On June 16 every year, the world celebrates the Day of the African Child (DAC), commemorating both the progress made toward children's rights and the challenges they still face. As the theme of this year's Day of the African Child is "Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice Since 2013", it is pertinent to highlight Girls Talk's key efforts to eliminate harmful traditional practices that affect African children, most notably girls.
The practice of female genital mutilation and child marriage are manifestations of deeply ingrained gender inequalities that negatively affect girls' development, wellbeing, and quality of life. Since Girls Talk's inception in 2018, we have implemented key activities to promote girls' rights. Our interventions on eliminating harmful traditional practices have mainly focused on the following:
Educating and empowering girls:
We educate and empower girls through our mentorship program by helping them
understand and challenge harmful traditional practices to advocate for positive changes. We empower our girls to speak up, prioritise their education, and provide them with reporting tools if they ever face such practices, especially child marriage. We empower them to become change agents by providing skills, knowledge, and spaces in which they feel safe and heard.
Intensive social media advocacy
As part of our social media campaign to dispel harmful traditional practices, Girls Talk utilises several techniques such as key messages, images and short videos. Several recent studies have revealed that social media is a more effective medium for getting information faster to people and educating them on various topics. Over the years, one of our strongest intervention strategies has been leveraging social media to share our work and promote the eradication of child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Changing perceptions within families and communities
To reduce the acceptance of child marriage and FGM among those who choose to marry off their children or subject them to these harmful practices, one of our key objectives is to raise awareness about their harmful effects. Our community engagement activities have included dialogue with stakeholders to join the fight against these practices.
Engaging men and boys
Over the years, we have also included men and young boys in our intervention plans. It is vital that both men and boys become involved in advocating for gender equality and women's empowerment in order to alleviate poverty, improve health, and tackle these harmful traditional practices.
Making girls' needs a priority
It doesn't matter where a girl lives - rural or urban - every girl's basic needs must be met. Since our inception, we've been working with girls to ensure they prioritise their education, advocate for their rights and provide them with health information and services. For example, we have worked for the past three years to eliminate period poverty among girls in the rural Gambia. Learn more about how we do this here!
In addition to effective laws, sustainable funding, and large-scale international strategies, child marriage and FGM must also be eliminated through collaborative, community-led initiatives in remote, rural areas where they are most common.
On this International Day of the African child, we reaffirm our commitment to this work. We will continue to utilise strategies to involve grassroots partners and stakeholders while advocating against these practices. Every child deserves a world free of harmful traditional practices that hinder their growth and have no health benefits. It is more than timely, and we will keep increasing our efforts to eliminate these practices.