UNFPA commemorates International Day of Girl Child

MUMBAI: Last year, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, establishing a day to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. In reserving a day for advocacy and action by and for girls, the UN has signalled its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls.

This October 11, was the first ever celebration of “International Day of the Girl Child” and NGO Population First, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) in partnership with Whisper hosted an event to talk about girl child issues. However, the main objective for declaration of “The International Day of the Girl Child” is to create awareness about girl child issues and work towards eradicating them.

In India, girl child issues start from basic issues like the lack of proper sanitary hygiene. Menstruation is a subject that has culturally been considered a taboo and is entrenched with misconceptions and disregard, with little cognizance of the hazards of inadequate menstrual protection. As a result, over 312 million women in India today are deprived of the basic health right to good quality feminine hygiene care. They cope with sub-optimal alternatives like cloth, sand, husk and even ash, which have severe consequences on the health, education and reproductively of girls and women. The most astonishing fact is that only 12% of the 355 million menstruating women in India use sanitary napkins– both urban and rural.

A recent survey in December 2010 commissioned by FIHA (Feminine Infant Hygiene Association) showed that 75% of rural women lack adequate knowledge on menstrual hygiene and care . 81% of rural women use unsterilized cloths rather than sanitary napkins. 97% gynaecologists believe that sanitary napkins can act as a preventive measure against Reproductive Tract Infection; RTI incidence has been seen to be 70% more common among those with unhygienic sanitary practices & that long-term impact of these health hazards include infertility.

In India, the average wages of women could increase by 10 to 20% with an extra year of quality education. Consequently, if the ratio of female to male workers were increased by only 10 per cent per capita, the total output of our country would increase by a remarkable 8 per cent .Unfortunately, Adolescent girls in rural India, are likely to miss about 50 days of schooling in a year, and 23% of them (age group 12-18 years) drop out of school due to inadequate sanitary facilities in schools.

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