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Camfed joins the world to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child

By Jennifer Asiedu

 

What do I do now? When I’m being addressed as a wife at this tender age of my life to a man who is old enough to be my grandfather. I had always wanted to become an engineer at the age of 25years but here I am locked up in the tunnel of marriage. Hmmm, how can I be a role model to my younger siblings out there when I can hardly reach my target in life? How nice it would’ve been to be addressed as Engineer Baaba someday, but here I am being referred to as ‘hey Baaba’ or ‘Esi maame’ and even that, thus when you are lucky.

 

Can you imagine how good it’s going to feel to be called by names like, ‘my queen’, ‘dear’, ‘sweetheart’? This happens when you’ve been able to achieve your goals someway somehow and some people just can’t help it but to address you this way since they can’t afford to call you anyhow. Names like those aren’t used by husbands alone you know. This is the kind of thought that runs through the minds of our girls when they find themselves in a condition they have no control over and all they can do is to contemplate. Situations such as this happen to many girls every day in many parts of the world. But the critical question is, what actions have individuals, civil society organisations, NGOs and indeed the international community taken to ensure that the challenges that the girl-child faces are addressed. 

 

As a result of the youth advocacy around the world, the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 every year as the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) with a mission to help galvanise worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives by providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential. The IDGC is celebrated annually to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world and to address these challenges to promote their empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

 

Since the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which replaced the MDGs in September 2015, the attention of the world has focused on the adolescent girl and the developmental milestones the adolescent girl is expected to achieve by 2030, the year the SDGs end. This focus is particularly important in light of the population of adolescents. Statistics indicate that out of a total world population of seven billion, 1.1 billion were adolescent girls.  

 

Additionally, there are a myriad of challenges facing girls. These challenges include teenage pregnancy, child marriage, child labour, violence, discrimination, gender inequality and limited access to health and education. For instance statistics show that 13 percent of girls in Ghana between the ages of 15 and 19 have begun childbearing. The challenges facing girls call for more concerted and joined-up action by all if the goals and targets set out in the SDGs framework are to be achieved by 2030.

 

While the challenges facing girls seem daunting, the actions being taken by many civil society organizations and NGOs such as Camfed to emphasise the rights of girls and the relationship between progress for girls and progress towards achieving the SDGs cannot be overlooked.

 

Established in 1998, Camfed’s work in Ghana is focused in 860 schools and 31 districts in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Central Regions due to the levels of poverty in these areas. According to Camfed, girls and women are the most vulnerable victims of poverty. Early drop-out from school, poor employment opportunities and social marginalisation in decision-making processes reflect their low social status and lack of empowerment. Camfed works with partners to provide comprehensive scholarships to girls to have an education.

 

Camfed views its scholarship programme as means to an end and invests in young women’s leadership. The organisation provides young women with the knowledge and skills to become leaders of change in their communities. Through the Financial Literacy Training (FLT), Entrepreneurship Skills Training and the Innovation Bursary Program (IBP), Camfed has capacitated many young women with the requisite skills to start and run their own business.

 

Funding support from DFID has over the years been used to finance the education of many girls to ensure they achieve their fullest potential. As of 2015, a total of 32,120 girls were supported with DFID funding to attend junior and senior high school in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions. With support from The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program which is a 10-year partnership between The MasterCard Foundation and Camfed, many girls are receiving comprehensive support through secondary school and tertiary education with a full scholarship. Indeed the author of this article is a beneficiary of The Scholars Program.  

 

Camfed Ghana has a strong alumni network (Cama) of over 17,651 young women in all its districts of operation. These young women undertake advocacy and training activities that are geared towards improving the lives of their community members. As part of activities marking IDGC, Cama members undertook a number of activities including a talk on the effects (social, economic and health) of early marriage on girls in ten schools, a clean-up exercise at  the Anomabo Police Station, donation to Saltpond Ewoyaa Orphanage and a radio discussion programme on early marriage.

 

As the world celebrates IDGC, it is my firm belief that Camfed and like-minded partners will continue to work to give a voice to the girl-child, and to work towards providing opportunities for her to overcome the barriers and achieve her fullest potential. This is certainly a sure way of ensuring that the goals and targets set out in the SDGs framework are achieved by 2030.  

 

The writer is a Level 200 Journalism Student, GIJ and The MasterCard Foundation Scholar at Camfed Ghana

 

 

 

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