Petaling Jaya, October 7 – Eight years after the declaration of the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations, girls throughout the world are facing one of the greatest setbacks in a decade.
Already disadvantaged on many fronts, the outbreak of COVID-19 means that impoverished families and communities will have to make even harder choices, many of which would impact girls’ welfare and well-being all the more.
As it is, each year, millions of girls born into poverty are kept out of schools; forced to stay home to work or be married off before they are physically or emotionally ready. Women and girls are being denied their basic rights because of their gender.
According to UNICEF, 12 million girls are married each year, before they turn 18 years old. The International Labour Organization also states that 64 million girls are forced into child labour.
The onslaught of COVID-19 has exacerbated the plight of girls globally.
World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian organization, in a research conducted shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, forecasted that at least four million more girls will be married in the next two years, an increase of 30% because of COVID-19.
At least eight million boys and girls have been pushed into child labour and begging, with millions more facing an increased risk of being conscripted into child labour over the coming years as family livelihoods evaporate and economic crises ensue.
“The International Day of the Girl was mooted in 2012 to recognise the rights of girls and the unique challenges they face. It was conceived with the aim of promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
“Unfortunately, no thanks to COVID-19, many of the progress made have grounded to a halt and may even regress. Today, situations faced by girls in impoverished communities get even more dire,” said Arthur Chan, World Vision Malaysia’s Head of Public Engagement.
According to Chan, despite the challenges, World Vision will continue to champion the right to education for girls in communities where the NGO works.
“At the ground level, we are identifying and breaking through barriers that are keeping girls out of school. This involves various stakeholders within and outside the community as well as the girls themselves as we seek to instill in them an understanding of the value of education,” added Chan.
World Vision believes that through education and being educated, girls are given a voice and empowered to live fearlessly.
In conjunction with the International Day of the Girl, World Vision is continuing its effort to draw attention to the rights of girls.
The humanitarian organization has kicked off a series of online event called “Weekends with World Vision”. The upcoming one will bring together inspiring Malaysian women – including radio personality and author Freda Liu – as they share their challenges as women and speak up for the rights of girls.
The next broadcast of Weekends with World Vision will take place on Sunday, October 11, from 3pm to 4pm. Tune in at facebook.com/WorldVisionMalaysia/