International Day of the Girls Child
Let Girls Be Girls:
TERREWODE joins the rest of the world to mark October 11 , the first annual International Day of the Girl Child. Rt. Hon. Rebbeca Alitwala Kadaga, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda, launched the Ugandan inauguration of the International Day of the Girl Child in Kampala, Uganda. The event was organized by Uganda’s Gender Ministry in collaboration with partners including Plan International.
TERREWODE, as one of the development partners was invited to share in the festivities. The TERREWODE staff presented three girls who were former victims of child marriages and other forms of human rights violation and their participation contributed to highlighting the plight of Uganda’s rural girls. Over 300 people attended the event, including government officials, non-profit organizations, human rights activists and community members.
TERREWODE is concerned about interventions that address child marriage and gender equality. Although Article 34 of the Ugandan constitution guarantees protection of Ugandan children rights to basic such as education, protection, good health, many parents do not take the adequate measures to meet the basic needs of their daughters. Moreover, though child marriage is officially illegal, the country lacks the manpower and political will to prosecute those force girls into a child marriage.
The United National General Assembly adopted this date to raise global awareness of the situation of girls in local communities. The International Day of the Girl Child draws attention to the need to invest in young females, who are critical in achieving the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty, reduce maternal mortality, and reduce infant and child mortality.
This year’s theme was to protect girls from child marriage, using the motto, “my life, my right, end child marriage.” Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’ s message for the 2012 inaugural day was “let girls be girls, not brides.” According to the United Nations, approximately 70 million girls were married under the age of 18 last year. “When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early,” says Secretary General Ban, “girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.”
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) estimates that 54.1% of women in Uganda are married before their 18th birthday, while nearly 25% of them are pregnant or have given birth by age 18. The ICRW argues that “child marriage is a harmful traditional practice that perpetuates an unrelenting cycle of gender inequality, sickness and poverty.”
The International Day of the Girl Child marks the first official multi sectorial campaign that urges governments, community and religious leaders, private businesses and families to join together to promote the health and education of girls. Child brides are more likely than unmarried girls to die at an earlier age due to birth complications, live in poverty, remain illiterate, contract sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and experience domestic violence. Moreover, child brides are at a higher risk of developing obstetric fistula because of narrow pelvises and poor nutrition. Many teen brides experience shame and pain of fistula, and lack the social support to deal with their condition.
Alice Emasu, founder and Executive Director of TERREWODE, “teenage pregnancy and motherhood are our major concerns of ours because these girls are not physically and emotionally ready to give birth.” She adds that, in the event that they survive death, many become landless and destitute considering that such marriages to not last.