Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Girl-Centered Movement for Change

By Felice Bakker, JPO, Child Protection

An illustration of workshop proceedings depicting the characteristics of the Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network ©UNICEF/Niken Larasati/2016
Jakarta: “The creation of a strong generation will not be achieved if the mother, who is the first source of education for a child, is a girl who is not yet ready to become a mother,” remarked women’s rights advocate and former First Lady (1999-2001) Ibu Sinta Nuriyah during the launch of the Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network in Jakarta.
The two-day workshop, held by UNICEF in partnership with Flamingo Social Purpose and Rumah KitaB, brought together advocates from 28 Indonesia-based organizations that focus on girls’ issues like child marriage, reproductive health and gender equality. The Network has been established to enable members to coordinate and implement interventions, scale them up, and develop synergies to achieve the best outcomes for adolescent girls. 

Chernor Bah, a youth and girl’s rights advocate and founder of the Sierra Leone Adolescent Girls Network, introduced participants to principles of what he calls ‘girl-centered programming’, a philosophy that starts with the belief that “the game is rigged against girls; they're set to lose—and when girls lose, everyone loses,” he said.

Globally, girls are generally less healthy, less educated and enjoy fewer rights than their male counterparts, facing systematic disadvantages because of discriminatory norms. As puberty begins, girls are more at risk of abuse, are required to take on a large share of domestic work and may drop out of school, becoming socially isolated. Even the locations girls are able to access, such as the market, health centre and library, shrink at puberty, while for boys they expand, according to a study in South Africa by the Population Council, a development think tank based in New York. Investing in girls not only promises significant economic returns, but promises to have far-reaching impacts on almost every development indicator, ranging from girls’ labour market participation, which will fuel economic growth, to improved health and education outcomes for future generations.[1]
Ibu Sinta Nuriyah, former First Lady (1999-2001) and women’s rights activist, encouraging participants to listen to the voices of Indonesia girls and to eliminate child marriage ©UNICEF/Sinta F Vermonte/2016

Girl-centred programming makes girls the focus of each and every programme decision; this includes determining which girls to target, when to target them, and how to monitor their progress. Such progamming can delay marriage, increase reproductive health knowledge, boost self-confidence and improve financial literacy.

During the workshop, network members agreed that empowering girls through building financial literacy, expanding social support networks, and improving their knowledge about health, would be the unifying mission. Combined, this work will reduce girls’ vulnerability, creating a bulwark against child marriage, teen pregnancy and school dropouts.

By putting girls at the centre, Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network members are now equipped to strengthen their important work. Members will meet monthly to share information on activities, to coordinate research and joint interventions, and to submit shared proposals for funding. One such joint initiative for an online platform for girls to connect with peers and mentors is already in the planning stages.
Participants from 28 organizations across Indonesia attending the two-day workshop. ©UNICEF/Sinta F Vermonte/2016

[1] Girls Count: A Global Investment and Action Agenda- ICRW-