With Her: A Skilled GirlForce
The International Day of the Girl Child aims to highlight the plight of young girls across the world. This day is important in reflecting on the needs, challenges and opportunities for young girls in their journey to adolescence and adulthood. This year’s theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, aims to bring together stakeholders to address the numerous needs and opportunities for girls to achieve skills for future employment (UN, 2018).
According to the UN, over 90% of young people living in developing countries will work in the informal sector – a sector characterised by little to no wages and exploitation.
In preparing our young girls to enter the workforce, it is necessary to place emphasis on the role of primary and secondary education. Receiving a good education creates socio-economic opportunities for the girl child. Every child has the right to go to school. Schools have the capacity to shield children from the risks of child labour, exploitation and child marriage (UNICEF, 2018).
Education also gives girls access to information, and most importantly, the capacity to access essential social and healthcare services by being better informed.
That being said, the role of the school, home and the community as institutions of support contribute immensely to the emotional wellbeing of young girls. Culture, tradition and religious beliefs can both uplift or put down young girls who are trying to understand themselves and the community around them. In a patriarchal society, young girls can be denied the opportunity to further their education or seek better employment.
Education also plays a role in ending child marriage. Child marriage continues to be a reality for many young girls. Religion, social norms and economic factors interacting with gender inequality are usually cited as catalysts of child marriage. The consequences of child marriage result in an increased risk of violence (physical, emotional and sexual); young girls are more likely to drop out of school and are at risk of early pregnancy complications. Only in ending this practice can young girls increase their years in school and attain better skills for employability.
Efforts towards girls’ empowerment must include the participation of boys. Socialisation based on the principle of equality provides boys with the emotional capacity to address issues of gender-based violence, child marriage and encouraging them to choose peaceful ways to express themselves.
Policy makers, communities, families and other stakeholders should promote the psychosocial and mental wellbeing of girls be creating an environment where all girls have opportunities to flourish and fulfil their potential; where their rights and dignity are valued; and where they can freely express themselves, free from discrimination and stigma, violence and abuse. By providing girls with psychosocial support, we enhance their ability to thrive and be an effective Skilled GirlForce.