Reminding that COVID 19 pandemic has exposed the existing inequalities and discrimination that girls face, the UN Human Rights experts called on Governments to unlock young girls’ potential and keep the promises made to them in Beijing, 25 years ago.
The call was made on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child that falls on October 11.
Although girls and children in general might not have been hit directly by COVID-19, they are the primary victims of its potential long-term effects, the UN said. It said that school closures and digital divide within and between wealthy and poor countries was eroding years of progress in girls’ access to education.
The UN has said that about 11 million girls may not return to school this year. This adds to the 130 million who were already out of school before the pandemic. The world body pointed out that girls forced to stay at home are more exposed to domestic violence and face higher risks of child marriage and early pregnancy.
The UN experts also maintained that restrictions caused by the pandemic on the provision of health services like pre and post-natal care, availability of contraceptives, termination of pregnancy adversely affected young girls. Adding to this, the fragile economic situation of their families also increased the risk of exploitation of girls, the UN said. They are trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation. Digital technologies may pose a significant risk for girls if not properly regulated. They also mentioned that the risk of trafficking online for sexual exploitation has significantly increased.
Another dangerous aspect is that several girls will see a drop in their future lifetime earnings and possible employment opportunities shattered. Indigenous girls, minority girls, migrant girls, rural girls and girls with disabilities are at a higher risk.
The UN Bodies said that the governments should seriously think and take positive steps to address the inequalities. It said that girls should be at the centre of policy making processes and contribute to the design of age-sensitive social protection schemes. The governments should value the disproportionate share of household chores and ensure access to economic resources and vocational training for girls.
The UN body also wanted the society to reconceptualise traditional gender roles to unlock young girls’ potential to contribute to their communities and societies. “As empowered girls today and as the future leaders tomorrow, they will address this century’s biggest challenges. This is possible only if countries build back a fairer and more equal society, a society where girls’ voices are heard, welcomed and respected and their views acted upon, and where girls’ rights are protected and promoted, everyday, everywhere.” They said. .
“On today’s International Day of the Girl Child, States must reflect on whether the promises made to girls 25 years ago have been realised. We owe this to the young generation of girls that are facing this pandemic. We owe this to the young girls full of hope who believed that this world could be a more equal place with the adoption of a visionary Platform for Action for gender equality. On International Day of the Girl Child, we must accelerate our commitment to ensure that the future we committed to 25 years ago for every girl, everywhere, becomes her lived reality,” the UN experts pointed out.
Twenty-five years ago in Beijing, the governments promised he girls that they would take all necessary steps to safeguard their equal rights and ensure that they achieve their full potential. The leaders promised to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against girls and provide them opportunities on an equal basis with boys, promote and protect their rights, eliminate the economic exploitation and empower them to participate in social, economic, political and cultural life.