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Soroptimists Stand Up to Protect and Promote Girls’ Rights

The United Nations has marked International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October since 2012. Soroptimist International of Europe, comprising 34,000 women in business and professions across 61 countries in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa, actively supports this call to highlight and address the needs and challenges that girls face, while promoting their empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights[1].

 

Of the 1.1 billion of girls[2] in the world today, millions are denied their human rights[3]. These include the right to be free from violence, the right to education, and the right to choose one’s reproduction and sexuality.

 

Every minute somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence[4]. Millions of girls are subjected to sexual and physical violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking and child marriage.  Each year, approximately 12 million girls under 18 will be married – nearly one girl every two seconds[5]. These forms of violence can jeopardize their health and their education. Globally, more than 130 million girls are not attending primary or secondary school[6]. Often kept home to care for the household and younger siblings – or even children, they are denied their right to education. According to UN Women, women and girls constitute the majority of the world’s poor, a phenomenon largely attributed to neglect in their access to education. [7].

 

Two mutually reinforcing UN Conventions on women’s and children’s rights form the cornerstone for protecting and promoting girls’ rights in law[8] – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

 

Education is a powerful tool to fight violence against girls such as child and forced marriage, human trafficking or female genital mutilation. It also gives girls the skills and opportunities to create a brighter future for themselves. It has been estimated that for every extra year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 11%[9]. With its 2018 theme “With Her: A Skilled Girl force”, the UN underlines the importance of education and training for girls’ empowerment[10], which is also one of Soroptimist International of Europe’s key areas of focus.

 

Soroptimist International of Europe agrees with the necessity to protect and promote girls’ rights, including their right to education. Following their motto “Educate, Empower, Enable”, Soroptimists will continue to take action to build a better world for girls through their partnerships and projects:

 

  • Ensuring that girls have access to quality education all over the globe. For example, Soroptimist International of Europe awards some 1600 scholarships to girls and women every year. SI Club Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, contributed to improve the study conditions of girls in rural areas, by providing students with solar lamps in seven primary schools. SI Club De Bilt-Bilthoven in the Netherlands partnered with the AFRIpads foundation to ensure that menstrual hygiene products were available for girls in 10 Ugandan schools. In conjunction with Ostfalia University, SI Club Uelzen in Germany ran a ”STEM Camp” introducing young girls to STEM subjects.
  • Standing up against Forced Marriage and Human Trafficking. The Union of Norway raised awareness about human trafficking via the theatre performance ”Valgt det…”, geared especially towards young people. SI Club Aalen / Ostwürttemberg, Germany, initiated a prevention campaign against trafficking and forced prostitution, in Germany and Romania, reaching more than 2000 pupils in 20 Romanian schools. SI Club Les Deux Sources, Belgium raised awareness of the issue of forced marriages through a theatre piece aimed at teenagers.
  • Raising awareness about Female Genital Mutilation during the 16 days of Activism and on other key occasions such as the 2018 Governors’ Meeting and the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.

Soroptimists stand up for girls’ rights in a number of ways. We demand that girls have equal access to education, are free to make their own reproductive and sexual choices, are able to choose when to get married, and are allowed to live free from any kind of violence!

 

[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

[2] http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/girl-child

[3] https://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_of_girls.pdf

[4] https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/A_Statistical_Snapshot_of_Violence_Against_Adolescent_Girls.pdf

[5] UNICEF

[6] UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics

[7] UNICEF

[8] https://www.girlsrightsplatform.org/girls-rights-report

[9] World Bank Report : Missed opportunities : The High Cost of Not Educating Girls

[10] http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

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