By Rohey Jadama
The Girls’ Agenda (TGA), a young women led organization on the 19 October, 2016, celebrated International Day of the Girl Child at Glory Baptist Upper Basic School along the Bertil Harding Highway in the form of a school outreach.
TGA promotes the respect and protection of the human rights and the advancement of women and girls. It focuses mostly on the development of adolescent girls by empowering them with basic but crucial life skills to achieve their fullest potentials. It also works with communities and groups to advocate for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.
The International day of the girl child is celebrated every year to raise awareness on the challenges that millions of girls face everyday. This year’s theme is ‘Taking a stand for adolescent girls’ regarding the sustainable development goals (SDGS).
Speaking at the outreach programme, Ms. Matida Komma, the Coordinator of TGA said adolescent girls have the right to safe, literate and healthy life, not only during childhood, but as they mature into womanhood.
“If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads and political leaders,” she said.
She said an investment in realizing the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the world’s challenges.
“Over the years, the world has made some progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood; however adolescent girls continue to face challenges because of under investment in their needs and concerns as they mature into adults,” said TGA Coordinator.
She said adolescent girls in the Gambia, like in most countries are not an exception to these challenges as their rights to access to higher education, protection from child marriage, female genital mutilation and gender based violence are often not realised.
She continued, “We at the TGA believe that if the SDGs are to be achieved, rights of girls and women must be respected, protected and promoted”.
For her part Ms. Isatou Jeng, the Programme Manager of TGA advised the students that if they want to excel in life no matter how brilliant they are if they are not determined and hardworking, it will be very hard for them to achieve their goals.
She said she was from a very poor background and that she was raised by a single parent. She added that she lost her dad when she was 3 years. She said her mother was not educated and has never attended classes, but even though she is not educated, she values education and made sure and struggled to educate her 7 children.
“As Adolescent girls this stage is the most critical stage of your life as young women. If you cross the 13-18 years boundary consider yourself lucky. This is a stage where most young people mess up and are vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections, alcohol, commercial sex workers, but then is that what you want? How can you prevent yourself from these? You have to know how your body functions as a woman”, said TGA Programme Manager.
She added that many young girls don’t know how their bodies’ function and that the only thing most of them know is that when a girl starts menstruation if she has sex with a man she becomes pregnant. She stressed that as girls their bodies belongs to them and that they should not allow anyone to touch it without their consent.
She noted that they cannot stop them from having boyfriends but let them be in a healthy relationship in their own terms. She said boys should know that they mean business and having sex at their tender age is not healthy.
“At your age you should never compete for a man, what you should compete for is becoming 1st or 2nd position in class. You should compete for their books, because I don’t want you to pity yourself or people sympathizing you. As girls we are as brilliant as boys, whatever a man can do, a woman can do it. Let your body be your body, owning your body is a human right,” she said.
Presenting on Illegal and unsafe abortion, she said nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, and that 90% occur in developing countries. She said in countries where abortion remains unsafe, it is the leading cause of maternal mortality.
“Almost 14% of all unsafe abortions in developing countries are women under 20 years of age. In developing countries two in five unsafe abortions occur among women under age 25, and about one in seven women who have unsafe abortion are under 20,” she said.
The Girls Agenda team also donated some Sanitary Pads and cleansing materials to the school.