The importance of setting aside a special day dedicated to the girl child cannot be over emphasised. The observation of the Day supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide. This inequality includes the right to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence and child marriage. The world currently has about one point one billion girls who are brimming with talent and creativity. But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities. It is unfortunate that there is no up to date data on the specific challenges girls go through on daily basis. That is why it is refreshing that this year's observation of the International Day of the girl child focuses on data gathering. This is a clear call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back are critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.
Children particularly, girls go through a lot of challenges worldwide. The most significant being early or child marriage. The statistics are frightening. It is estimated that, excluding China, one in three girls in developing countries get married before they turn 18. What is worrying is the fact that girls who are child brides most often miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared. It is said that with a minimum of secondary education, girls are up to six times less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education. The situation is not different in Ghana as child marriage is a common phenomenon. It is prevalent in many parts of the country. It is true that the government of Ghana is putting a lot of policies and programmes in place to end child marriage and stop every discriminatory practice against girls. It is refreshing that the country has an almost one to one , girls to boys ratio in basic schools.
However, the girl population reduces as they climb the academic ladder. This should be the focus of policy formulators and implementers. Special incentives need to be provided to motivate as many girls as possible to stay in school. Current developments testify that girls are as capable as boys to undertake any intellectual and energetic activity to contribute towards development. In Africa women and girls are still subjected to all kind of discrimination due to some religious and cultural practices. The role of non-governmental organizations in combatting all forms of discrimination against the girl child is highly appreciated but not enough to overcome it. In the case of Ghana, there is the need for a swift passage of an affirmative action law. This law is long overdue.
In today's globalised world, African countries and friendly organizations need to join hands in putting together their resources to further appreciate the situation of the girl child through collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. This data should enable leaders to be fully aware of the real condition of the girl child and its negative impact on the development of the society at large. With such information, the leaders should be in the position to take the right policy and programme decisions. That should be the stepping stone towards achieving many of the SDGs. On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere.
BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.