New report by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) on Africa and women suggests African countries to create girl-friendly nations through sustainable political commitment reflected in coordinated action that brings together enabling comprehensive legal and policy frameworks, adequate budgeting, and effective implementation.
Ensuring the wellbeing of all girls, particularly the most vulnerable, requires strong commitment and coordinated action to address these systematic barriers since it is evident that girls in Africa face intertwined legal, social, economic, cultural, attitudinal and administrative challenges that hinder the enjoyment of their rights. African girls are being robbed of their future and condemned to a lifetime of discrimination and inequality, according to an alarming report which ranks 52 African countries according to how ‘girl-friendly’ they are.
“To be a girl in Africa frequently means being denied education; getting married too young; enduring sexual, physical and emotional abuse at home, work and school; being barred from owning and inheriting property; and being last in the queue when it comes to state spending on health and Covid 19 make things worse,” says the authors.
“African girls have endured harmful cultural beliefs, patriarchal gender attitudes and discriminatory laws, policies and practices for far too long,” said Dr. Joan Nyanyuki, ACPF’s Executive Director.
The report finds that girls living in Africa today are more likely to be victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and labor exploitation; more likely to get married much younger and experience FGM than girls anywhere else; discriminated against by laws relating to marriage and inheritance; and likely to be poorer than boys.
In addition, they are at higher risk of mental health problems; more likely to be excluded from healthcare; and denied a decent education and more likely to drop out of school.
ACPF’s unique Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI) shows that African governments are increasingly becoming more girl-friendly and that some African governments take girls’ rights and well being seriously but many do not.
The GFI rates Mauritius as the most girl-friendly country in Africa, with Tunisia, South Africa, Seychelles, Algeria, Cape Verde and Namibia also in the top category. Bottom of the table comes South Sudan, with Chad, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Central African Republic and Comoros all rated as least child-friendly and Ethiopia ranked 40th from 52 Africa countries on how friendly they are to women and girls.
“Without determined and targeted action, African girls will be left behind as we step up efforts to achieve Africa’s Agenda 2063 and most specifically Africa’s Agenda for Children 2040,” said Dr. Joan Nyanyuki.
“This important report acknowledges the progress made by some African governments towards protecting and promoting girls’ rights and wellbeing, but it also shows that much more needs to be done, especially in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she expounded.
The report calls for action in ten priority areas including Develop girl-friendly laws and policies and repeal discriminatory provisions, withdraw reservations to regional and international treaties on the rights of girls, Invest in girls’ education at all levels, Invest in girls’ health and nutrition. To achieve the desired results, these actions need to be undertaken with the active involvement of relevant stakeholders including the private sector, civil society organizations and girls themselves.