Since 2012, the world has been celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child each year on 11 October. It is critical in highlighting and addressing girl’s rights and challenges globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life more stressful and challenging for girls, therefore an action is urgently needed to promote the girls’ empowerment. This year’s theme for the Girl Day is “Digital Generation”.
In 2011, the International Day of the Girl Child was proposed by the Plan International Egypt and Canada Delegation in the United Nations General Assembly.
On 19 December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution (66/170) adopting 11 October 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. The resolution states that the Day recognizes: “The empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all millennium development goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”
In this article DNE highlights two of the most important events or celebrations that happened on that day.
Unlock girls’ power
The Plan International used to celebrate this day every year through the global #GirlsTakeover initiative, which is a call for action towards radical social and political change and to tear down barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold girls back.
Since 2018, the GirlsTakeover initiative has been implemented under the auspices of the Minister of Social Solidarity and through a partnership with Plan International Egypt, the Embassy of Canada in Cairo, and the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
For this year’s celebration, Plan called for action against the false information that girls and young women are exposed to online. Plan International spoke to 26,000 girls in 26 countries around the world and the vast majority said that false information online has negatively impacted their lives.
Globally, we’re living through massive digital change. The spread of false information online is an issue of our time. It affects all of us. But for girls, the impact is devastating. The spread of false information online has real life consequences. It is dangerous, it affects girls’ mental health, and it’s yet another thing holding them back. And right now, girls are left to manage this on their own.
Minister of Social Solidarity, Nevin Al-Kabbaj, attended the annual Forum “Girls Summit”, as part of the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, organized by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, in partnership with Plan International Egypt.
The forum was held under the title “Digital Education to Enhance Girls’ Knowledge”, in the presence of Sahar Al-Sunbati, Secretary-General of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood; Canadian Ambassador Louis Diomas; Mohamed Kamal, Director of Plan International Egypt; Selim Sahab, conductor of the Egypt Choir Orchestra; members of Houses of Representatives in both countries; and a group of participants in the “Girls in Leadership Roles” initiative, including representatives of government agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and the media, and girls participating in the “Girls in Leadership” initiative.
The celebration activities centred on the importance of digital education to enhance girls’ knowledge and provide them with the skills to identify correct information from false, protect themselves from cyberbullying, use the internet safely, and confidently participate in online spaces.
Among the most prominent activities of the celebration of the International Day of the Girl child this year, 30 Egyptian girls assumed a leadership position in simulation, including the ministries of Social Solidarity, Justice and Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Planning, Environment, and Tourism, the President of the National Council for Women, the Secretary-General of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, the Nasser Social Bank, and the Fund Combating addiction and abuse, the General Secretariat for Mental Health, the Red Crescent Society, Ten Channel, and Aladdin magazine.
The Minister of Social Solidarity affirmed that Egypt lives in an era of ensuring human rights, supporting women, empowering caregivers, and investing in future generations. Al-Kabbaj thanked Egypt’s President for his appreciation of Egyptian women and his support for all issues that concern girls and women, and for placing human development at the top of the state’s priorities.
Al-Kabbaj added that Egypt is one of the first countries to ratify the international conventions on the rights of the child, the rights of persons with disabilities and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. She pointed out that Egypt’s commitment to celebrate the International Day of the Girl child is a reflection of the state’s interest in supporting the rights of girls and shedding light on these issues by building a public opinion that promotes and respects the rights of children in general and girls in particular.
The Minister of Solidarity explained that the choice of the theme for the celebration of the International Day of the Girl 2021 was based on the growing use of electronic platforms in various aspects of life, and with the increasing dissemination and application of the national trend of digitization, especially after the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which requires finding innovative electronic solutions and safe measures to ensure Girls access to electronic platforms and build their capabilities to be able to keep pace with this rapid development and enhance their participation on social media platforms, through effective and safe methods.
Al-Kabbaj confirmed that the Ministry of Solidarity has adopted a number of policies to empower girls, whether in terms of monetary support that require health and educational care, preventing the marriage of underage girls, as well as in equalizing educational opportunities and supporting community education, or in protecting girls from all forms of violence such as female genital mutilation and physical and psychological violence, in addition to hosting the victim girls of violence in hosting centers for support and rehabilitation, and encouraging civil society institutions to adopt programs to empower girls, and to promote community awareness.
She called on the girls to be strong and steadfast in the face of the challenges they may encounter in life, and not to overconfidence in themselves to an extent that prevents them from continuing to learn throughout their lives, and to take into account the balance in behaviours and relationships in a way that achieves personal, family and societal balance.
Al-Sunbati said that Egypt support the principle of equal opportunities, equality and non-discrimination against the female girl, emphasizing the girls’ right to exercise all rights, stressing that Egypt has many honourable models of girls, which makes us always proud of them.
On the other hand, Canadian Ambassador in Cairo Louis Dumas said, “It is a pleasure to celebrate this day, as we value the strength of girls and women and the promotion of the value of gender equality. She has the right to education, health, non-exploitation, and the right to equality… Thanks to the efforts made, women have assumed leadership positions.”
For his part, Mohamed Kamal, Director of Plan International Egypt, said that the organisation greatly values the partnership with the Ministry of Social Solidarity in celebrating the International Day of the Girl this year, praising the tireless efforts made by the Egyptian state to promote gender equality and achieve the goals of Egypt’s Vision 2030 and the sustainable development goals.
Kamal stressed that Plan International pays special attention to the importance of promoting digital education for girls, based on the new reality that is witnessing the growing use of electronic platforms in various walks of life and the international and national trend of digitization, which requires ensuring safe access for all groups, especially girls, to electronic platforms, raising their awareness and building their capabilities. To be able to keep pace with this development in the use of electronic platforms and enhance their effective participation on these platforms to support their rights and address societal issues that affect their lives and societies and bring about positive change.
The conference witnessed the holding of a panel discussion with girls under the title “Digital Education: Enhancing the Utilization of Electronic Platforms to Promote Education and Knowledge for Girls.”
Adolescent girls from Arab region speak up
The United Nations Population Fund Arab States Regional Office (UNFPA ASRO) is marking International Day of the Girl Child with the launch of “In Her Words” — a collection of stories, insights, and arts created by adolescent girls living in humanitarian settings throughout the Arab region.
Developed by the UNFPA Regional Humanitarian Hub for Syria and the Arab States (RHHSAS), the initiative invited adolescent girls living in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria to experiment with different forms of self-expression, resulting in a remarkable array of impactful moving narratives.
“The objective of ‘In Her Words’ is to build on efforts made in recent years to highlight the unique challenges and needs of adolescent girls as well as their often astounding resilience,” explains UNFPA Arab States Regional Director, Luay Shabaneh. “Adolescent girls are not usually targeted in humanitarian programmes which limits their opportunities and potential. ‘In Her Words’ gives us the opportunity to hear directly from them and to amplify their voices as they tell us about their dreams, realities, and triumphs.”
In 2021, several countries in the Arab Region are coping with the lasting impacts of longstanding and emerging humanitarian situations. Both the Syria and Yemen crises have passed the 10-year mark, while more recent developments in Sudan and Lebanon will result in additional disruptions in community networks, placing the lives and dignity of millions of people at risk. Meanwhile, the worsening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges facing communities in those countries, impeding access to lifesaving services and exacerbating the risks of gender-based violence.
The first part of In Her Words— ‘Her Dreams’ — immediately communicates the remarkable spirit, awareness, and imagination of adolescent girls even as they face the most challenging of crises. From there, the narrative shifts to ‘Her Realities’, covering a wide range of difficult themes that pervade the lives of adolescent girls in the region. The third and final part — ‘Her Triumphs’ — focuses on some of the remarkable achievements made by girls as they strive to find their place amidst these challenges. The publication concludes with a message from Mariam, UNFPA’s virtual ambassador for adolescent girls in the Arab Region, who brings additional insights from adolescents throughout the region to further stress the overarching message: that adolescent girls throughout the region are yearning to be heard, to fulfil their dreams and reach their full potential, and to play a leading role in addressing the problems that beset them.
“We are all fighting for the same rights,” said Mariam, “To be viewed as equals, to have opportunities to choose the lives we want to lead, to choose whom we want to marry and when. All we ask is for those who have the power — including humanitarians — to listen to us.”