Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL -

In 1950, the Mills Brothers and in 1967, the fa­mous Amer­i­can singer Al Martino sang a beau­ti­ful and heart-warm­ing song about “Daddy’s Lit­tle Girl.” It goes like this: “You’re the end of the rain­bow, my pot of gold, You’re daddy’s lit­tle girl to have and hold, A pre­cious gem is what you are, You’re mommy’s bright and shin­ing star, You’re the spirit of Christ­mas, my star on the tree, You’re the Easter bunny to mommy and me, You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re ev­ery­thing nice, And you’re daddy’s lit­tle girl.”

Melodies and mem­o­ries such as these came to mind when we cel­e­brated on Thurs­day the United Na­tion’s In­ter­na­tional Day of the Girl Child. Since 2012, Oc­to­ber 11 has been marked as the In­ter­na­tional Day of the Girl Child and it aims to high­light and ad­dress the needs and chal­lenges girls face, while pro­mot­ing girls’ em­pow­er­ment and the ful­fil­ment of their hu­man rights.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, the 2018 theme: “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force.” To­day’s gen­er­a­tion of girls are pre­par­ing to en­ter a world of work that is be­ing trans­formed by in­no­va­tion and au­to­ma­tion. Ed­u­cated and skilled work­ers are in great de­mand, but roughly a quar­ter of young peo­ple – most of them fe­male – are cur­rently nei­ther em­ployed nor in ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing.

Of the 1 bil­lion young peo­ple – in­clud­ing 600 mil­lion ado­les­cent girls – who will en­ter the work­force in the next decade, more than 90% of those liv­ing in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries will work in the in­for­mal sec­tor, where low or no pay, abuse and ex­ploita­tion are com­mon. The UN says it is work­ing with girls to ex­pand ex­ist­ing learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, chart new path­ways and is call­ing on the global com­mu­nity to re­think how to pre­pare them for a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion into the world of work.

Ado­les­cent girls have the right to a safe, ed­u­cated and healthy life, not only dur­ing these crit­i­cal for­ma­tive years, but also as they ma­ture into women. If ef­fec­tively sup­ported dur­ing the ado­les­cent years, girls have the po­ten­tial to change the world – both as the em­pow­ered girls of to­day and as to­mor­row’s work­ers, mothers, en­trepreneurs, men­tors, house­hold heads and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. An in­vest­ment in re­al­is­ing the power of ado­les­cent girls up­holds their rights to­day and prom­ises a more eq­ui­table and pros­per­ous fu­ture, one in which half of hu­man­ity is an equal part­ner in solv­ing the prob­lems of cli­mate change, po­lit­i­cal con­flict, eco­nomic growth, dis­ease pre­ven­tion and global sus­tain­abil­ity.

Over the past 15 years, the global com­mu­nity has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in im­prov­ing the lives of girls dur­ing early child­hood. In 2015, girls in the first decade of life are more likely to en­rol in pri­mary school, re­ceive key vac­ci­na­tions, and are less likely to suf­fer from health and nu­tri­tion prob­lems than were pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. How­ever, there has been in­suf­fi­cient in­vest­ment in ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges girls face when they en­ter the sec­ond decade of their lives. This in­cludes ob­tain­ing qual­ity sec­ondary and higher ed­u­ca­tion, avoid­ing child mar­riage, re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices re­lated to pu­berty and re­pro­duc­tive health, and pro­tect­ing them­selves against un­wanted preg­nancy, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted diseases and gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

As the global com­mu­nity launches the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGS) for im­ple­men­ta­tion over the next 15 years, it is a good time to recog­nise the achieve­ments made in sup­port­ing young girls, while at the same time aspiring to sup­port the cur­rent and up­com­ing gen­er­a­tion of ado­les­cent girls, to truly ful­fil their po­ten­tial as key ac­tors in achiev­ing a sus­tain­able and eq­ui­table world, the UN says.

To mark this event, in Sri Lanka, the Women and Child Af­fairs Min­istry along with the Na­tional Child Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity (NCPA) ap­pointed about 150 district of­fi­cers to pro­tect and pro­mote the rights of chil­dren, es­pe­cially girls. But we have a long way to go in achiev­ing the UN’S vi­sion and mak­ing a ma­jor in­vest­ment for women to play a big­ger role in pol­i­tics, busi­ness and eco­nom­ics, re­li­gion and other fields. Let us make this pledge to­day, we up­hold the rights of girls ev­ery­where and com­mit to in­crease our fo­cus and ac­tion to em­power girls and in­crease the num­ber of girls and young peo­ple who sup­port the devel­op­ment of our coun­try.

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