Out of every 6 people in the world today, 1 of them is an adolescent girl below the age of 15. These are 1.1 billion people- a powerful constituency for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone. 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 many sexual reproductive health and rights challenges that girls face especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement.”
This theme is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.
One of the biggest issue standing in the way of girls’ progress is forced & early child marriage. The data is daunting—one in three girls in developing countries including Kenya get married before their 18th birthday. These child brides miss out on receiving an education and become more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. Girls who are married at an early age begin child bearing before they are physically or emotionally prepared. The cycle of violence that begins in girlhood, carries over into womanhood and across generations. The 2030 Agenda must address their needs and unlock their potential.
The SRHR Alliance seeks to empower women and girls and raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that seeks to improve their sexual reproductive health and rights. The government of Kenya has made very progressive legislation and created an enabling environment for adolescent girls to enjoy their sexual reproductive health rights. Advocacy efforts should ensure that the anti-FGM Act is fully implemented across all 47 counties. The children’s Act also provides a good child protection policy for children in Kenya.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress and empowerment everywhere. Let girls be girls!