The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) believes the girl child must be at the centre of efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action states in Section L that ‘all barriers must be eliminated to enable girls without exception to develop their full potential and skills through equal access to education and training, nutrition, physical and mental health care and related information.’ In addition Section L pledges to address violence, harmful cultural attitudes and practices to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls and promises to promote girls’ awareness and participation in their own lives and their societies.
Girls and young women suffer disproportionally in too many areas. Access to education and the quality of that education still has a significant gender bias. As food prices rise, hunger and poverty affect more people, with women and the young most at risk and girls the last priority. Climate change, lack of water and crisis in fisheries and other natural resources destroys the future of girls and boys. Restrictive cultural practices limit girls’ opportunities, constrain their roles to that of care giver and domestic helper and puts them at risk of illness, neglect and violence. HIV and AIDS continues to impact more directly on the life chances of women and girls and over three million girls a year still suffer the trauma and long term consequences of female genital mutilation.
We know that girls and young women are the most crucial constituencies in our communities if we want to transform opportunities for all and ensure a sustainable future for humankind. There are more than 600million girls living in the developing world and one-quarter of the population in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa are girls aged 10 to 24. Transforming the lives of girls and young women is the beginning of a ripple effect. By taking a life cycle approach and addressing the needs and priorities of girls, young women, adults and older women benefit. By empowering girls and the women they will become, entire families and communities are pushed out of poverty and away from hunger. Educated girls and young women earn more money, start their families later and have fewer children. When girls understand about their own health and their rights, whole communities are healthier and safer. When girls are free from sexual violence, coercion and destitution they are free from HIV and AIDS. When they are free of HIV AIDS, their children are born healthy. Empowered girls become women who invest in their families and start a process of education and care that breaks the poverty cycle and changes family and community perceptions of girls from being a burden to being valued and worthy.
Despite knowing that investment in girls is the most powerful response to many of the dilemmas facing human kind, the international progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is appallingly slow, and when directly concerning the girl child often even slower. Less than half a cent of every US dollar spent on international assistance programmes is invested directly in girls.
Through its mission to ‘enable girls and young women to discover their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world,’ WAGGGS is already placing the girl child at the centre of the solution. Education and leadership programmes, community action and advocacy campaigns reach out to 10 million girls and young women and their communities in 145 countries.
In order to rapidly and significantly improve the situation of girls around the world, WAGGGS recommends that the international community, governments and civil society ensure that the girl child is placed at the centre of policy in the following four areas: girls’ empowerment; education and training; adolescent health and rights; and participation in decision making.