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Promoting the rights of young girls

6 December 2007

“Although progress is being made to promote equality, many young girls continue to face significant barriers” – Jyotsna Jha, Gender Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat

Senior government officials and experts met in Jaipur, India for a three-day colloquium from 4 to 6 December 2007 to promote the rights of young girls in South Asia.

Delegates from eight South Asian countries, including four from the Commonwealth, debated why girls are not realising their full potential and also shared lessons from successful models adopted by governments and non-governmental organisations.

Maldives and Sri Lanka have well established indicators in terms of gender equality in education and health. In recent decades, the situation has also improved in India and Bangladesh.

“Although progress is being made to promote equality, many young girls continue to face significant barriers. If young girls are given the opportunity to realise their full potential, we will have more responsible, self-confident, and competent women, capable of making appropriate choices for themselves and others,” said Dr Jha.

“We will also have stronger families, healthier children, safer societies and stronger economies – and at the centre of this cycle is the young girl, who has equal rights,” she added.

Gender, education and child rights experts present at the colloquium are looking at securing a long-term commitment from governments and civil society to promote and ensure that rights for girls are sustained.

In his opening speech at the colloquium, Arun Kumar Rath, Secretary of the School Education and Literacy at the Ministry of Human Resource Development in India said that his “government recognises that girls do not have equitable access to educational systems and that steps have been taken to ensure that gender gap is reduced.”

The main objective of the colloquium was to promote a life-cycle approach and a multi-sectoral perspective to ensure the rights of the girl child are comprehensively addressed.

Other topics discussed include curbing violence and discrimination against women and attitudes and biases towards gender and sexuality, with the aim of translating strong policies into action.

Dr. Harendra D’ Silva, the founder chairperson of Child Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, who also attended the colloquium, highlighted the issue of violation of girl child rights in conflict situations. He pointed out how access to guns leads to “paradoxical empowerment” which in reality deprives children and young women of their rightful opportunities. His presentation found resonance in the other conflict-prone countries in the region: Nepal and Afghanistan.

The meeting has been co-organised by Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations Girls Education Initiative and CARE .


 

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