In a year that sees the Millennium Development Goals replaced, girls getting access to bank accounts for the first time and a global push to end FGM, 2015 holds tremendous potential for girls. Here’s our pick for the top ten reasons why.
1. The next set of global development goals will be agreed
New international development priorities will be agreed by the United Nations this year – and hundreds of thousands of people have been working hard to make sure that girls’ rights are kept front and centre. We launched the Girl Declaration in 2013 to make sure girls are not overlooked, as they were when the Millennium Development Goals were put together, and we’ve now got 10 months to ensure it delivers on that promise. Tell global leaders to put girls at the heart of this new agenda by adding your name to the Girl Declaration.
2. Momentum to end FGM is stronger than ever before
Across the world, politicians and religious leaders are speaking out against FGM. But as the UNFPA’s excellent Female Genital Mutilation Dashboard shows, there’s still a long way to go if this dehumanising practice is to be ended once and for all. As well as the basic violation of human rights, evidence shows that FGM also reinforces the cycle of poverty, as it’s often the step before early marriage. The International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, on 6 February, is a day to use your voice and demand the horrific and dehumanizing practice comes to an end, once and for all. Make sure it’s in your calendar and follow FGM campaigners such as @LeylaHussein, @NimkoAli and @FahmaEndFGM for simple ways to take action.
3. Malala’s #TheLast campaign will make the push for girls’ education impossible to ignore
The youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history, Malala Yousafzai is steadfast in her continued determination to get every girl in the world access to an education. In 2015 she’ll continue the fight with #TheLast, a campaign aiming to make sure we’ve seen the last girl shot for wanting to go to school.
4. Twenty elections will happen across Africa
From Nigeria to Zambia, elections are taking place in more than 20 African countries in 2015 – and this is a huge opportunity to demand greater investment in, and protection for, girls. We need to make sure issues such as child marriage and FGM are at the top of the news agenda throughout these election campaigns. It’s also a chance to demand justice and safety for girls in Nigeria, where 230 girls are still missing after being kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014.
5. Mobile technology will give girls control
Tech innovations such as Zoona (money transfer support for emerging entrepreneurs), Soko (helping local producers sell to wider markets) Eneza (providing SMS education content) and Paga (aiming to provide universal access to financial services) will give girls the opportunity to take control of their financial futures. Just last week, the 2015 Gates Letter predicted that digital banking and mobile money would evolve hugely over the next 15 years. This is huge news for girls and programmes like these. More readily available mobile technology will save girls time and money, giving them far more options overall.
6. Gender equality will happen
We've all heard the saying 'actions speak louder than words'. This year, International Women's Day is putting it to the test when it comes to gender equality for girls and women with the Make It Happen theme for IWD 2015. While the themes of previous years laid solid foundations for gender equality through equal access to education, ending violence, and investing in girls and women, 8 March 2015 will focus solely on action. Look out for posts tagged #MakeItHappen to see how the world responds, and more importantly, what it does.
7. Periods will no longer stop girls going to school... period
The best way to support this principle is to ensure that every girl has access to affordable sanitary pads, which give them the freedom to go to school all month. At the moment one billion girls and women have no access to affordable sanitary pads. The only course of action for these schoolgirls? Stay away from class… and fall further behind. Programmes such as Zana Africa and Jayasharee – backed by the Girl Effect Accelerator – are turning sanitary pads from luxury items into basic human rights, so that girls don’t have to skip school just because they’re girls. Kenya has even written the provision of pads into educational law.
8. Girls are at the top of this year’s political agenda
This year marks the 20 year anniversary since the Beijing Platform for Action launched. What have we learned in the 20 years since the Beijing Declaration on female empowerment? Answering that question will be the focus of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN, from 9 to 20 March. The biggest change we’ve seen since 1995 is the recognition that to make progress for women, investment in girls has to come first. That’s the message that must come out of the CSW, setting the tone for the Sustainable Development Goals being agreed later in the year.
9. We make sure girls have the vaccines they need
Smallpox and Polio have been eradicated thanks to effective immunisation programmes, but millions of girls still don’t have the vaccines they need, putting them in a vulnerable position. This World Health Day, on 7 April, we need to make sure the world understands the power of vaccinations and combine that understanding with the potential they have to achieve over the next 15 years, as highlighted by the Gates Letter.
10. Progress will be made on an issue that affects girls most: climate change
In December politicians from across the world will meet in Paris to thrash out a global plan on climate change. However, reaching an agreement has proven tricky in the past, and girls – especially those living in poverty – are among the worst affected by this lack of progress. Even if we take just one facet of this, such as the disproportionate effect natural disasters have on girls, climate change cuts short their education, exposes them to greater risk of violence and threatens their health. What more motivation could our politicians possibly need to finally make a proper plan of action?
This is the year to break the cycle of poverty for girls and women, and the communities and countries they live in.
This is the year to prevent problems such as isolation and violence before they even begin.
This is the year to make it happen for girls.