UNICEF, Partners Host Open Convergence on Issues Affecting Girls

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By Ndey Sowe

As part of International Day of the Girl 2023 celebrations, UNICEF and partners on Wednesday, 11 October 2023 hosted an open conversation debate for girls from different walks of life.

The session, which was held at a local hotel in Senegambia, provides girls the platform to discuss issues that are important to them, including girls’ education, violence against girls, and online harassment to name a few. Officials and CSO members were on the ground to listen to the voices of girls and join them in celebrating the Day of the Girl.

The International Day of the Girl (IDG), observed annually on 11 October, is a global platform to advocate for the full spectrum of girls’ rights. This year’s theme is “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”.

According to UNICEF, responding to girls’ calls for change, the global community must move beyond reaffirming commitments and invest boldly in the action needed to make that change.

This year, stakeholders demand strengthened partnerships to advance girls’ welfare, work with them, and scale up investments in their leadership and well-being without leaving any girls behind.

In her statement, Maria vittoria Ballotta, UNICEF The Gambia Representative, took the opportunity to express her warm congratulations to all girls in The Gambia for coming out on top in the recent West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).

According to the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), this year’s WASSCE results revealed that 53% of the students who scored 5 credits or more in the 2023 WASSCE are girls.

“It is truly remarkable how we have not only achieved gender parity in school enrolment in The Gambia, but girls are also setting the trends and raising the bar in schools. Let me appeal to you all here today, do not let the guard down,” MsBallotta encouraged.

Ms Ballota went on: “So as more girls enroll in schools and learn, we call on all partners to support them to access the right skills and qualifications to be empowered and reach their full potential. Let us work together so that every girl, including those in rural communities, has equal access to the services they need, including digital technology and information to learn, innovate, and grow. Let us also include girls in decision-making processes, listen to them, and take their thoughts into account.”

Hon. Adama Demba, Deputy Speaker of the Children National Assembly of The Gambia, deliberated on this year’s theme, citing that young girls are often left out when it comes to taking leadership portfolios, and as a result, a lot of decisions that concern them are taken by people who do not know what they go through.

“The importance of investing in leadership of girls cannot be overemphasized because girls know what they go through, and when given such a platform they can tell you what they go through and how these issues could be significantly addressed. The importance is not only to give girls platforms, but the main objective is to listen to them and be heard,” she stressed.

She added investing in the well-being of girls should be a priority of every nation as girls play a crucial role in the development of the nation.

Investing in girls, Demba said, requires that everyone looks into the crucial role that affects girls such as FGMC, and child marriage. She, therefore, calls on policymakers, and developers to inclusively involve girls in their leadership portfolios, encouraging girls to take up portfolios and provide solutions on issues affecting them.

Bintou Fatty, Director of Children Welfare at the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare, said there is a need to pay attention to the priority needs of the girls during program planning and implementation.

However, she said the International Day of the Girl focuses on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights by creating safe spaces for their survival, protection, and development.