Today is the International Day of the Girl Child and there are many reasons why the day should not go unnoticed.
Adolescence, especially for girls, is a dangerous stage of life in many countries. It is common to find girls as young as 12 being married off because parents regard them as unnecessary burdens or commodities to be exchanged.
A girl-child needs all the protection that society can give her as they are very vulnerable, psychologically easily confused. In some societies they are rebellious and prone to make rash decisions.
A few weeks ago, Kenyan media reported about a 14-year-old girl who committed suicide after being period-shamed at school by her teacher. The incident caused uproar even well beyond the country’s borders, especially by gender activists.
But that is just a drop in the ocean of what young girls go through, and not only in countries where women are discriminated against. Those are practices mainly based on culture and can be tolerated to some extent. But when a young girl is deprived of education – like in the case where today 130 million girls are out of school – or young girls are trafficked as sex slaves, it should be treated as an epidemic.
The world cannot afford to sit back as if it is none of its business; it has the responsibility to protect. In Rwanda we are fortunate that gender protection is a serious matter; there are no two ways about it. But there should be no complacency; keeping a clean gender protection record needs constant valiance and swift interventions where something falls short.
Those are the only guarantees that will make our young girls feel safe.