Global Communities Celebrates International Day of the Girl 2019

By Sarah Goddard

#DayoftheGirl #GenerationEquality #unstoppable

Twenty-five years ago, the World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a significant turning point for global gender equality with the recognition of the rights of women and girls as human rights. Today, there are movements to stop child marriage and gender-based violence, promote girls’ education, and end stigma around menstruation.

October 11 was International Day of the Girl. Since 2012, this day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges of girls around the world and promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year’s theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable,” celebrates achievements by, with, and for girls.

“Today, girls are moving from dreaming to achieving. More are attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children, and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in the future world of work. Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities. As entrepreneurs, innovators, and initiators of global movements, girls are leading and fostering a world that is relevant for them and future generations.” (Source: UN)

The Platform of Action nine indicators for girls are:

  1. Eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls.
  2. Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
  3. Promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential.
  4. Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.
  5. Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.
  6. Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labor and protect young girls at work.
  7. Eradicate violence against girls.
  8. Promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life.
  9. Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls.

(Source: UN)

What does IDG mean for Global Communities?

Global Communities reaches vulnerable populations through community-driven development. Many programs focus on adolescent girls and young women who are disproportionately impacted by many development challenges including inadequate water, sanitation, hygiene, and access to education and health services. Gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment are central to the achievement of sustainable development outcomes. USAID’s Gender Equality policy targets three overarching outcomes:

  1. Reduce gender disparities in access to, control over and benefit from resources, wealth, opportunities and services – economic, social, political, and cultural;
  2. Reduce gender-based violence (GBV) and mitigate its harmful effects on individuals and communities;
  3. Increase capability of women and girls to realize their rights, determine their life outcomes; and influence decision-making in households, communities, and societies.

Through our work, Global Communities strives to empower girls and women and create enabling environments that support their full social, economic, and political participation.

Global Communities focuses on improving the health, wellbeing, and education of adolescent girls and young women by intervening in health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to remove barriers to participation in school, increase access to health services, and reduce stigma so that girls have increased capability to determine their life outcomes. This includes implementing activities under DREAMS, a PEPFAR partnership being implemented across ten countries in Africa that aims to help adolescent girls and young women impacted by HIV/AIDS lead Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) lives. These activities recognize that girls can and do reach their full potential when they have access to multiple interventions, and when they are perceived as capable by themselves and by their relatives, classmates, teachers and other members of their communities. Global Communities also addresses the sanitation and hygiene needs of girls through menstrual health and hygiene management interventions to reduce stigma around menstruation, increasing education for boys and girls about sexual and reproductive health, and increasing access to menstrual hygiene products to promote enhanced participation in school.

KENYA

Global Communities, in partnership with USAID and local partners St. John’s Community Centre and Kenya Girl Guides Association, implements the DREAMS initiative in the Pumwani Ward of Nairobi, which is one of several countries where the initiative is being implemented.

While Kenya has achieved tremendous success in addressing HIV and AIDS, rising cases of teenage pregnancy and disproportionately high rates of new HIV infections, sexually transmitted infections and GBV among adolescent girls and young women indicate the need for a stronger response, particularly since in recent years, most of the new HIV infections in the country are borne by girls ages 15 to 24.

Cultural norms and economic disadvantages prevent many girls from accessing the education as well as the health and financial services they need to be healthy. But if adolescent girls and young women are fully empowered and have the capacity to surmount the many challenges they face – in a supportive, enabling environment – then they have the potential to have an AIDS-free future, and to influence their peers and families to do the same.

Global Communities and its local partners are working with adolescent girls and young women from the Pumwani Ward and the greater community to reduce new HIV infections through a two-pronged approach – blending customized, individual support to adolescent girls and young women, as well as strengthening of education, health, social and economic systems in order to create positive lasting impact on at-risk adolescents and young women and the greater community.

