In March 2020, UN ESCWA, in partnership with UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States and Save the Children International, made preparations for celebrating International Women’s Day on Thursday 5 March, under the global theme “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”; a theme aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as with Save the Children’s Girls Campaign to End Child Marriage.
The event was expected to serve as a platform to share messages and a series of creative artwork, prepared by children from Save the Children programmes in Lebanon, on the impact of child marriage on their communities. The children, spoke up and advocated for enacting legislation to end that practice and to encourage girls to raise their voices, express their opinions and defend their rights.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the event was cancelled. However, the pandemic makes it all the more vital to sustain support for upholding the rights of girls, for, as is well known, crises impact women and girls disproportionally: they have to take on additional caring responsibilities, face difficulties in accessing appropriate healthcare, and are more at risk of remaining out of school when schools reopen. Moreover, experience shows that in such situations, child marriage surges and children, especially girls, are often left out of decision-making about how to respond to and recover from crises. Furthermore, and unfortunately, evidence from several Arab countries indicates that gender-based violence has escalated during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
With that in mind, this initiative aims to amplify the voices of children from Lebanon, Palestine and Syria and encourage individuals to make commitments for girls in 2020.
- GIRLS REACHING OUT TO POLICY MAKERS
As part of the global review process on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Arab countries conducted national reviews of the progress made and the challenges encountered in the implementation of the Beijing agenda.
The regional review process culminated in the Arab States High-Level Conference on the Beijing+25 Review, hosted in Amman, Jordan in November 2019. Attended by over 150 participants representing Member States from across the region, the meeting adopted an outcome declaration based on the findings of the consolidated regional report.
Girls from Syria, Palestine and Jordan from Save the Children Jordan programmes, participated in the regional process and made six recommendations for governments and civil society, in the "Through HER Eyes" report.
- ARTWORK EXHIBITION
The children in Lebanon created a series of artwork and messages for an art exhibition focusing on two recommendations they identified as a priority for them, drawn from the Through Her Eyes child-friendly report:
1- to enact legislation to end child marriage; and
2- to encourage girls not to remain silent, and to express their opinions and defend their rights.
- SPEAK-UP: LIFE STORY
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what your name is, or where you are in this world. Sometimes, all you want is to be able to tell the world something you always wanted to say.
I write today,* on International Women’s Day, to say something on behalf of my friends, on behalf of girls in my community, on behalf of myself.
First, it’s a thank you to the first woman I met, who gave me all the love she could as she raised me. The mother who took my hand as I took my first steps in this life. The mother who stayed up all night to look after her sick daughter.
It is also a thank you to the doctor who treated me, the lawyer who defended me, and the seamstress who knitted my jacket. Thank you to the teacher who taught me how to read and write. I always looked up to her.
I cannot imagine a society without mothers, doctors, teachers, lawyers.
But while you read these words, there are girls out there who never get to express their views or have a say in how their life should look like. There are girls who are being abused, hit and have their rights, no matter how simple those rights are, taken away from them.
I always wondered why silencing girls or discounting their achievements is a mission for some. Why is it always “Whatever you do, you will always be a girl, incapable of doing what a man does”?
We don’t want a society like this, we don’t want an environment that is unfavourable to girls. A girl can do far better than being told to stay at home or having to implore the neighbours to talk to her parents into allowing her to go to school. Many times I have seen this happen, and the answer would always be, “She will eventually be in her husband’s house”.
I never understood this discrimination between men and women, boys and girls. Do we want a society where girls have no education and are forced to get married when they are young? Equality should not be an insult; on the contrary, it is a sign that a society is functioning with strong foundations.
On this day, we renew our calls for women’s rights, for human rights. Today, there should be no woman or man distanced from their right to be a partner in the shaping of our society. A society is never the same without girls contributing to it.
Girls are here to raise our voice, demand our rights, and create a lasting change.
*This blog was written by Raghad Intabi, a 16-year-old girl living in Lebanon. Raghad wants to see a world where girls are treated more fairly.
You can also watch a story of child marriage experienced by a girl living in Lebanon, a story no girl should have to tell.
- COMMITMENT FOR GIRLS IN 2020
Although much progress has been made for girls and women in recent years, there is still a long way to go and now is the time to make change happen. It is vital we work across generations to do so.
Write your commitment to make change happen for girls in 2020, on the below postcard and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 September 2020.
ESCWA, UN Women and Save the Children International reserve all rights related to the content received in the commitment postcards, notably the right to reuse the content in any publication or electronic product or for any action aimed at raising awareness of the rights of women and girls.