The European Week of Action for Girls (Week of Action) is an annual week-long event taking place in Brussels which aims to raise awareness of and advocate for girls’ rights and empowerment to be at the heart of the EU’s external action.
Now in its sixth year, the European Week of Action for Girls is organised by a coalition of eight civil society organisations working on topics linked to gender equality, girls and women’s empowerment and/or children’s and youth rights, notably in development cooperation and humanitarian settings.
This year’s edition takes place from 10 -16 October 2016, to coincide with and celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child (11 October).
Overall objective: Ensure that the EU supports girls’ empowerment, protects their rights, promotes their interests through the right policies, funding and programmes, and recognises the active role girls play in their communities and societies.
On focus this year: Investing in Girls
This years’ edition of the Week of Action will put the focus on how the EU should maintain and increase its investments in external action towards the mobilisation of resources and specific budgeting to empowering girls and protecting their rights. The Week of Action 2016 will bring attention to funding gaps, and look to solutions for bridging these gaps, in order to ensure that EU policies are delivering on their commitments and what girls really need.
At present, 195 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). By signing the CRC, they have committed to investing in children from birth, to help them have a full, healthy and safe life; article 4 of the convention states that “States Parties should designate the maximum amount of available resources toward the realisation of the rights of all children without exception”. Equally, 187 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), affirming fundamental human rights and equality for all women and girls around the globe and requiring all parties to promote and achieve progress for women and girls. Deciding where scarce public resources go indicates the political priorities of governments; investing to secure the rights of children – and girls in particular – is no different. As well as making a political point about what is important to a government, financing for girls also contributes to the economic, social, political and cultural development of a country.
Why investing in girls?
The lack of sufficient, efficient and equitable investment in children and adolescents in many countries is one of the biggest barriers to realising children’s rights. Not only does this slow the socio-economic development of those countries, but it also fails to recognise the huge potential that girls and young women have to act as drivers of development in their communities.
So much of this is a missed opportunity. Investing in girls has high economic and social returns. When practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation stop, girls are healthier, wealthier and able to make choices for their future. Completing an extra year of primary school can boost a girl’s future income by 10% to 20%; an extra year of secondary school can add a further 15% to 25% to potential future earnings. For instance: If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. When girls and women are in paid work, statistics show that they reinvest 90% of it in their families. They spend that money on vital resources like books, medicine, bed nets, empowered to become drivers of change in their communities and countries, creating a strong future economy, and breaking the cycle of poverty that disproportionately affects girls.
What role for the EU?
The EU and its Member States share a responsibility – stemming from its international commitments and its role as one of the leading supporters of global development and first global donor – to ensure that policies are translated into transparent, participatory and accountable budgets and spending for the promotion, protection and realisation of the rights of the child, and especially the girl child.
The world’s 600 million girls are our greatest return on investment. The time has come to back international rhetoric and policy commitments with smart and targeted investment in girls’ empowerment. As a global policy-maker and promoter of human rights, the EU has an opportunity to be a world leader in investing in girls and contributing to achieving their rights and empowerment – at home and abroad.