International Day of the Girl Child – EmPOWER Girls: before, during and after crisis.
The International Day of the Girl Child presents an opportunity to increase awareness of the unique challenges and injustices faced by girls all over the world. This day also provides an occasion to celebrate the vibrancies, potential and creativity of girls, engaging girls in the center of international relief and development plans. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child recognising that investment in girls is critical for meeting development goals. This year’s International Day of the Girl Child “marks the beginning of a year-long effort to spur global attention and action to the challenges and opportunities girls face before, during, and after crises” (UNICEF). Conflict, earthquake, tsunami, flood, typhoon, poverty, drought, famine, hurricane and more, are all crises that affect girls in specific and unique ways. Evidence shows that during and after crisis girls are even more vulnerable – for girls, crisis increases the risk of forced marriage, displacement, human trafficking, rape, political occlusion, loss of education and so on.
Empowering girls, before crises is critical if girls are to be able to meet challenges both in national and international emergencies as well as in facing those more localised crises arising from the every day living of girls lives: challenges faced when girls meet with violence such as forced marriage and physical beatings, denial of basic human rights and isolation or incarceration. This year’s theme urges that girls are prepared for the potential of crisis. The theme encourages attention be paid to ensuring that girls acquire the skills and education they need to prepare for crisis. Training and education in basic life skills, in the use of innovative technologies and critical thinking, prepare girls to participate and have voice in planning crisis prevention and recovery efforts. Access to girl’s education and skill building are essential in building the necessary resilience of girls and guaranteeing their active engagement in meeting the challenges of crisis.
Empowering girls during crisis requires that girls are active participants in the planning and implementation of protection strategies. The best decisions made in areas that impact girls are evidenced through the testimony of girls. It is vital that attention is paid to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of girls in crisis. How do we respond to crisis, what happens to girls in crisis, and what are the needs of girls in crisis, are all questions pertinent to the center of crisis response strategies. This year’s theme encourages us to think about what roles girls have in crisis situations and about ways to identify, track and document events and experiences of girls in crisis. Including girls in discussions about their safety and protection is a necessary step towards promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights. Girls are uniquely impacted by crisis requiring responses that address their specific needs. Girls require appropriate targeted resourcing, access to aid and humanitarian relief, budgets sufficient to invest in their protection and investments in areas where their vulnerability is increased.
Empowering girls after crisis brings attention to the necessity to engage girls in recovery efforts, to determine the specific needs of girls in recovery and to welcome girls ‘at the table’ when decisions are being made that will affect the lives of girls and their communities. In the post-crisis situation girls’ vulnerability continues to be heightened. Ensuring that girls are meaningfully included in ‘picking up the pieces’ in the post-crisis environment and in planning a way forward into a better future helps mitigate their vulnerability. Crisis and post-crisis relief efforts require greater accountability, commitment, collaboration and inclusion of women, men, girls and boys if sustainability of reduced vulnerability is to transpire. Rapid gender analysis, engaging local partners, improving data collection and ensuring sex and age disaggregated data will enable girls’ experiences of crisis to be voiced and better understood so girls are not invisible is the crisis and post crisis dialogue.
Building girls resilience to crisis not only empowers girls but at the same time helps to dismantle the harmful social norms that perpetuate their vulnerabilities in times of crisis. Locating girls to the forefront of crisis response and development agenda and ensuring that girls acquire the education and skills necessary to safely navigate the perils of crisis presents opportunities to think about crisis prevention and recovery in ways that target those most vulnerable. Empowering girls’ resilience to crisis empowers community resilience to crisis.