October 11, 2021
By: Menna Doubal
Millions of girls around the world are deprived from their basic rights. They live in continuous struggle because of their gender. They are considered inferior to males and treated as such; deprived from education, exposed to violence, sex exploitation and child marriages.
To raise awareness and bring social justice to these girls, the UN, since 2012, marked October 11th to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. According to the UNICEF, it’s a day that aims to highlight the struggles of the girl child and addresses the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. It’s a day in which we have to speak for those whose voices cannot be heard. A chance for a change and an opportunity to answer those muted call-out screams.
To this day, in some parts of the world, when a baby girl is born, she is welcomed with grief, shame and disappointment. By the time her presence is finally accepted, if ever, she is viewed as an overload; a burden to the family with her meaningless need. Before reaching the school age, if she is among the lucky ones who are sent to school, she would have learned how to do the dishes, help in the housework, comfort her brother when he returns from school, or do the laundry, and the list goes on forever. Nevertheless, the list doesn’t include teaching the girls how to read, how to think and more importantly …how to fly.
In most rural villages in Egypt, where poverty and illiteracy prevail, girls’ education is regarded as a lost investment. A more profitable investment than aiding her to become a productive member of her community, is to prepare her for upcoming years of marital slavery. Before she reaches puberty, her wings are clipped and before she reaches the age of 18 she is sent to her husband’s house.
Families sell off their daughters between the ages of 11 and 18, and sometimes even younger, to older guys, for a better return on their investments. In Egypt, 17% of girls are married before their 18th birthday. Causes of child marriages include poverty, bride price, dowry and cultural traditions. No matter what reason they sell their daughters, parents justify the obnoxious crime they commit against their daughters. It is disgraceful how they are able to contentedly live off that money, with disregard to their daughter’s emotional pain and physical suffering.
How can a young girl grasp what marriage is, and perform all its responsibilities when all she knows is to play hide and seek with her friends! She is neither emotionally nor physically ready yet for that load. How can she raise a baby while she is considered a baby herself? How can she nurture another human being when she could barely stand on her own two feet?
Having a normal childhood is a right for young girls. Receiving education is a right. Being treated as a decent human being rather than a gold mine is a right. While we are celebrating the day of the girl child, let us unite our efforts to empower girls and end old practices and beliefs that view them as disgraceful and shameful objects.
The Egyptian community, among many others in the world, is in desperate need to change its core views about women. To help achieve that, campaigns to raise awareness about girls’ issues and rights should be launched throughout Egypt.
Girls are not objects. Girls are not tools. Girls are the women of the future. It is important to understand and appreciate the roles women play in the advancement of their societies. No society advances with only half its population.
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