Girl child empowerment: A challenge for all
Prepared by * Nicole Bidegain Ponte
* The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations
In the next lines I propose to integrate the agenda of sexual and reproductive rights with the ordinary life of girls and adolescents. I will put forward good practices and make proposals to move forward on empowering and offsetting the discrimination that girls are suffering daily in Latin America. Myths and fears always appear when we talk about sexuality. This is increased when we think of sexuality and childhood. However, sexuality is part of our lives since our birth and to grow up healthy, scientific information about our body is needed. For a very long time the movement for rights related to sexuality and reproduction was dissociated from the movements promoting children rights. It is necessary to rebuild this bridge and to think of actions tending to the achievement of girl child rights, including her sexual rights. This is the most assertive path for the real empowerment of girls and women. If we can’t decide what happen in our bodies, neither we will decide other issues which concern our citizenship like vote, community involvement, etc. Who are the girl children? In order to design any policy, the first step is to clarify our framework. I propose to define girl children as a socially constructed category around female persons between 0 and 18 years. Childhood is built on the cross road with other identities we have as individuals. Ethnicity, class, nationality, family environment, sexual orientation, occupation, and other features, such as if they live in a violent environment, if they are deprived of freedom, if they are disabled persons, if they are from western or eastern hemisphere; these are identities whose interconnection will place these girls in a situation with more or less access to their human rights. Hence, public policy should take these differences into consideration since these policies will affect unequally girls who are in different situations. Despite all these differences, in common all girls have to be under an adult’s supervision. For this reason our analysis should be thought of from the intergenerational perspective. Furthermore, it is necessary to think of girls as the subjects of rights and not only as an object of protection. They could be in vulnerable situations but the approach must be necessarily be made from that of respect for a human being and not from the victim perspective. Unequal and diverse Latin America In Latin America and the Caribbean 197 million children live1, more than half of them under the poverty line. They are children of the nineties, which is like saying, children of the opening up, of free trade and of market deregulation. They are the children of wealth concentration and flexible working relationships; nowadays some of them ask for coins in the great cities, work in the countryside, some of them study, play and some others queue up at the free dining rooms. Moreover, in the most unequal region of the planet, poverty has the face of a girl child. Nowadays, governments considered to be progressive are gaining ground in the continent, but we still not seeing specific policies for girl children. Besides that, national and international networks of traffickers are taking advantage of the search for 1
The State of the World’s Children 2005
opportunities by poor women or women in armed conflicts, for trafficked women either for sexual exploitation or the slave labour force; this is a highly...