There are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future. They are a source of energy, power, and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises are suffering even more.
This year, International Day of the Girl focuses on the theme, “Empower girls: Before, during and after conflict”.
Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In humanitarian emergencies, gender-based violence often increases, subjecting girls to sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation, and trafficking.
Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 percent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.
Across the world, empowered girls are raising their voices to fight for their rights and protection in all contexts. They are working to end violence against women and girls, to recognize indigenous rights, and to build peaceful and cohesive communities.
“Some people say that it is shameful for girls to go to work or go to school. These are old traditions and conventions.” These are the words of Alan and Israa, two Syrian girls who, through a UN Women-supported training and community center in Beirut, Lebanon, are learning how to repair mobile phones.
This training is helping to break down traditional ideas about what girls can and cannot do, and through giving them relevant skills for their future, it is building resilience and helping to break conventional isolation.
According to the UN Women, 2017 has seen growing conflict, instability and inequality, with 128.6 million people expected to need humanitarian assistance due to security threats, climate change, and poverty. More than three-quarters of those who have become refugees or who are displaced from their homes are women and children. Among these, women and girls are among the most vulnerable in times of crisis.
Displaced and vulnerable women and girls face higher risks of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as damage to their livelihoods; girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to miss school during disasters, and displaced girls are often married off as children in an effort to ensure their security.
In a statement on the International Day of the Girl Child, UN Women states that they are working to ensure that girls experiencing crises have positive options that allow them to grow and develop social and economic skills.
Along with local women’s organizations, UN Women supports women and girl refugees through their Global Flagship Initiative, on Women’s Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection in Crisis Response (LEAP), which boosts civic engagement and leadership by advocating for women’s political and social participation at the local, national and international levels. LEAP also establishes Empowerment Hubs where women can network and access critical services and training and provides job placements, cash-for-work initiatives, and training for businesses.
Programmes like these can turn situations of displacement into opportunities for empowerment for girls and young women, remove them from potentially violent situations, and serve as a path to economic security so that they are not forced to marry older men to provide for their physical and financial well-being.
UN Women is also tapping into the possibilities of mobile technology, developing a Virtual Skills School, so that women and girls who have dropped out of school due to early marriage, childbearing or traditional practices, who are living with a disability, or who are displaced from their homes and in refugee camps, have access to second-chance learning.
“On the International Day of the Girl Child, let us commit to investing in skills training and education for girls and livelihood activities for young women around the world who are facing crises,” reads a statement from UN Women.
The statement further notes that far from being passive recipients of assistance, these girls are leaders who will use the skills that they develop today to rebuild their communities, and create a better future for all of us.