Key activities include increasing comprehensive youth-friendly health services (i.e., HIV testing and counselling, anti-retroviral therapy (ART), and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP)), mapping sexual networks to decrease risk in sexual partners, cash transfers to enable households to address basic needs and support livelihood activities, GBV prevention and care for survivors to restore safety and foster resilience, and provision of educational and economic opportunities to help girls and young women safeguard their futures.

Additionally, a vibrant public-private partnership strategy within the program has linked girls and young women to opportunities for employment, internship, and mentorship, as well as resources for menstrual hygiene management to enable women and girls to reach their full potential.

Watch this video of the DREAMS Chief of Party, Betty Adera, speaking about girls' empowerment.

RWANDA

Global Communities implements the Improved Services for Vulnerable Populations (ISVP) Program, which aims to assist 50,000 vulnerable households in 12 districts. Known locally as Twiyubake (Kinyarwanda for “Let’s Build Ourselves”), this program is a five-year initiative funded by USAID/PEPFAR that contributes to reduced risk and adverse impacts from health conditions like HIV/AIDS, particularly on vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations targeted by the program include people living with HIV (PLHIV); orphans and vulnerable children (OVC); out-of-school youth, particularly girls and young women; members of households caring for PLHIV or OVC; and very poor households, especially female- and widow-headed households. The Twiyubake program helps these groups build their capacity to respond to and overcome conditions that cause vulnerability, and to gain access to health and social services that enable them to live healthy and productive lives.

The Twiyubake program also implements DREAMS  interventions in Kicukiro and Nyarugenge districts through local implementing partners YWCA and DUHAMIC ADRI. Currently, several groups of adolescent girls and young women meet at confidential safe spaces availed by schools, churches, youth clubs, cell offices or private locations, where they are trained by program mentors on sexual and reproductive health and rights and life skills. AGYW also attend inspirational talks aimed at discussing topics related to HIV prevention and care for adolescents living with HIV.

Additionally, through the program, girls’ bathrooms in public schools in Kigali offer a safe space equipped with a mattress, sanitary pads, towels, painkillers, a bed, water and soap to enable girls to manage their menstruation while remaining active at school.

GHANA

WASH for Health is a USAID-funded program being implemented across nine regions in Ghana and aims to accelerate sustainable improvement in water and sanitation access and improve hygiene behaviors. While this project is WASH-focused, it integrates menstrual health and hygiene management (MHM) through different approaches. WASH for Health ensures that a minimum 60% of women participate in Water Sanitation Management Teams to enable women to engage in decision-making concerning WASH facilities and services in their communities—decisions that impact how services are structured to meet the needs of girls. These decisions will focus on meeting their need for safe, accessible, and private facilities that are well maintained and affordable. Additionally, through WASH for Health, Global Communities engaged with partner Be Girl, a social enterprise that creates innovative, beautiful, and affordable reusable hygiene products, to conduct a pilot study on the impact of menstrual hygiene education and reusable period panties on engagement in school. There are plans to reach 2,500 girls in the next fiscal year with Be Girl products, especially in rural areas, and approximately 1,000 boys will also be given education on menstruation. This is important because it helps boys feel more comfortable around girls who are menstruating and decreases stigma and shame among them.

Initial findings from the pilot indicate that increased access to menstrual hygiene products and education improved girls’ attendance and participation in school, and increased their confidence and comfort while at school. Educating boys on menstruation also made boys more comfortable interacting with menstruating girls and increased their social inclusion of girls at school.

Investing in girls is investing in a better future that is equal for all for girls themselves, for their families and for communities. The progress of the past 25 years is remarkable, but girls around the world—especially those living in rural areas or humanitarian settings and those with disabilities — still need us to stand with them to achieve their full potential.” (Source: UN) Global Communities stands with girls today and all days and recognizes the importance of enabling girls to be unstoppable. Only by investing in girls—and involving men and boys in the fight for gender equality—can we increase girls’ capacity to determine their life outcomes and achieve their dreams.