Every hour of every day, girls experience violence. Violence against girls isn’t just physical, it is also emotional. Some see it as part of a girl’s life: she has to go through the beatings, she has to go through the insults and she deserves them. But that is not how it should be. It is time for change. It is time that girls can stand up and be part of the decision making process. I have been a girls’ rights activist in Tanzania for about seven years. Having spoken to girls who were forced into child marriage or FGM, they said they were told that they had to do it in order to be respectable. Some girls were fooled into early marriage through the promise of continuing school. Rarely did they know that their education was going to be blocked once they were married, particularly if they became pregnant, despite the government of Tanzania adopting provisions that allow admission of mothers to school in 2015.
As a girl activist I often face criticism. Violence comes in many forms including through abusive words, but I turn a deaf ear to those who criticize promoting girls’ rights in mine and other countries. It is better to speak than remain silent.
My goal is to work for girls’ rights until gender equality is reached. Conventions have been written and treaties have been signed to support and protect girls and women. However, these good words are often in vain and punishments for violators of such laws are rare. I am sometimes confused; do the governments and leaders keep their eyes closed? Are girls’ issues not as important as other issues? There are great examples of leaders, like the brave female chief who stopped 850 child marriages in Malawi.
There are also girls like the group in Zambia who composed the song “We are Girls, Not Brides” which was launched last year during the International Day of the African Child. It raised awareness about child marriage and inspired many girls and parents to take action. My goal is to work for girls’ rights until gender equality is reached. As ambitious as it may sound, gender-based violence can be ended. It may take baby steps but with collective common vision this can be achieved.
My message to world leaders is this: don’t sit back and think change will happen We are the ‘now generation’ – the young people of today are going to lead the implementation of the SDGs and they will feel its impact. We are passionate and we can influence others in our communities.
We can make noise to show the government that we are committed, that we care. With technology and social media, we can reach so many people in the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Many of the goals of the SDGs go hand in hand to support girls in reaching their full potential and liberating themselves from poverty. My message to world leaders is this: don’t sit back and think change will happen. Change happens with you. Everything is possible if you decide to do it.
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