Statement from the 2014 Asian Girl Campaign Regional Conference on the Human Rights and Dignity of Asian Girls – Creating Girl-Friendly Cities, Chandigarh, India, September 29-October 1, 2014

 

“A girl friendly city is a place where girls enjoy full human rights, where there is zero-tolerance of violence, discrimination, neglect and inequality; where every day is safe and secure both in public and private spaces; where girls’ voices are heard, and they can identify and build their capacities and strengths to the fullest for the overall development of society.”
  • Introduction
    • Fifty partners and other stakeholders involved in the Asian Girl Campaign around the International Day of the Girl Child in Asia met in Chandigarh, India, on September 29-October 1, 2014 to discuss how to create “girl friendly cities” in the framework of dignity and human rights for girls in Asia.
    • The concepts of empowering girls to achieve equality and the human right of all girls to live with dignity and self-esteem are universally accepted.
    • Yet all over Asia girls encounter numerous difficulties such as poverty, domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, sex discrimination, forced marriage, unsafe abortion and early mot
    • In many countries regardless of their economic development, millions of girls are not able to enjoy their basic human rights, just because they are girls.
    • Girls who have a sense of purpose in life, are educated, physically healthy and have good moral values will be competent citizens who can aid the development of their communities and contribute to the enhancement of democratic society.
    • Acieving equality for girls is crucial, we must do it, we can do it, and we will do it!

 

  • Why cities?
    • In Asia, rapid and sometimes forced relocation to crowded urban areas means that citizens have to build viable communities for themselves, and traditional community and family support structures must be redefined and reimagined to protect the vulnerable and weak.
    • The concept of “child friendly cities” promoted by UNICEF gives flexible indexes to measure the performance of cities in protecting the human rights of child citizens.
    • Regarding the human rights of girls in rural communities and societies, we recognize that the work of creating “girl friendly cities” should have a wider impact on surrounding rural areas.

 

  • Why girls?
    • According to the internationally recognize definition, girls are under the age of 18.
    • In spite of commitment to equality and empowerment critical barriers to the full development of girls still need to be addressed.
    • Educated, healthy and happy girls will become educated, healthy and happy mothers, which will have a direct and positive impact on all future generations.
    • If girls are empowered and given sufficient resources they can be leaders of city communities both now and in the future.
    • We believe empowering and investing in girls is the most efficient way to develop communities and create livable cities.

 

  • What about boys?
    • Many of the problems faced by girls are shared by boys, but gender inequality aggravates the problems of girls.
    • Macho and patriarchal values also put pressure on boys.
    • We need to engage boys in the process of empowering girls because we cannot achieve equality without them, and it is in boys interests to achieve equality.

 

  • What is a Girl Friendly City?
    • A girl friendly city is a place where girls enjoy full human rights, where there is zero-tolerance of violence, discrimination, neglect and inequality; where every day is safe and secure both in public and private spaces; where girls’ voices are heard, and they can identify and build their capacities and strengths to the fullest for the overall development of society.

 

  • Structures: Policies and Legislation
    • Cities must establish a structure of laws, policies and action plans that give a formal framework to help empower and invest in girls.
    • The United Nations Charter states that all men are free and equal and have equal rights with no discrimination between men and women; the UN recognizes the special needs of girls by marking the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11; and other agreements such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the post-2015 process, as well as various National Human Rights Action Plans cover girls’ human rights.
    • Cities should also adhere to these conventions.
    • Laws, policies and action plans that discriminate against girls should be amended even if they go against traditional values and cultural practices.
    • New regulations should reflect the issues of concern voiced by civil society.
    • More research needs to be done to help draft and lead advocacy for relevant acts and laws.

 

  • Mechanisms: Management and Implementation
    • Despite adherence to international treaties and other structures that guarantee the human rights of girls, there is still much discrimination against girls in practice because existing laws and regulations are not properly implemented.
    • In addition to a legal structure, cities must have mechanisms in place to implement and add substance to a framework of policies and legislation.
    • These mechanisms can be initiatives, programs, action plans, projects or campaigns.
    • Campaigns should concentrate on positive messages for change.
    • Cities should have mechanisms to promote and monitor specific areas of concern, including:
      • Sufficient funding and investment in girls: Programs for girls’ development and empowerment must be sufficiently funded to provide proper investment.
      • Education rights:
        • Girls should enjoy compulsory and equal education.
        • Schools should teach children about sexual education, gender disparities, gender equality, human rights, and child protection.
        • Community youth development programs, night schools, self-defence training, life-skill training, livelihood training and other educational programs can help empower girls.
      • Health rights: Girls should have free and equal access to quality healthcare, including sexual reproductive healthcare and psychological counseling.
      • Economic rights:
        • Cities should counter the social, cultural and economic barriers which prevent girls accessing property rights, equal wages, and other economic rights.
        • Cities should encourage family self-help groups which can help families save money, generate income, and promote youth social entrepreneurship.
      • Safety / Security: Girls should be allowed to enjoy safe and secure city and community environments, where they can live free from the fear of violence.
      • Girls who are at-risk/survivors:
        • Cities should work with girls who are at risk and offer survivor support programs to victims of rape and survivors of trafficking.
        • Cities should have programs to help victims of sexual abuse, harassment, eve-teasing and other forms of gender-based abuse.
      • Sports: Cities should help empower girls through sports and life-skills programs.
      • Advocacy: Cities should strictly monitor laws to protect girls.
      • Trafficking: Cities should work on the causes that make girls vulnerable to human trafficking, especially for commercial sex and child prostitution.
      • Child marriage: Cities should combat superstitions and conservative thinking on the issue of child marriage.
      • Teenage pregnancy:
        • Sexual education should be taught in schools to prevent teenage pregnancy.
        • Cities should have comprehensive programs to support students who become pregnant to ensure they stay in school.
        • Poverty and teenage pregnancy are closely linked issues, so cities should work on the causes of teenage pregnancy.
      • Child labor:
        • Child labor is work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way.
        • Girls are more likely to work as household helpers, in dance bars, massage parlors and other harmful and exploitative environments.
        • Cities should have programs to protect girls who suffer child labor.
      • Female-feticide / Infanticide: Cities should have programs to prevent female-feticide and infanticide, and celebrate the birth of girl children.
      • Sexual violence: Cities should have aggressive campaigns to stop street harassment and other forms of sexual violence.
      • Domestic abuse: Cities should implement programs with the message that violence is not acceptable in any form.
      • Harmful traditional practices/cultural superstitions: No traditional or cultural practice that harms the human rights of girls is acceptable.
      • Justice:
        • The police, judiciary, prosecution system and courts should not delay or deny justice to girls on the basis of age or gender, and cities should work to offer follow-up services to the victims.
        • The justice system should be girl-friendly.
      • Media:
        • Cities should highlight the issue of protecting the identity of survivors of rape or sexual assault, and protect girls online and in cyberspace.
        • The media should present positive images of girls and be encouraged to produce positive programing with role-models for girls.
        • Girls should be empowered to use social media and other media forms to tell their stories.
      • Girls in conflict situations: There cannot be any peace in any society if there is gender inequality and violence against women.

 

  • Participation: Mobilizing communities through the media and volunteerism
    • We believe in the power of girls to change society through education, awareness, and collective action: girls have the power not just in the future but also now to tackle local issues, form initiatives, participate in decision-making at all levels including legislation, and set the agenda for social transformation.
    • Unfortunately girls are generally regarded as having no importance and are not included in decision making processes; they are not given the confidence or the platform to raise their voices.
    • Girls who are victims of exploitation or abuse are often not willing to speak out due to family pressure, threats from the perpetrator, delayed justice, or other reasons.
    • Cities should help girls participate in decision-making processes, listen to their opinions and build partnerships with girls, based on their strengths and assets.
    • We beleive change starts with the individual girl and within her family; so girls should be encouraged to talk about issues of discrimination and violence with their peers, parents and young adults.
    • Education, media and information literacy programs teach girls about human rights and give them communication, language, cultural and critical-thinking skills, which can help them grasp the issues and take part in decision-making processes.
    • Cities should develop best practices on capacity building, networking, human rights advocacy, involvement and engagement of local communities for sustainable development.
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