International Day of the Girl Child 2017: EmPOWER Girls: before, during and after crises

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On the International Day of the Girl Child with the aim of highlighting and addressing the needs and challenges that girls face – SIHA remains committed to advocating for girls in the Horn of Africa. This year’s theme of “EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises” is central to our ethos. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls living in emergency contexts aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential, and reducing their vulnerabilities as a marginalized group in the region. The social and economic drivers of migration, violence against girls and trafficking in the East and Horn of Africa region are embedded in political instability, poverty, and the ingrained culture of patriarchy. In the countries where SIHA is operating, adolescent girls are not allowed to enjoy their childhood.

  • In several parts of Uganda, girls’ education is not a priority; here, we are looking at Moroto and Kotido as key areas – where in Moroto, 6.4% of girls finish their education. According to the latest census, there are 23,154 girls aged 6 to 12, but only 20.7% (4,786) of them are enrolled in school. Additionally, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) education is also a key priority in schools, especially for girls where they can make informed decisions about their bodies, choices and speak out against acts of sexual violence. A lack of proper SRHR education has led to an increase in teen pregnancies amongst young girls from 24 to 25% attributed to the low level of education in the demographic group. SIHA through its educational programme remains devoted to supporting girls in their educational path in Uganda;
  • Due to the prolonged war and militarization in South Sudan, there continues to be normalization of violence which has translated into rising levels of sexual violence. In Darfur and Nuba Mountains, SIHA has established skills-development programs for girls where protection and awareness against all forms of violence against women particularly sexual violence, have been integrated into curricula;
  • With the influx (part of a total of 11,245 migrants and asylum seekers) of Ethiopian migrant adolescent girls into the Gulf through Somalia in search of better economic conditions, many of these girls are deported back into Ethiopia – thus increasing their vulnerability as Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and being more susceptible to trafficking and child marriages. These girls account for nearly 50% of the migrant population. Eritrea’s population continues to be disrupted by the country’s military conscription, turmoil – enabling sexual violence and trafficking. In Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland, SIHA continues to work very closely with and through its members to advocate and provide direct support related to girls migrating seeking economic opportunities.
  • In Somalia, SIHA strongly condemns the practice of gang-rape, where victims of rape and those supporting them are criminalized and harassed by the authorities that need to protect the girls’ rights. Female genital mutilation and early marriage are still rife in the region and SIHA has persistently challenged these harmful traditional practices by conducting trainings and community facilitation.

Across all project locations, SIHA continues to use a number of methods to provide direct support to grassroots organizations and associations. SIHA acknowledges that saving and empowering the girl-child living in emergency contexts, especially in the Horn of Africa is a global effort. SIHA is committed to the safety of adolescent girls in the Horn of Africa.

Background

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.

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