Today in Strasbourg I delivered a speech on an event organised by PLAN and other organisation. You can see the speech below. GUE/NGL also send out a press release on this matter.
I am very happy to be here together with you, in the light of the International Day of the Girl child. To raise the specific issue of girl’s rights to education.
In every stage of life be it health, education or employment, girls and young women are discriminated. This due to stereotypes, cultural norms, traditions, but also legislation and practice.
The International Day of the Girl Child is an excellent opportunity to debate and draw the world’s attention to girls’ rights as human rights.
There is a Gender inequality in education. Girls are less likely to access school, to remain in school or to achieve in education.
Education helps women and men claim their rights and realise their potential in the economic, political and social fields. It is also the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty. