Every girl has the right to be empowered to make safe and healthy decisions about their own lives. On October 11, we mark an important day in the year – International Day of the Girl Child.
Young girls and women across eastern and southern Africa still face many challenges in the region. Gender violence remains the most telling indicator of women’s lack of rights and agency. At least one in three women have experienced some form of gender violence over their lifetime (SADC Gender Progocol Barometer 2013). Teenage pregnancy has also shown vulnerabilities. By age 17, one in five young women in six of the countries in the region have become pregnant, causing increased school drop-outs and other detrimental social and economic consequences for girls. In addition, causes risks around their health such as birth complications and maternal mortality.
The Eastern and Southern Africa Commitment affirmed by ministers of education, health and other related sectors has focused on supports to ensure young women and girls are empowered and given a stronger voice. These are shown through targets that are expected to show progress both in 2015 and 2020. They include approaches such as:
- Policies, frameworks and structures that fight against child marriage and gender-based violence.
- Providing access to age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in and out of school so that girls have the tools and knowledge to protect themselves against early and unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STIs, and unhealthy or abusive relationships, among others. It also allows for young girls to understand and know their basic human rights.
- Scale up access to youth-friendly health services at clinics, health facilities and other youth corners so young women and girls are given services in a non-judgemental and supportive matter. This includes recevign modern contraception, safe abortion (where legal), HIV/STI treatement and testing and pregnancy advice and care.
To learn more about the specific targets associated with girls and young people in the commitment, go to the ESA Commitment page.