Statement and Recommendations from the East Asia Sub-regional Conference on Human Rights & Dignity of Asian Girls – Building Girl Friendly Cities, Hong Kong, September 22-23, 2015

Introduction

  • 53 people from Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Portugal, Taiwan, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, and the Ukraine met in Hong Kong on September 22-23, 2015 to discuss how to create “girl friendly cities” in the framework of dignity and human rights for girls in Asia.
  • We thank the organizers and hosts of the conference, the Garden of Hope Foundation, The Women’s Foundation and Lap-Chee College.
  • We recognized the statements from the 2014 South Asia regional conference in Chandigarh, India on September 29th – October 1st, 2014 and the Southeast Asia Sub-regional Conference on Human Rights & Dignity of Asian Girls – Building Girl Friendly Cities, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 11-12, 2015.
  • We focused on two main themes of (1) gender stereotypes and the media, and (2) protecting marginalized girls through international treaties and local actions.
  • We also discussed obstacles to girl friendly cities including (1) gender-based violence, (2) workplace discrimination, (3) cultural constraints, (4) inadequate legislature and policies.
  • Issues that were brought up included education, the need for greater awareness, pervading stereotypes that hold girls back, problems of domestic workers, lack of representation of women at high levels of society, and lack of diverse channels to raise issues with policy makers.

Gender stereotypes and the media

  • We must challenge stereotypes in the media that present girls and children as powerless, voiceless and passive.
    • Recommendations:
    • Implement media literacy curriculum in schools.
    • Implement NGO workshops on gender sensitivity training for parents to eradicate gender stereotypes.
  • Media organization, advertisers and others should follow the principles of respect, responsibility, dignity, accountability, privacy, and local culture; and present positive images of girls in the media, who are empowered, real and active.
    • Recommendations:
    • Encourage the government to implement an index indicating how balanced a program is regarding gender representation.
    • Implement self-regulating mechanisms for the media, adopting a set of guidelines that would promote positive media image.
    • Encourage diversity of representation in roles across gender and story-lines by media publishers.
  • Inappropriate images of girls have become so common they are seen as the norm in many countries. There is a need to recognize these as child pornography, and enforce laws, implement policies and take actions to protect children and young girls at risk.
    • Recommendations: NGOs and universities must build a comprehensive data set surrounding child pornography, establishing potential consequences and psychological effects, and utilizing this research to effect policy on a regulatory level.
  • Girls who are involved in the sex industry should be viewed as the victims and not the perpetrators. They should not be punished but protected and helped.
    • Recommendations: Undertake community consultation, encouraging governments to revisit laws surrounding sex work and child prostitution, ensuring the adoption of appropriate protections and rights for girls who work in child prostitution, and including proper recognition of the situation of the children and accountability of the perpetrators.
  • Instead of following the norms portrayed in the mainstream media, girls should take control of their own identity, and use social media to promote girls rights.
    • Recommendations: Encourage NGOs, schools and community groups to provide programs and activities specifically tailored to giving girls the toolset they need to be proactive in shaping their own identity.

Protecting marginalized girls though international treaties and local actions

  • The voices of marginalized girls, such as the daughters of migrant families, LBT girls, teenage mothers, pregnant teenagers, and other groups often go unheard, even at forums like this. We need to provide alternative ways to give marginalized girls a voice.
    • Recommendations: Provide safe spaces, taking time to reach out to minority communities and involving them as an equal actor. Give minority girls opportunities to speak among others like them and a network of supporting community partners. Provide opportunities for alternative platforms to allow girls’ messages to get across, such as keeping the girls’ identities unknown, having a partner stand with them, allowing them to speak one-on-one, and giving them an option to share their stories via the written word.
  • We should advocate for change, file complaints, put pressure on their governments and communities, and use human rights treaties and ordinances to push for positive change.
    • Recommendations:
    • Collaborate and encourage joint submissions for new policies, human rights advocacy, and social and governmental change. Gain media partners to report on proposed changes, equipped with context and individual stories.
    • Educate NGOs on international treaties and the mechanisms in which they can advocate for change in their locale.
  • Marginalized girls should be encouraged to organize themselves and develop solutions to suit their own needs and contexts.
    • Recommendations: Encourage NGOs, schools and community groups to provide spaces, resources and support for girls to meet and share their own experiences. Encourage the girls to create their own groups for self-empowerment. Ensure the meaningful participation of girls through supporting their agenda and empowering them to speak on their own behalf.
  • Knowledge and education, along with economic and social support, is essential to empower marginalized girls.
    • Recommendations:
    • Build private-public partnerships involving businesses, NGOs and schools to provide education, training and support alongside work shadowing opportunities and employment for marginalised girls.
    • Recognise the importance of equal opportunity and diversity, encouraging employment of minority girls and providing extra support mechanisms where needed. Encourage transparency and openness in hiring practices.
    • Implement workshops on discriminatory hiring practices and bias training for the private sector, and encourage flexibility in work arrangements to support marginalised girls’ working experiences.
  • We need to come up with ways to overcome social exclusion, which denies marginalized girls access to education, social support, acceptance by their communities, sex and reproductive autonomy, and other aspects that give them control of their own lives.
    • Recommendations:
    • Implement social awareness campaigns on social exclusion for marginalised girls.
    • Update formal sexual education curriculum ensuring consultation with women’s community groups and NGOs.
    • Provide sexual education in schools which goes beyond biological mechanics and includes healthy relationships, sexual and reproductive autonomy, different sexualities, consent, and relationship dynamics. Acknowledge sexual relationships and equip girls with information on contraception and where to get help if something goes wrong.
    • Implement gender sensitivity training for government departments, as well as gender mainstreaming for policy analysis.
  • While the situation for LBT girls is improving in some countries, there is still a need for greater acceptance by schools, media organizations (to provide good role models), governments and other institutions.
    • Recommendations:
    • Encourage school support and awareness-raising of different genders and sexualities, in order to acknowledge and include LBT girls and encourage their positive development. Invite guest speakers to speak with students and ensure staff have awareness of LBT experiences and issues. 
    • Provide safe spaces for LBT girls in schools, community groups and NGOs. 
  • We should encourage diversity, and guide girls to have healthy loving relationships.
    • Recommendations: Implement learning on healthy relationships in schools.
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