Sunday 11th October marks the 5th International Day of the Girl Child which was initiated by the UN in 2011 to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
We have launched a number of initiatives which support girls and young women in the UK, from our pioneering work ‘Rewind&Reframe’ which provided a platform for girls and young women to challenge media sexism and included social media apps, a blog, parliamentary lobbying and campaigning work run by and for girls and young women, to our ongoing work to tackle FGM in the UK, an issue which affects thousands of young women nationally. Young women across the UK have been a massive voice in the campaign to end FGM and we are delighted to have been able to nurture that talent and emerging passion for the rights of girls and women here in the UK.
International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to highlight how far we still have to come in the UK in terms of gender equality and provoke discussion around the changes we need to make now to ensure that young women across the UK don’t experience the same inequalities as the women who have gone before them.
At Rosa we believe girls and young women need to educate us all on the solutions for the problems they face, whether that’s FGM, poor body image, sexual harassment or the pushing of girls into ‘female’ subjects and careers. The International Day of the Girl Child is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the needs of the next generation, to make sure their voices are heard and to hear how we can best support them. It is also an opportune time to reflect on the need for greater investment in girls here in the UK.
One way Rosa is investing in the future of girls in the UK is through the Tackling FGM Initiative. The Tackling FGM Initiative has invested £2.8 million in grass-roots preventive work to reduce the risk to girls and young women in the UK of undergoing female genital mutilation. FGM is a significant issue affecting young women in the UK today. Unlike other types of violence against women and girls and child abuse, FGM is usually committed out of the genuine belief that it is for the benefit of the girl child. Girls affected by FGM often experience no other form of abuse and come from loving families.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to ending FGM. The practice survives in different cultures and communities for a variety of reasons and for different justifications. Rosa believes that any successful approach to ending FGM must engage local people from affected communities and more broadly. Throughout the course of the Tackling FGM Initiative, Rosa has supported work which engages young women in the campaign, and they have been some of the most vocal advocates for the rejection of FGM.
One of the projects we have supported, Intergrate Bristol , has used an empowering approach to work with young people and the wider community of those affected by FGM. The organisation aims to give young people a voice, a platform for expressing their views and ideas, and runs projects and workshops to help young people explore issues of concern, using discussion, research, campaigning and creative projects. Their programme includes peer education workshops delivered in schools and colleges, as well as the development of a lesson plan for use within education settings.
As a result of their work, young people report that FGM is no longer a taboo issue in Bristol and is discussed openly, resulting in a collective demand to end the practice. For the members of Integrate Bristol, they are already looking to the new ways to spread the word and bring about positive change.
We hope that on the International Day of the Girl Child the commitment by the global community to realising the potential of adolescent girls will translate into greater funding for organisations in the UK which are working directly with girls and young women.
When properly supported young women can be huge voices for change and can lead the way in challenging our culture in which sexism thrives.