Pascalinah Kabi and Limpho Sello
THE United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report 2016 suggests the country could fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 if 10-year-old girls continued to be sidelined from development programmes.
The report, titled 10: How our common future depends on a girl at this pivotal age was handed over to government at a ceremony this week.
It states, among other things, the need for all stakeholders to include girl children in their programmes as this was the age where there were limitless possibilities ahead.
According to the report, Lesotho and other countries might not end poverty as envisaged under the SDG 1 if girls continued to carry water for long distances to supply household needs instead of remaining in school.
“A 10-year-old girl who is blocked from completing her education means that SDF 4 will also be unattainable. And without quality education, that 10-year-old girl will not acquire skills to earn a better income and find decent work as sought in SDG 8,” reads part of the report.
The report also questioned if the world would be able to achieve the SDG 5 on gender equality if girls could not expect to inherit land or even plan the number of children they could have in future.
UNFPA Country Representative Therese Zeba said investing in the girl child could yield huge dividends for Lesotho, adding the report highlighted how the future depended on the 10-year-old girl.
“World leaders agreed that the new development agenda should lead to inclusive and equitable processes that left no one behind but every year millions of girls are left behind at the age of 10 when the adolescent stage begins,” Ms Zeba said.
She said the girls’ aspirations for better lives were usually not realised because of poverty and violation of basic rights.
“A 10-year-old girl’s life trajectory will be the true test of whether the 2030 Agenda is a success or failure,” she said, adding that some of the 17 SDGs were dependent on the empowerment of girls.
She said 10-year girls added up to 6 million out of the total world population.
She said in 9 in every 10 of these girls lived in developing countries where there were high levels of gender inequality.
“This means that about 35 million girls are entering adolescence with a disadvantage and are about to face a series of obstacles that boys will not encounter on their way to adulthood,” she said.
She said the obstacles included HIV infections, forced sex, low contraceptive use, early childbearing and physical violence.
Ms Zeba said laws and services needed to be improved and revised to stipulate legal equality for girls backed by consistent legal practice.
“Ban harmful practices against girls and make 18 the minimum marriage age.
“Work towards universal health care, institute a 10 year old mental and physical health check-up for all girls,” Ms Zeba said.
Speaking the same occasion, National University of Lesotho (NUL) student Leetoane Ts’iu said government had already made interventions in education and other laws such as the Sexual Offences Act.
For his part, Senate deputy president and SDGs Steering Committee Chairperson Futho Hoohlo urged all stakeholders to use parliament structures to ensure that the girl children’s challenges were addressed.
He said parliament had a mandate to formulate legislation to protect girls.
Development Planning Minister Mokoto Hloaele said the report came at an opportune time when the country was working on the National Development Strategic Plan NDSP) II.
He said they would use the report’s findings to shape the country’s response strategy to the challenges facing girl children.
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