On the 19th of December, 2011, a resolution was passed at the United Nations HQ in New York, Resolution 66/170. Members of the UN agreed to establish an annual day of observance, called the International Day of the Girl Child, to address the unique challenges faced globally by young women and girls, and to develop programs of action to reduce inequality.
Resolution 66/170 also reads:
“The meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”
My recent experience at the UN as IBVM/CJ Youth Representative made me more aware of an important consideration within the social development sector, for governments, for organisations, and for anyone trying to make a difference: don’t speak about us without us. We all play a part in ensuring this message rings true for girls.
Every generation of young women and girls faces their own unique challenges. Especially now during this pandemic, girls are facing unique obstacles, barriers and hardships that even I wouldn’t be able to fully understand as a 24 year old woman who has grown up in Australia.
I don’t want to speak for the young women and girls who face life threatening and traumatic circumstances daily. This report by UNICEF, A New Era for Girls, shares the stories of many young women and girls from around the world, many of whom experience daily violence, abuse and discrimination.
Plan International released a report halfway through this year, titled A Better Normal: Girls Call for a Revolutionary Reset. This report is explorative, in-depth, analytical and provides solutions to challenges faced by girls in Australia and Vietnam, and it is authored by 22 girls from Australia and Vietnam between the ages of 15 and 24.
Girls are experts on their own experience. Both of these reports (as well as others accessible through the resource list below) are proof of this. This International Day of the Girl Child, we need to continue to hold space for young women and girls around the world to speak freely on their experiences and their needs and help to create systems and programs to provide girls with their right to explore, create and make change. Let’s increase the voice of young women and girls in leadership and advisory roles, in committees, on boards, and at the very least in consultative roles for issues that relate to them.
Let us make sure the path is etched for all the Greta Thunbergs and Malalas of the world to access opportunities to speak up and out about their experiences
Author: Francesca Torcasio-Barberis