International Day of the Girl Child
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Today, we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child to amplify the rights and voices of girls across the globe. Through 25 years of advocacy and effort, there has been a rise in enrollment rates as well as girls’ school life expectancy. It has been heartening to see women holding positions of influence across various industries while young girls were able to participate fully in society. Despite decades of progress, there are still exponential challenges to gender parity, and COVID-19 has unfortunately resulted in a significant setback.
The World Bank reports that 2.7 women are ‘legally restricted’ from working the same jobs as their male counterparts. One in four women have either left the workforce or have been required to cut back on work hours and opportunities. Despite a narrowing over the years, the gender digital divide has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Not all families have had the essential facilities or infrastructure required for remote learning. In India, for instance, only 24% of households even had a stable internet connection during a time dependence on technology has been of the utmost importance. Nearly 32 million children (32 crore) were deprived of an education, with boys being sent to work and girls expected to manage home chores. The gendered effects of the pandemic have been highlighted by multiple organizations with everyone working their best to help address the challenges.
Of the groups that have suffered during the pandemic, school-aged girls are particularly vulnerable due to their lack of rights, privileges and independence. UNESCO estimates that a staggering 11 million girls may not return to school due to pandemic-related disruptions. Their lack of access to education may mean an increased risk of domestic abuse and violence, transactional sex, as well forced, early marriages and pregnancies – particularly for those in disadvantaged households or conflict areas. Girls in these situations are often denied access to health services – a basic human right and an area in which TeachAids has worked tirelessly to generate transformative social and economic change. With culturally sensitive materials and gender-specific information presented in engaging formats, TeachAids has worked to provide valuable, life-saving health education to girls in at-risk communities globally.
Education, after all, is a key to freedom and equality. Girls with an education do not just receive financial and intellectual opportunities – they also find the courage to use their agency and their voice with confidence. Empowered women created impactful, empowered societies. An investment in the education of young girls will result in a better future for all humanity. Gender inequality is more than just a social issue – it also hampers economic welfare and progress.
There are pockets of promise across geographies – with more digitally-savvy, women entrepreneurs who have made miracles happen through micro loans, to women forging ahead leading the health response to COVID-19 globally.
This is a time to keep the fight going. The traction that we have been able to make in the past is evidence that we can do it again. This is an opportunity to create more inclusive learning environments, break new and pre-existing barriers, and continue to challenge social constructs and norms that stand in the way of gender equity.