International Day of the Girl Child and Bangladesh

International Day of the Girl Child and Bangladesh

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Masum Billah
With a view to addressing the challenges girls face and promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated every yea on 11 October globally. Education is essential for empowering women to achieve gender equality, which is vital for sustainable development, says a new Gender Review by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. The review report was released marking the day. According to UN Women, there are 1.1 billion girls today, a powerful constituency for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone, as they are brimming with talent and creativity. But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities. There are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is ‘Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. It is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.
Education can empower women to become leaders as they acquire literacy, confidence and communication skills. It can give them a space to learn about and practice leadership. However, less than one-fifth of the world’s heads of state, prime ministers and government ministers are currently women. Despite recent improvements in women’s political representation, they still occupy fewer than 25 percent of national parliamentary seats worldwide.
“Significant and transformative actions are required to redress deeply embedded and complex gender inequalities that impact people within and beyond education and prevent the achievement of gender equality,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
The government of Bangladesh has taken a series of steps such as free girl’s education, distributing free textbooks, stipend, and special quotas in the job. In spite of all initiatives, Bangladesh could not make a break-through in eliminating child marriage, violence against women, women trafficking, eve-teasing and harassment of girls while moving in the public transport. The critical area is the negligence to teenage girl about their health, hygiene and empowerment. To improve social safety and security of teenage girl, Bangladesh must make significant progress by adopting strategic interventions and making coordinated efforts. No special policy guideline has been formulated to address the issues of girl child to enable them to grow as future leaders of the nation. It is however, widely believed that investing in teenage girl can contribute much to bring major changes in the society.
In Bangladesh, parents start planning how to get the teen girl married at the age of 12 or above and when she attains puberty. According to Girls Opportunity Index the place of Bangladesh is 111 th out of 114countries as reported by Save the Children. Bangladesh tops list except Afghanistan among the SAARC countries. Nizar sees the worst situation in the globe. But Sweden has made the best opportunities for girls. Among SAARC Counties the Maldives sees the best position which is 50 th in the global ranking, USA 32 and UK 15. Child marriage, becoming mother at tender age, antenatal death, representation of women in the national assembly and the rate of girls drop out in the lower secondary level have been taken into consideration. On average, girls begin puberty at ages 10-11, boys at ages 11-12. Girls usually complete puberty by ages 15-17 while boys complete by ages 16-17.Main reasons for such early marriage are social security, poverty, poor knowledge of sexuality and inadequate knowledge about complications of early pregnancy. Besides, violence against women, eve-teasing, high demand for dowry etc. compel parent to feel constantly worried about the marriage of their daughters. Some economic and social measures such as investing in teenage girls need to take to combat this alarming situation. In the economic front, there should be some schemes and future investment plan and financial saving strategy by the family.
Besides saving plans, health care is equally important. There should be dissemination of knowledge about sexual and reproductive health care, in addition to educate teenage girls to avoid unwanted pregnancy.Almost 65 % girl child are getting married before attaining the age of 18 years in spite of stringent law restricting such a marriage. About 70 % of pregnant mothers suffer from acute anemia giving birth to low weight babies and 60 % of women living in rural areas are suffering from RTI/STI. Besides, working environment of female staff is not congenial with 90% of workplace having no separate toilet for women employees. There is hardly any day-care center in any office, public or private organizations.
That means enabling them to avoid child marriage and unwanted pregnancy, protect against HIV transmission, stay safe from female genital mutilation, and acquire the education and skills they need to realize their potential. It also requires ensuring their sexual health and reproductive rights. Girls everywhere should be able to lead lives free from fear and violence. If we achieve this progress for girls, we will see advances across society. Empowering girls, ensuring their human rights and addressing the discrimination and violence they face are essential to progress for the whole human family. One of the best ways to achieve all of these goals is to provide girls with the education they deserve. Yet, too many girls, in too many countries, are held back simply because of their gender. Those whose mother was also deprived of an education, who live in a poor community or who have a disability face an even steeper climb. Among girls who do make it to school, many face discrimination and violence.
The UNICEF report harnessing the Power of Data for Girls: Taking stock and looking ahead to 2030, released ahead of the International Day of the Girl Child, includes the first global estimates on the time girls spend doing household chores such as cooking, cleaning, caring for family members and collecting water and firewood. The data show that the disproportionate burden of domestic work begins early, with girls between 5 and 9 years old spending 30 per cent more time, or 40 million more hours a day, on household chores than boys of their age. The numbers rise, as girls get older, with 10 to 14 year olds spending 50 per cent more time, or 120 million more hours each day. In addition to household chores, the report presents data on girl-related issues addressed by the SDGs including violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and education. Achieving the SDGs that address these issues and empowering girls with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to reach their full potential, is not only g ood for girls, but can drive economic growth, promote peace and reduce poverty. To achieve meaningful results, we need fresh solutions to girls’ education challenges and we must heed the voices of young people. Let us work together to invest in education, so that girls can advance in their personal development and contribute to our common future.
(Masum Billah works in BRAC Education Programme as an specialist and writes regularly on various national and international issues)

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