International Day of Girl Child: Egypt’s girls deserve better

Women around the world face gender discrimination. This discrimination is encountered since childhood when growing up in patriarchal societies. 1.1 billion girls suffer more inequality in the world than boys. In Egypt, girls naturally encounter more gender discrimination. As a video I recently saw puts it, girls endure that even before birth.

So in the event of International Girl Day, here is the situation of Egyptian girls.

Here are the facts (statistics to be more precise):

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) is prevalent among girls.
    The FGM rate in 2014 in the reproductive age from 15 to 49 years reached 92%, while it is less in the young girls in the age group from 15 to 17 years, up to 61%, according to the most recent statistics of the Demographic and Health Survey in 2014 released in May 2015 as cited by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR)’s Women Status Report 2015. The survey also showed that more than 75% of cases are for girls at the age of 9 to 12 years and 14% for girls 7 years younger, asserting that the majority of Egyptian families circumcise their daughters.
  • 21% of forced child labour is among girls, according to CAPMAS and Ministry of Social Solidarity as reported by Aswat Masriya website.
  • More than quarter of Egyptian girls are forced intro marriage before turning 18 years old.
  • Female literacy rate amounts to 65%, female enrollment in primary education is 96%, female enrollment in secondary education is 85%, and female enrollment in higher education is 31% according to the Gender Global Gap report in 2015 as cited by the ECWR’s Women Status Report 2015.
  • Let alone the harassment, girls encounter in the streets. There is no accurate statistics on sexual harassment only for girls, but, for women and girls, according to UN studies, almost one women or girl out of 10 gets harassed on daily basis.
  • Last but not least, girls suffer from the ultimate taboo of domestic violence. There is no accurate statistics available on girls and lack of focus on it. Abuse can be typically percieved by the society as disciplinary action not as domestic abuse. Domestic violence encompasses physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

Here is the reality:

  • It is likely that the parents would prefer a boy than a girl to “carry the name of the family” as more common among conservative Egyptians.
  • It is also likely by 75% for girls aged 9 – 12 to suffer FGM due to the widespread belief that, without it, women who do not undergo FGM are unable to control their sexual urges and thus would be involved in relationships outside wedlock, which carries a social stigma.
  • Growing up, girls would realize their bodies are not theirs; their bodies would be the property of their family, transferred to her husband later on. They are taught they represent the family’s honour. They are merely reproductive object, not more than that.
  • It is likely that girls from less privileged socio-economic status to be forced to marry elder men for money.
  • Sex trafficking is even a great challenge, even though it is criminalized. Egyptian children, including those among the estimated 200,000 to one million street children, are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, begging, and agricultural work. Individuals from the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, purchase Egyptian girls for “temporary” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of prostitution or forced labor; these arrangements are often facilitated by the victims’ parents and marriage brokers, who profit from the transaction, as showed by the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, published by the US Department of State.

 

The greatest obstacle we face is the culture, if we teach our girls they can do anything, they are not solely sexual objects. Girls should be empowered with education to make their own choices. To decide on what kind of life they want to lead.

Girls should know these facts:

  • They can grow up to be anything they aim for; your gender is neither a advantage or a disadvantage
  • They are equal citizens and human beings
  • Their bodies are theirs and only theirs. They are not less women for being fat or dark skinned or too pale, they are never too much of something.
  • They are not bossy if they are hard workers.
  • Not less than 20% of Egyptian households are led by women according to CAPMAS report in 2014
  • There are currently 18 female world leaders, including 12 female heads of government and 11 elected female heads of state, according to United Nations data.

I don’t believe in the effectiveness of International days of something but we might as well use the opportunity, so I tried through this quickly drafted list to shed the light on the plight and raise awareness of gender equality for girls in Egypt.

Starting from the bottom up is a great tool to empower, to make a difference, even a slight one. Girls around the world do deserve better than that.

(Photo Courtesy of UNFPA)

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