EP declares its support for the International Day of the Girl
Thursday, December 15th, 2011

393 Members of the European Parliament from diverse political and geographical backgrounds have signed the Written Declaration 39/11 in support of an International Day of the Girl.

Edite Estrela, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, submitted the successful Declaration along with the co-submitting MEPs Véronique Mathieu, Jean Lambert, Katerína Neved’alová and Roberta Angelilli.

The declaration of the European Parliament in favour of the initiative sends a powerful message to European leaders of the support that exists within Europe; and it does so one week before it is voted upon at the United Nations.

The majority of girls and young women around the world meet with discrimination, and often violence and exclusion. Girls and young women are less involved in social processes and less protected by social and political systems than their male counterparts.

The European Parliamentary Forum (EPF), Plan International and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), have therefore worked to harness the backing of over half of all MEPs for an International Day of the Girl.

This day would stand alongside other major international days, such as World AIDS Day (1 December) and International Women’s Day (8 March), as a moment where advocates for the rights of girls can draw the world’s attention to their vital cause.

The response from MEPs for the day has been tremendous, with parliamentarians from all 27 EU member states and across all political groups signing the declaration. The United Nations General Assembly is expected to decide upon the Day of the Girl next Monday (19 December 2011), where the European Parliament’s favourable declaration will strengthen the initiative’s chances of success.

Edite Estrela, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, confirms the day’s relevance in the EU: “An International Day for the Girl will create a foundation for awareness in the EU and beyond to ensure that girls get the investment and recognition they deserve as citizens and as powerful agents of change within their own families, communities and nations.”

Research has shown that investing in girls and young women has a disproportionately beneficial effect in alleviating poverty – not only for girls but for their families, communities and entire countries. Girls who spend an extra year at school will on average increase their lifetime income by 10 to 20%. MEP and co-signatory of the declaration Véronique Mathieu neatly sums up this point: “Leaving girls behind is tantamount to planning tomorrow’s poverty.”

Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office, says: “An ‘International Day of the Girl’ is a powerful way to highlight the particular needs and rights of girls, and to call for greater action and investment to enable girls to reach their full potential in line with international human rights standards and obligations, including the Millennium Development Goals.”

Girls are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people on the planet, both in Europe and beyond. And yet they are also one of its most valuable assets. Girls are forced to face discrimination, neglect and victimisation in all its forms: across the world research has shown that girls are less likely to be enrolled in school, have less access to medical care and are more likely to suffer from malnutrition.

Especially as they reach adolescence, girls experience multiple forms of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abuse, forced marriage, forced and underage pregnancy (the single greatest threat to any woman’s health in the developing world), acid attacks, so-called honour killings and other harmful practices such as female genital mutilation.

At the same time, it has been proven that investing in girls is key to reducing global poverty. For example, research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health that will result in higher levels of schooling of mothers.

Penelope Cooper, Regional Director of the Europe Region WAGGGS, adds: ”In many countries, girls’ potential remains undiscovered and ignored. By enabling girls and young women to fulfill their potential and take an active role in society, and by making sure girls and young women are healthy, educated and share equal rights, entire economies and society at large will benefit”.

Neil Datta, Secretary of EPF, points out: “One of the best investments we can make is in educating girls to realize their full potential and thus contribute to increase economic growth, agriculture development and reduce hunger and poverty. An International Day of the Girl will help us to do so.”

The European Parliament’s support for girls is a milestone in bringing about change for girls and young women on a global scale.

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