By Marilyne Njuraita, Communications Intern, Together for Girls
By Marilyne Njuraita, Communications Intern, Together for Girls
Every October 11, we celebrate International Day of the Girl to recognize the achievements, opportunities and challenges impacting girls and young women everywhere. This year, as we continue to adjust to life altered by COVID-19, more efforts to prevent violence and uphold girls’ and women’s rights are needed to account for all the setbacks they have faced within the span of the pandemic.
There’s no doubt that the past year has been tremendously challenging. However, we are struck by moments of bravery and activism: survivors sharing their stories, girls taking the mic on a global stage, new collaborative momentum being made for violence prevention by country governments, local leaders and individuals. Here are five facts that brought us hope:
Although it is not easy, progress towards a world free from violence against children is possible. In our evidence review, What Works To Prevent Sexual Violence Against Children, we share evidence-based solutions that are working in many countries to prevent violence.
From school-based safe dating programs to community mobilization efforts, these interventions showcase that there are practical, cost-effective programs that can help break the cycle of violence against girls and young women.
To date, Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) have been conducted in 23 countries, providing data on nearly 11% of the world’s children, adolescents and youth. Over the last decade, the VACS have fundamentally transformed countries’ abilities to understand and address violence against children, adolescents and youth at scale.
The VACS are led by national governments, with technical assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as part of the Together for Girls partnership. VACS are nationally representative population-based household surveys of 13-24-year-old males and females. VACS are designed to measure the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual violence in childhood and early adulthood. Learn more.
Countries can use the VACS data to illuminate the pervasive problem of violence against children; inform effective prevention, healing and justice policies; and catalyze action to create a safer world.
Education is a fundamental human right. Equitable, quality education has an immense power to transform the lives of not only individuals, but also families, communities and nations. Our new research shows that for adolescent girls, attending school can lead to positive health and social outcomes. Girls who attend secondary school report experiencing less intimate partner violence, pregnancy and child marriage.
Through support from the Government of Canada and USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network, the CDC and AidData conducted secondary analyses of VACS data to identify the prevalence of school-related gender-based violence, as well as details on perpetrators of violence, victimization risk and post-violence behaviors in select countries. The goal of this research was to better understand the complexities and nuances of violence in schools and articulate recommendations based on the evidence, creating a foundation for governments, organizations and other actors to better prevent and address violence.
This research underscores the critical role that school environments can play in interrupting gender unequal attitudes and the norms that condone violence, leading to better educational, health and economic outcomes for students, particularly adolescent girls.
COVID-19 and the Opportunity to Build Safer Learning Environments
As schools around the world start to re-open, education policymakers and school administrators must prioritize creating safe, equitable learning environments so that all students can thrive. The COVID-19 pandemic upended education systems around the world, but in rebuilding from the pandemic we have a unique opportunity to improve school environments, ensuring that every student is safe from the virus and from violence. Learn more.
One project that showcases the powerful impact of survivors, activists and individuals is the Kenya storytelling hub. Data from the 2019 Kenya VACS shows significant reductions in many forms of childhood violence since the 2010 VACS, showing that progress is possible.
As part of the storytelling project, we featured profiles of individuals who are catalysts for change in their communities. From a hairdresser to a counselor, Kenyans are doing extraordinary things to fight gender-based violence every day. Learn more.
There is strength in numbers: Only by working together can we break the cycle of violence and create a safer world for all. Although in-person interactions were limited this past year due to the pandemic, we were still able to stand together, protest together and accomplish goals together.
During the Generation Equality 2021 Forum, girls joined world leaders in speaking and advocating for gender equality. The event culminated in $40 billion from governments, nonprofits and the private sector to fund programs for women and girls. World leaders are re-committed to accelerating gender equality by 2026, including the right to life free from violence. These concrete commitments show what is possible when we work together toward a shared vision of a safer, more equitable world.
Since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by 189 countries, important strides have been made toward achieving gender equality, but much more work needs to be done. The setbacks that women and girls face around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic make this call to action even more urgent. We know that girls will continue to organize and use their collective voices to ensure that the promises of the Generation Equality Forum are delivered to real effect for girls worldwide.
Some youth activists, like Banda Yande, ensured their voices were heard loud and strong by taking front and center stage during the Generation Equality Forum. Yande, from Zambia, is a youth ambassador for several organizations, including the United Nations Girls Education Initiative and the Global Fund for Women. She is the co-president of Transform Education. View her powerful speech above.
“We’re in a crisis now in education, and it’s important we act urgently post-pandemic,” she said. “Youth NEED to be at the table.”