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The world’s 1.1 billion girls are a source of power, innovation, strength and creativity.
Today, 11th October 2017, Nigeria Network of NGOs joins partners all over the world in marking the International Day of the Girl to recognize the imperativeness of empowering and investing in girls.
This year focuses on the theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force’. The world must also focus on the need to invest in healthy, skilled and resilient (girl force) a key to competing effectively in the global economy.
Many countries have records of Girl Child being denied of human rights and sometimes her basic needs. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, sets the basic human rights of children; the right to survival and development of potential; protection from harmful influences, abuses and exploitation and full participation in family, cultural and social life.
Based on their gender, girls increasingly face gender inequality. This inequality includes access to quality education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, protection from discrimination and child marriage. According to the International Labor Organization, 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.
The message is clear, globally, more than 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, and more than 90% of these young people live in developing countries with the girls suffering the most. Research also reveals two-thirds of the 774 million illiterates in the world is female.
Despite transformation in the last decade, millions of girls are still denied right to education, more than 62 million girls around the world have no access to education. Of these 17 million are expected never to see nor sit in the four walls of schools. Several countries have millions of girls out of school: In Nigeria, there are almost five and a half million of them, many of them missing out on the chance to learn vital skills for employment and livelihood.
Worldwide, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores. To achieve gender equality and other SDGs, many now recognize that it is essential to support and invest in girls.
Girls deserve better and because they deserve better, the 1.1 billion girls of today’s world are beginning to challenge the status quo. The World Bank opines that girls with education grow into women who “tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labour market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children with better health care and education.”
A substantial number of young girls in the world face various challenges that are often overlooked. Some of the risks include child marriage, early pregnancy, unsafe abortion, HIV and other STIs and genital mutilation to mention a few.
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 100 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation with another 3 million at risk of the practice every year.
Skills for girls are one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage. UNESCO notes that 116 million women across developing countries worldwide have never completed primary school, while two-thirds of the illiterate population worldwide is female.
With 5.5million girls out of school and without skills, Nigeria leads Africa in gender inequality. 2018 records about 12 million girls under 18 will be married, and 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years will become pregnant even in developing nations.
Nigeria, with her workforce of about 77 million people, accounts for about 42% of the total population. Between 2014 and 2015, over four million young Nigerians entered the labour market, experiencing a growth of 53% between 2011 and 2015.
However, The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) opines that Nigeria is losing out on a literate and skilled workforce, many thanks to the huge number of out of school children.
The world needs to begin to realize that girls’ education has a huge impact on all societies. Research reveals that skilled female is more likely to find work; are less likely to have children at an early age; skilled girls can save millions of lives: If all women are skilled, there would be 15% fewer child deaths.
Skilled women are less likely to die in childbirth: If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, saving 98,000 lives
Girls with higher levels of skills are less likely to get married at an early age, with 14% fewer child marriages.
Gender gap raises some fine questions. Why are boys more valued than girls? For the fact that age, income, culture, ethnicity and other intersecting factors are not often times factored, then gender must be treated as such, SDG5 must come to play and stay globally.
The world could begin by drawing attention and invest on the most pressing need which is creating opportunities for girls to embrace several skills for an established SKILLED GIRL FORCE.
To have a SKILLED GIRL FORCE, the world must invest and expand access to inclusive skills aside the job and educational skills, skills like professionalism, organizational, leadership and management, team building, analytical, life-skills and personal life skills all of these put together are believed would mold and transform them into an effective and productive FORCE today and tomorrow.