International Day of the Girl Child: Gender inequality issues and the “Double-Edged Sword” of the Developmental Agenda

Dounis Andreas*

Today, on October the 11th, the international community is celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child (Day of the Girl) highlighting gender inequalities that are also predominant at younger ages, creating a cause for concern for policy-makers, international organizations, social actors and stakeholders.

This year’s theme is: “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030”, with a view on the broader developmental agenda reaching out until the year 2030, with the well-being of girls’ constituting a main focus of new developmental efforts.

Inequalities and inequities still persist. These phenomena range from the inequities of access in secondary education, the engendered lack of child and social protection, the gender dimension of child poverty and the overall lack of public awareness of the girls’ situation. Also phenomena such as forced child marriages, unwanted pregnancies and the gender dimension of violence continue to affect young and teenage girls.

Inclusion of the dimension of the situation of girls in the developmental agenda is seen as an important move, but we are not so sure that it constitutes a fully effective and comprehensive strategy. Challenges and potentials surely do co-exist, but the design and implementation of policies must be certainly aware of the existing engendered framework of social relations that continue to subordinate girl and women during the course of the life-stages. Thus, the developmental agenda must not rely on the same framework and the normalization of girls’ social roles and social expectations.

Although the strategies to attain sustainable development surely can improve girls’ situation and life prospects, the proposed “investments” must not recreate a socially constructed position where girls will be ultimately responsible for the “attainment of developmental goals”.

According to the United Nations webpage event presentation:

UN agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and private sector stakeholders are called on to commit to putting adolescent girls at the centre of sustainable development efforts by making the following critical investments in their present and future:

• Invest in high quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership.
• Invest in health and nutrition suitable to the adolescent years, including puberty education, menstrual hygiene management, and sexual and reproductive health education and services.
• Promote zero tolerance against physical, mental, and sexual violence.
• Enact and consistently implement social, economic, and policy mechanisms to combat early marriage and female genital mutilation.
• Invest in the creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civic and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement.
• Promote gender-responsive legislation and policies across all areas especially for adolescent girls who are disabled, vulnerable and marginalized, and victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

These policies and mechanisms appear – on first reading – to be on the right direction. But, girls should not bear the burden of “sustainable development”, but on the contrary ultimately “conquer” their own desirable roles in their personal, professional, social and family lives.

socialpolicy.gr

* Dounis Andreas has completed his Post-Graduate Education at the Department of Social Policy of Panteion University. He is the Founder and Editor-in-chief at socialpolicy.gr.

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