Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Girl-child :Information, education and communication

Critical Area 12: The Girl-child
The girl-child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood. In some areas of the world, men outnumber women by 5 in every 100. The reasons for this discrepancy include harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference . . . early marriage ...violence against women, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, discrimination against girls in food allocation and other practices related to health and well-being. As a result, fewer girls than boys survive into adulthood.
--Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 259

The unequal burden of being female begins at birth and continues throughout childhood. The unequal burden of being female begins at birth and continues throughout childhood. In order to help girl children survive and reach their full potential, the Beijing Platform for Action recommended that governments, agencies and the private sector:
Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child;
Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls;
Promote and protect the rights of the girl-child and increase awareness of her needs and potential;
Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training;
Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition; Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect girls at work;
Eradicate violence against the girl-child;
Promote the girl-child's awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life;
Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of the girl-child.
Young women and men face many health risks, yet they receive inadequate information, guidance and services to help them to go safely through adolescence to adulthood. This is especially the case for their reproductive and sexual health. Adolescents do have sexual relations (in many cases voluntarily, but also as a result of abuse) and need the information and services to protect their health.
Addressing the Needs of Adolescents
UNFPA supports many initiatives that seek to meet the needs of adolescents and pays particular attention to the difficult position of girls. Information, education and communication activities show adolescents, parents, teachers, local leaders and other relevant groups the importance of girls' education. The negative effects of early marriage and childbirth and harmful traditional practices such as FGM are also targeted. Advocacy for policy and legal reforms is supported where necessary, as well as the provision of reproductive and health services.UNFPA has found that life-skills training for girls is very beneficial. The Fund also has programmes in various countries that aim to prevent teenage pregnancy and to keep girls in school if they do get pregnant.An example comes from Nicaragua, the country with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Central America. UNFPA has supported the development of a programme focusing solely on adolescent reproductive health. Support is provided to the Ministry of Health for the only clinic in the country specialized in offering reproductive health services to youth. The programme has a strong information, education and communication component, which focuses on reaching youth in rural populations through mobile clinics and theatre groups.In South Africa, young women are given the opportunity to start earning an income and/or to continue their education. Through training and with peer educators as role models, they share experiences and learn about leadership, assertiveness, communication, decision-making, goal-setting and conflict resolution. Learning about their reproductive and sexual health and getting the services they need are also important elements.
Empowering Adolescents
Recognizing the importance of socialization in gender issues, gender-sensitive family life education for young people is supported in many countries. At the interregional level, research is being conducted regarding the social behaviour of adolescent boys and the expectations, attitudes and behaviour of men and their effects on male-female decision-making about sexuality and reproduction.In Egypt, a Youth Leadership project helps local NGOs implement youth projects that answer the needs of youth for clear and practical information on reproductive health. It has also provided culturally based gender-sensitive guidance to prepare them for parenthood. Young women and their needs are the principal focus. A training manual was developed by the young people who participated in the project. The programme also offers special reproductive health services for adolescents.In Sri Lanka, a special effort is being made to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation, especially of young girls. The project sponsored seminars and workshops for adolescents and their parents to discuss reproductive health issues. A counselling programme was introduced in a medical clinic where women and girls received reproductive health information. In addition, the project helped the police detect cases of child abuse and bring the offenders to justice. Policewomen were trained on how to counsel traumatized children. Volunteers worked with the local police on child-abuse issues, and special Child Abuse Desks were set up at all police stations with trained staff. Through legal advocacy, a law was passed prohibiting child abuse.
THE WAY FORWARD: The rights and health of girls, from a very young age, are at risk everywhere around the world. UNFPA will continue to support their access to reproductive and sexual health services and information, skills-building and other types of education and training, and scrupulously fight for the protection of their rights. Adolescents should be supported, nurtured, informed and given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest, safely and responsibly.

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