3089.The Girl Child
Whereas, The United Methodist Church affirms the rights of children and of women and recognizes that “children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations.” Moreover that, “children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being, as do adults.” And “In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse.” And that women are affirmed as equal to men “in every aspect of their common life” (Social Principles ¶ 162C and F); and
Whereas, there are challenges faced by all children, but there are also challenges that are unique to girls; and
Whereas, although girlhood should be a time of growth and learning as the girls of today develop into the women of tomorrow, for millions of girls it is a time of perilous dangers; and
Whereas, girls are not valued as boys are, from the time of birth, in many societies. Girls everywhere may often have limited opportunities in education, training, and employment. In addition many face dangerous practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)1 and child marriage that often lead to psychological trauma, infection by sexually transmitted diseases, and frequent pregnancies, jeopardizing their health and economic well-being. Furthermore, many girls are forced into hazardous and exploitative work situations, while bearing most if not all the burden of housework at home; and
Whereas, according to Reports from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO):
1. decades after commitments and reaffirmations of those commitments have been made to ensure a quality education for every child—some 117 million children, among them 62 million girls—are still denied this right2;
2. the International Labour Organization estimates that 352 million or 23 percent of all children between 5 and 17 years of age were
economically active in the year 2000. About half of these children are
1. WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA (1997), Female Genital Mutilation: A Joint Statement, World Health Organization, Geneva, pp.1-2.
2. UNICEF Statistics, Basic Education, updated January 2006, http://www.childinfo
estimated to do work that is likely to harm their health, safety, or moral development3;
3. given its hidden nature, it is impossible to have reliable figures on how many children are globally exploited as domestic workers. According to the ILO, though, more girl-children under 16 are in domestic service than in any other category of child labour. Common risks children face in domestic service are: long and tiring working days, use of toxic chemicals, carrying heavy loads, handling dangerous items, such as knives, axes and hot pans, insufficient or inadequate food and accommodation, and humiliating or degrading treatment, including physical and verbal violence, and sexual abuse4;
4. it is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM/C, primarily in Africa and, to a lesser extent, in some countries in the Middle East5;
5. pregnancy-related deaths are known to be a leading cause of mortality for both married and unmarried girls between the ages of 15 and 19, particularly among the youngest of this cohort6;
6. young people are at the center of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. About half of all new HIV infections worldwide are in young people aged 15-24. Adolescent girls and young women are especially vulnerable to HIV and account for 60 percent of all HIV-positive young people. Of the 10 million young people living with HIV/AIDS, 6.2 million are young women and 3.9 million are young men7, 8; and
Whereas, “The achievement of goals for children, particularly for girls, will be advanced if women fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, are empowered to participate fully and equally in all spheres of society and are protected and free from all forms of violence, abuse and discrimination.
3. UNICEF Statistics, Child Labour, updated May 2006, http://www.childinfo.org/
4. International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Labour: Global Facts and Figures in Brief, http://www.ilo.org/ipec/areas/Childdomesticlabour/lang—en/index.htm
5. UNICEF Statistics, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, updated February 2006, http://www.childinfo.org/areas/fgmc/
6. UNICEF Statistics, Child Marriage, updated March 2006, http://www.childinfo.org/
7. UNICEF Statistics, HIV/AIDS, updated 2006, http://www.childinfo.org/areas/
hivaids/young.php. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/S-27/2 – A World Fit for Children, adopted 10 May 2002, III. Plan of Action, A. Creating a World Fit for Children, paragraph #23.
8. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/S-27/2 – A World Fit for Children, adopted 10 May 2002, III. Plan of Action, A. Creating a World Fit for Children, paragraph #23.
We are determined to eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child throughout her life cycle and to provide special attention to her needs in order to promote and protect all her human rights, including the right to be free from coercion . . . ” (“A World Fit for Children” United Nations)9; and
Whereas, we have a special concern toward underserved populations, including indigenous children and children in isolated communities, The United Methodist Church has a history of supporting work with children, including girl children, through the advocacy work of the Women’s Division, the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society;
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church, in accordance with the recommendations of the Report of the Expert Group meeting organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women in collaboration with UNICEF, calls on local churches, conferences, general agencies, and church-related organizations, where appropriate, to:
1) give priority and active support to the empowerment of girls in all aspects of life and include girls in the design of programs and projects to ensure that their specific needs are reflected and addressed;
2) ensure girls’ access to youth centers and other youth-specific initiatives, including age and sex-specific spaces and activities;
3) use the home visits that are part of health and child health initiatives to identify girls at risk of child marriage, out-of-school girls, girls living apart from their parents, and girls in other social conditions that are often associated with lack of immunization and elevated risk of sexual coercion and labor exploitation;
4) combine social and health promotion activities within maternal and child health initiatives to prioritize reaching the youngest, first time child-brides and child mothers;
5) develop financial literacy and microfinance (including savings and credit) programs for girls that are targeted specifically to age, sex, marital status, life cycle and context needs;
6) develop strategies and action plans to build girls’ stakes in their societies and to recognize and acknowledge their rights and citizenship at an earlier age, ideally close to puberty when specific risks often undermine the rights of adolescent girls;
9. The Expert Group Meeting was organized by the Division for the Advancement of Women in collaboration with UNICEF. Their Report, “Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and Violence against the Girl Child,” was presented September 25-28. 2000, Innocenti Research Center, Florence, Italy.
7) develop strategies and action plans to encourage and foster a healthy family envirnonment and provide parental education when needed; and
8) support public education programs and spaces for girls to, for example, carry out national level consultations, essay contests, and national media events that include the voices of girls and boys in questioning gender inequalities.
See Social Principles, ¶ 162C