As one of the African countries, which has staggering records of adolescent girls’ human rights neglect, Malawi needs to adopt the ‘Girl Declaration’ that seeks to put a girl-child at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.
With only three of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) being achieved prior to the final deadline of 2015 progress, fresh thinking is needed on a post-2015 development agenda. One of the effective ways to go about it is by embracing the ‘Girl Declaration’.
"We feel that it is time for Malawi to walk the talk on the many promises made to promote the rights of girls. So much have been said by policy makers but their promises do not reflect the reality on the ground," in a statement said Faith Phiri, Executive Director for Girls Empowerment Network (Genet Malawi).
Child marriage is one of the most dangerous brute that is devastating lives of adolescent girls in most poor communities of Malawi and need fresh thinking, strategies and innovation to be tackled.
In terms of statistics, the figures stand at 46.9 percent, with the nation ranking number 17 on the list of countries in Africa where Child Marriage is rampant (according to 2007 Statistics by The International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).
Adolescent girls are area of special concern and opportunity since their empowerment is a positive indicator of good things like lower fertility, child mortality and successful micro-enterprise development, which are particularly key to achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) worldly.
Child Marriage is a primary violation of girls’ human rights, which is increasingly becoming a serious problem for international, national and local communities because it is a barrier to key development outcomes.
On a sad note, Child Marriage is affecting at least six of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that Malawi is trying to achieve. These include: Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger, Achievement of Universal Primary Education, Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, Reduction in Child Mortality, Improvement in Maternal Health, and Combating HIV/AIDS as well as Malaria and other diseases.
"Simply put, Malawi including other countries are performing poorly on the MGDs partly because girls were left out of the original framework of MGDs. Therefore, the Girl Declaration, is a tool which Malawi and the world must adopt to stop poverty before it starts," said Phiri.
The Declaration has been prepared by one of the world’s leading girls’ organisations Girl Effect and can be accessed on www.girleffect.org.
According to the Declaration, the world too often neglects the human rights of adolescent girls. People often take advantage of their lack of power and political voice, their isolation amid restrictive social norms, and their limited access to ﬁnancial assets and protection under the law.
For example, innocent girls and women continue to be victims of sexual abuse in war zones, even the popular Ebola outbreak has hit 70% of the womenfolk. Worse still, about 14 million girls are married as children each year despite international agreements that condemn the practice.
Therefore, putting girls at the center of the next generation of global development goals provides a framework for ensuring those girls’ human rights are respected, protected and fulﬁlled.
In Malawi, the million dollar questions being asked by adolescent girls are: who says girls are fit for marriage at the age of 15 or 16 as Malawi’s Marriage Bill stipulates? Who gives the law makers a go ahead to pass such empty laws when girls are not consulted? Where do they conduct surveys to come up with those insulting ages?
Based on the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, Child Marriage is a marriage under the age 18 (UN 2000). Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental human rights violation. Child marriage excessively affects young girls, who are much more likely to be married as children than young boys (Mathur et al 2003; UNICEF 2005).
The goals of the Girl Declaration RL DECLARATION ARE:
1.EDUCATION: Girls reach adulthood with relevant skills and knowledge to participate in economic, social and cultural life.
2.HEALTH: Girls have access to appropriate health services and possess the confidence to make healthy transitions to adulthood.
3.SAFETY: Girls are free from violence and exploitation and are supported by enforced laws, child protection systems and their communities.
4.ECONOMIC SECURITY: Girls can build and protect their economic assets and earn a safe income. Governments, communities and the private sector uphold girls' economic rights.
5.CITIZENSHIP: Girls have equal access to services, opportunities, legal rights and personal freedom, and are able to fully participate as citizens of their communities.
Download the Girl Declaration below: