Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Reproductive Health and Rights Agency
Statement on the Occasion of the International Day of the Girl: October 11, 2018
We believe in the power of girls to change this world for the better. Let’s give them the chance.
Too many girls face roadblocks on their journey to adulthood. Child marriage and adolescent pregnancy force millions of girls to drop out of school. Harmful laws and social norms curtail girls’ knowledge of and autonomy over their own bodies. Entrenched gender discrimination can lay the foundation for a lifetime of missed opportunities. It doesn’t have to be this way. A different future is possible, and girls themselves are leading the way.
As a mentor in the government-led Rapariga biz program, supported by UNFPA and its partners in Mozambique,14-year-old Tocosana Carlos Jacinto is a role model for girls in her community, many of whom are already mothers.
“Girls and women’s voices have been shut down. We don’t hear them,” Tocosana says. She is hoping to change that. “I want to help girls find a prosperous and healthy path.”
In Malawi, Jenipher Sanni went from child bride to youth leader and advocate. Now she is working to help other girls avoid early marriage and stay in school, while preparing for university herself. Last year, she launched a campaign to buy 1,000 bicycles for schoolgirls in rural Malawi to make getting to class easier.
Supporting girls is above all a matter of respecting their rights to grow, flourish and make their own choices about the future. It’s also a path to economic and social progress for us all.
To compete in a fast-changing global economy, countries need to ensure each young person entering the labor market has the skills and knowledge needed to help businesses thrive and nations prosper. That means investing now in a skilled girl force that can become a new force for innovation and leadership. This is especially important in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics–disciplines in high demand by emerging industries.
Around the world, millions of adolescent girls are waiting to claim their power and fulfill their potential. Let’s help them exercise their rights and realize their aspirations. Let’s invest in their health and education, their skills and their leadership, and then let’s get out of their way and let them lead!