Raising the Needs of the Girl Child
Brief summary of presentation of information made
This interactive side event, moderated by a Working Group on Girls Advocate, focused on the needs of the girl child and the intersection of gender, age, and the Sustainable Development Goals being reviewed this year. Panellists shared the reality of girls’ lives by reviewing the experiences of girls around the world, highlighting the needs of girls in vulnerable situations, and elevating the rights and dignity of girls through the implementation of the SDGs.
Panellists for this event were:
H.E. Dr. Sima Bahous, Ambassador for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Dr. Rima Salah – Former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Faculty at the Child Study Center, at Yale University
Mavic Cabrera- Balleza – Chief Executive Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders
Winifred Doherty – Main Representative to the United Nations, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Moderator – Deisha – WGG Girl Advocate (we do not use last names when under 18)
Respondent – Laura – WGG Girl Advocate (we do not use last names when under 18)
The Ambassador gave greetings from King Abdullah of Jordan and Queen Rania of Jordan who pledge their support in promoting the rights of girls.
The Ambassador gave remarks on how the Working Group on Girls could count on the support of Jordan to help in any way in allowing girls to have a voice of their own. She is committed to helping the Working Group on Girls in their advocacy and raising the needs of girls so that every girls is given a fair chance in life.
Dr. Rima Salah is a national of Jordan, and served as a member of the United Nations High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operation and as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad. She spoke about the needs of girls across global societies, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
Dr. Salah spoke about the insecurity, political and criminal violence, and civil unrest and how it has become a primary development challenge of our time. Violent conflicts are more complex and increasingly target civilians, especially families and children. Girls are affected by violent conflict more than any other group.
Dr. Salah stated that 357 million children globally are living in areas affected by conflict and 50 million children live in situations of displacement that jeopardize the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr. Salah stated that girls are at significant risk and their vulnerabilities heightened stemming from longstanding and cultural inequities. Girls are exposed to sexual violence, exploitation, forced marriage and trafficking. More than that, they face possible detention and discrimination, and their access to basic services is limited (health, education and protection).
Dr. Salah stated that in spite of all these challenges, there is hope that many of these barriers can be removed, and we can make a transformative shift and elevate the needs and aspiration of girls on the development and peace agenda.
Dr. Salah stated that it is important to shape innovative and transformative approaches and programmes that form the policies and global action necessary to address the needs of girls, particularly in vulnerable and fragile contexts, committing ourselves to creating a protective environment for them. This would empower them to fulfil their role as agents for change and for peace.
Mavic Cabrera-Balleza is the founder and CEO of the global Network of Women Peacebuilders. Mavic initiated the Philippine national action planning process on the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women and Peace and Security. Mavic pioneered the localisation of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 program that is regarded as a best practice example and is now implemented in 15 countries.
Cabrera-Balleza spoke about girl ambassadors for peace: young women and girls as peacebuilders and decision-makers. She spoke about the fact that only 20% of the young women and girls in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan are literate. In certain communities in Indonesia and the Philippines, they are at risk of violent extremism and radicalization.
The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders is working with young women and girls to improve the literacy rate, build peace, prevent conflict and prevent violent extremism.
Cabrera-Balleza spoke on how her organisation orchestrated to engage girls whose lives might otherwise be shattered by the situations they are in. They are selected because of a vision “that this is not me” and “should not be my life”. They are trained to make a difference through a guided process that centres on acquiring literacy skills alongside education in histories of peace.
Winifred Doherty is a Good Shepherd Sister from Ireland. A social worker by profession, she has worked in Ethiopia for 16 years empowering girls and young women through education and microfinance programs. She has experience in community mobilisation for infrastructural development, water, sanitation, walkways and kitchens. She facilitated the girl child and young women to confront extreme poverty and the many discriminatory practices that plagued their lives – FGM, early marriage, kidnapping of girls, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Doherty spoke about girls not raising their own needs, but providing leadership around what is central to the achievement of the lofty ideals and goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
She commented that a girl can be a child, a wife, a mother or a widow, so neither ‘woman’ nor ‘child’ addresses her unique experience.
She stated that the goals under review this year (goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17), while gender blind, touch on some of the systemic issues that rob girls of their human rights, dignity and voice. A lack of access to water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene; health eroded through being a fuel carrier at a young age; the effects of indoor air pollution; living in slums in poor housing; and being bombarded by marking strategies are all bad for girls’ health and human development.
She stated that the most marginalised group experiencing high levels of poverty, discrimination or violence were children, and that girls represent at least 50% or more of that group. Girls have unique experiences of discrimination and being affected on a daily basis by violations of their human rights. She stated that while we might be hard pressed to find girls in the High Level Political Process, part of it is because some of the advocacy is about challenging systems and structures that generate inequality, reinforce exclusion and increase poverty.
Doherty stated that we have to continually challenge the ideology of patriarchy power. Violence, fear, extractives, exploitation, increased militarisation, and the obsession with increased economic growth must be exchanged for partnerships founded in interconnectedness, relatedness, solidarity, justice, human rights, equality and responsibility for each other and the earth. This would mean challenging the systems and institutions that operate within the UN.
She concluded with words of encouragement: girls are the future!
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
This informational session reminded everyone that girls face issues that still affect their ability to go to school, work and reach their goals. They are still treated as non-persons in some parts of the world.
We must give opportunities to the girls who come through our doors, empower them and prepare them for the future. We must equip them with the tools they will need to survive in this world.
Web links for more information
Tags: United Nations, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals