NHRC STATEMENT ON DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD
COMMEMORATING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD
11 OCTOBER 2020.
On October 11th, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) joins the United Nations and partners globally to mark the International Day of the Girl Child. The day is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by the girl child and measure lessons learned and achievements against child-friendly policies including laws and efforts undertaken by the State, as the primary duty bearer, to guarantee a better future for the girl child.
This year’s anniversary, being commemorated under the theme: "My voice, our equal future", provides Governments and all of us the occasion to ‘reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls – energized and recognized, counted and invested in’. In The Gambia, a focus on adolescent girls is not just timely but crucial. For instance, numerous rape cases, sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence have been reported over the course of 2020. Additionally, despite the legal prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, many girls continue to face these and other forms of discrimination, violence and exploitation in their communities.
The continuous rights violations, abuse, discrimination and violence faced by adolescent girls are consistent with the United Nations (UN) findings that despite significant gains over the years, many of the commitments made to girls are left unfulfilled. Each year, 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married; 130 million girls worldwide are still out of school and approximately 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experience forced sex according to the UN.
UNICEF Gambia and partner NGOs have revealed that, as per the 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2018, 50.6 per cent of girls between 0 to 14 years old, and 27.3 percent of girls between 0 and 4 years old have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C). Similarly, about one third (34.2 per cent) of women aged 20 to 49 years were married before the age of 18 years.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the historic Beijing Platform and Declaration for action, NHRC calls on The Gambia Government to renew its commitment to the girl child and invest constructively in their health, education, training and safety, and put an end to harmful practices that hold girls back from reaching their full potential. Specifically, NHRC urges The Government to
• Initiate full enforcement and implementation of the laws banning FGM and child marriage as part of its obligation to fulfil the fundamental human rights of girls
• Prosecute alleged perpetrators of rape, sexual harassment and sexual abuse in order to end impunity and build confidence in the justice system for many girls and their families who may be reluctant to report such cases.
• Review the Children’s Act to include ratification of laws against all forms of discrimination against girls including discrimination in education, skills development and training.
• Promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.
• Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls.
• Create safe spaces and platforms for girls at all levels of society, including in schools, through which they can articulate their concerns and aspirations.
• Make life skills education an integral part of the education curriculum, especially at the primary and secondary levels.
• Invest in skills training and empowerment, across all the regions of the country, for girls who have become victims of child marriage.
The Gambia that we want must be conducive, protective and friendly to children, but especially girls in a society where existing structures promote inequality and discrimination. Adolescent girls deserve a safe environment that makes it possible for them to dream and achieve and contribute meaningfully to ‘New Gambia’. NHRC believes that an empowered girl is a catalyst to not only sustainable social cohesion but a prosperous economy.