial gender equality indicators such as education and child mortality, the progress made on girls’ rights over the last ten years has been too slow, too fragile, and too unequal.
As a result, countless girls worldwide face the same inequalities that their mothers did years ago. A growing youth population means more girls are denied their rights under international law.
Out of the 144 countries in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index, which accounts for 98 per cent of the world’s girls and women, not one country has achieved gender equality.
My experiences and understanding of the circumstances that lead to early marriage and pregnancy have helped me to become a mentor to many peers who are dealing with similar issues.
I am creating awareness of my community’s right to education and other rights. I am trying to inspire young people to advocate for this in many ways via social media.
I am a mother to one child and am doing my best to make her highly educated, ambitious, and inspiring to the current and future generations.
Girls’ and young women’s voices must be heard. It is critical, as a right, to shape the policies and decisions that influence their lives and is vital in achieving gender equality.
Key Gains in Gender Equality So Far
According to Plan International’s analysis, key gains in gender equality over the last 10 years include:
- More legal protections from certain forms of abuse and harmful cultural practices, such as the banning of child marriage and FGM
- Child mortality has dropped to 39 deaths per 1,000 births for boys and 34 for girls.
- Gender parity has been achieved mainly in primary school enrolment and learning outcomes, while secondary school enrolment for females increased from 72 per cent in 2012 to 76 per cent in 2020.
- A 15 per cent decrease in the proportion of young women married as children, meaning the rate has dropped from nearly one in four to one in five.
- A decrease in the global adolescent birth rate amongst girls aged 15–19 from 47 to 41.2 births per 1,000 from 2012 to 2020.
- However, change has been slow and unequal, with girls growing up in poverty or conflict settings, living with a disability, or identifying as LGBTIQ+ less likely to benefit from these gains.
Failures in the pursuit of Girls’ Right
According to the Plan International report, key factors that suggest a failure to sustain girls’ development throughout their lives include:
- Girls and young women aged 15-24 still make up the majority of the 267 million young people worldwide who are not in education, training, or employment
- There are still 5.5 million more girls of primary-school age out of school than boys.
- No region is on track to meet the SDG target of eliminating child, early and forced marriage by 2030.
- In 2019, 43 per cent of sexually active girls (15–19) who wanted to avoid pregnancy were not using modern contraception, leading to 10 million unintended pregnancies and 5.7 million abortions.
- While several countries have improved legal protection of access to safe abortion, others have repealed laws previously protecting the right to safe abortion.
- There has been little legal progress in protecting the rights of LGBTIQ+ people.
The UN General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, and designated October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. The day is devoted to the rights of girls and the specific difficulties that girls face worldwide.
According to the UN, female children constantly face enormous problems in terms of their physical health, education, and mental wellness.
They experience violence throughout their lives in a variety of settings. Also, specially challenged girls to have to deal with additional obstacles to accessing services and support for a better living.
The purpose of recognizing this International Day is primarily to increase public awareness of the problems that girls worldwide suffer, including lack of access to education, inadequate nutrition, forced child marriage, legal rights, and medical rights.