UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, shares his statement for the International Day of the Girl Child: “On this International Day of the Girl Child, I join every person around the world who believes that adolescent girls should live free of violence and discrimination.
We are guided by the international human rights to which every human being is rightfully entitled.
Every girl, no matter where she is born, should have a chance to reach her potential.
Every girl deserves to be welcomed to this world with the same joy and celebration as a boy. Every girl has the right to life and dignity.
Every girl has the right to education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and to learn and be as smart as she can be.
Every girl has the right to be a girl, and not a child bride.
Every girl has the right to live free of female genital mutilation.
Every girl has the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.
Yet these rights continue to be violated worldwide on a massive and systematic scale.
Today on the International Day of the Girl Child, and every day, we say no to violence against girls.
We say yes to education, empowerment, and equality. Now is the time for action!
We must take action when nearly one quarter of adolescent girls have been victims of physical violence since the age of 15.
We must take action when one in three adolescent girls has suffered violence committed by her husband or her partner.
We must take action when some 70 million young women aged 20-24 in developing countries were married before the age of 18. Early, forced and child marriage deprives girls of their autonomy, their education and their health. It steals their hopes and dreams away from them before their very eyes.
We must take action when three million girls, the majority of whom are younger than 15 years of age, undergo female genital mutilation, FGM, each and every year. This can increase their vulnerability to HIV and to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and in the worst cases result in maternal and newborn death.
UNFPA is taking action to protect the health and rights of adolescent girls.
Through comprehensive sexuality education; through sexual and reproductive health counselling, information and services; and through youth participation, UNFPA works to protect the human rights of adolescent girls. We also work with boys so they will become the first male generation to neither perpetrate nor tolerate violence against women and girls.
Through a UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme, more than 12,700 communities in Africa have abandoned FGM and an estimated three million girls will now grow up free of this harmful practice.
Development is not sustainable when adolescent girls live with the fear and the reality of violence.
Today on the International Day of the Girl Child, and every day, UNFPA will continue to work with governments, the United Nations system and civil society so that adolescent girls are empowered to claim their rights and are protected from violence.
We will not stop until the world upholds the inherent rights of every girl child. If you change her life, you can change the world”.