Happy International Day of the Girl!
Every year, on October 11th, the world comes together to address the challenges that girls face globally and to promote girls' empowerment.
This years’ theme is 'With Her: A Skilled GirlForce'. We’d like to celebrate girls on this day by highlighting the work that is being done by our members and partners to empower girls to continue their education.
Over 200 million women globally have been affected by FGM, according to a UNICEF study. Approximately 3.6 million more girls are at risk every year.
FGM happens for many different reasonss. In some communities, girls are cut to prepare them for marriage. After they are married, girls are more likely drop out of school. Carrying the burden of household work, as well as looking after any children they may have, leaves these young girls often without the chance to finish their education.
Over 45 million girls of primary and secondary age are not in school in sub-Saharan Africa. Research collected has highlighted that gender-based violence, early marriage, and FGM were the three common factors that contributed to girls dropping out of education.
Increasing girls’ education is key to ending FGM and child marriage.
Through The Girl Generation’s End FGM Grassroots Fund, our grantees have been able to support and empower girls to enable them to continue their education.
Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) is an organisation that rescues girls who are about to, or have been forced into underage marriages, FGM and beading (symbolising engagement). Over 90% of girls in Samburu County go through FGM at a young age or right before getting married. In Maralal, the small town in Samburu County where the SGF is located, about 30 girls – ages 7 to 16 – live together in a safe house. Though their individual stories vary, all these girls have endured FGM and forced marriages. The organisation was founded by Josephine Kulea, who saw the girls in her community drop out of school to be married off to much older men shortly after undergoing FGM. With the help of The Girl Generation’s End FGM Grassroots Fund, SGF has rescued over 200 girls and is sponsoring 170 girls to schools, allowing these girls to continue their education.
Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW) has worked with schools to speak about FGM and to facilitate dialogue with teachers and school children. During a recent training trip, HFAW met with two youth leaders who had undergone HFAW’s training on ending FGM using Popular Education and Social Change Communication tools. Joash said, “had I known earlier I would have stopped my sister from being circumcised.” By participating in the training, he became aware of the issues surrounding FGM and is now sharing end FGM messages to help people to understand the consequences. Another student, Joy**, shared that she took the information that she had learnt in one of the training sessions back to her family and it was well received. She concluded: “If I am to turn back the hands of time, I would never be circumcised with the knowledge I now have. Since, it is already done, I take up the duty to educate others about FGM.”
Globally, significant work has also been done to tackle child marriage. Did you know that girls who attend secondary school are three times less likely to be child brides?
The Urmul Trust (a member of Girls Not Brides) has been working in western Rajasthan since 1986. The state has one of the worst child marriage rates in India - only behind Bihar and West Bengal. They work with communities in the Thar Desert to educate them about the harmful consequences of child marriage. Among their many activities, they run a training centre for girls, where they provide an education for girls who would otherwise be unable to go to school. By keeping girls in school, they hope to ensure they are not married off.
Radikha teaches at a school run by the Urmal Trust, where she teaches other girls about the importance of continuing education. She began advocating against child marriage in her village after she was told she would marry aged 17. Both Radikha’s mother and grandmother had been child brides, but she was not going to follow them without a fight. Radiha managed to persuade her father to keep her in education and break off the engagement.
“When a girl’s parents want to marry her, she should tell them that she wants to study, and fight for her own rights.”
SOFERES, a member of Girls Not Brides, was founded by refugee women in the Dzaleka Camp and provides vocational training and skills to single mothers, girls who have lost their families and girls at risk of early marriage. SOFERES provides training in tailoring, hairdressing and soap making, to enable girls to earn an income in the camp. They also run weekly workshops for girls, led by young girls who volunteer, on various issues including child marriage and HIV/AIDS. SOFERES runs a small salon in the camp, where girls who have learned hairdressing on their courses can work.
Yelina, 18, who learned hairdressing at SOFERES, now works in the salon. Yelina was invited to take part in the course a year ago after she decided to get married to escape problems at home. She said: “They taught us about early marriage and said it is not good for someone to get into marriage while they are still young. After that, I decided to change my mind about marriage.”
“Now I’m working in the salon, I can provide for myself and my family ... I would suggest to girls like me to think about studying, rather than getting married.”
“Investing in efforts to end child marriage isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also smart economics. When girls are educated instead of being married young, and have opportunities to earn an income, they are more likely to lead happier, healthier lives, and to contribute to the growth and development of their communities. Ending child marriage has to be a critical part of creating a ‘GirlForce’ of empowered girls, and to help ensure we meet our global development goals.” - Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director, Girls Not Brides
The Girl Generation’s End FGM Grassroots Fund supports local grassroots organisations in some of the countries most affected by FGM. We believe that their local connections, insight and influence mean they are best placed to spark the social changes required for FGM to end. Find out more about what the fund has been able to achieve.