Every October 11 the world marks International Day of the Girl. It is a day to demand action for social and political change to dismantle barriers that hold girls back from being empowered members of society.
This year, International Day of the Girl comes at a historic moment in Tanzania where the country has its first ever female President, Honourable Samia Suluhu Hassan. This landmark occasion opens doors to many girls across Tanzania who can see it is possible to “break the glass ceiling” and lead from very highest of positions in this country. Having a first female President will challenge perceptions of what women are capable of and inspire a new generation of female leaders.
I believe that one of the best ways to empower young women is through leadership and mentorship. Structured mentorships can provide concrete opportunities for girls and young women to learn and see what is possible.
Every year, in the lead up to International Day of the Girl, I participate in the Girls Take Over initiative led by Plan International, which enables young women to take over leadership positions and demonstrate that women have a right to be in positions of power. My #GirlsTakeOver mentee this year is Proscovia Gregory, a bright young woman from Dar es Salaam and recent graduate of Tumaini University, and we have jointly written this article. Proscovia became fully engaged in my official High Commissioner duties over the last week, where she met with leaders working on human rights, private sector investment and health initiatives in Tanzania. Her discussions focused on gender equality and transformational change in different sectors.
There has been welcome progress on empowering girls and young women in Tanzania, including recent commitments at the Generation Equality Forum where world leaders pledged to advance gender equality. However, great challenges remain. From Proscovia’s perspective, one of the biggest barriers to equality is the lack of access to quality education for girls, and safe spaces for girls to learn. Proscovia is one of the fortunate ones to have graduated from university. However, a total of 3.2 million children aged 7 to 17 are out of school, half of whom are girls. Tanzania also has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. The knock on effects of child marriage that denies girls their right to education, increases the risk of violence, abuse, ill health, poverty and even early death cannot be denied. Access to healthcare and particularly sexual and reproductive health services and rights is another obstacle. We know that providing healthcare to women and girls strengthens communities and, equally important, educating girls about sexual and reproductive health rights empowers young women to make their own decisions and reduces the risk of violence.
The rise of technology globally and here in Tanzania has added new barriers – digital ones – where the voices of girls and young women are held back even on online. They can’t speak freely on issues that affect them on digital platforms without fear of harassment, discrimination, assault or sexualisation.
To add to Proscovia’s perspective, in my time here as Canadian High Commissioner, I have travelled to many parts of Tanzania to speak with young women about discriminatory social norms, basic healthcare needs, education and skills building, and power structures that hold women and girls back from having equal opportunities and fulfilling their potential. While their experiences are all different, their message is resoundingly the same: half of the population cannot be left behind.
For Canada, International Day of the Girl is not just a date on the calendar. Canada has put gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the center of its actions. Our efforts have helped Tanzania women and girls make real progress. With significant investment in girls’ education, gender parity has been achieved at the primary level, where girls now represent half of the school population. Canada’s assistance has focused on providing girl-friendly, protected and inclusive learning environments, including focusing on confidence-building, life skills, STEM capacity and creating inclusive approaches to alternative pathways for education with a priority on pregnant girls, adolescent mothers, and survivors of gender-based violence.
Canada has also contributed to long-term investments in health services, which have led to notable increases in the numbers of women and adolescent girls accessing antenatal care, from 21 percent in 2015 to 81 percent in 2019, and delivering babies with skilled birth attendants from 64 percent in 2015 to 83 percent in 2019. Canada’s approach has also focused on engaging men and boys, who can be powerful advocates for the rights of women and girls.
As I think of girls I’ve met across the country, from those who still have limited access to education and healthcare, to young women like Proscovia who have been afforded more opportunities but still face barriers, it is clear that we must continue to advocate and support girls’ rights. We will not break barriers to equality without stepping up efforts to amplify the voices of girls and support their opportunities to choose their own future and fully contribute to their community. Today, on International Day of the Girl, and beyond, Canada will continue to walk with Tanzanian girls and young women towards equality and support their future in an equitable world.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/202110110818.html
Author : Citizen
Publish date : 2021-10-11 15:00:54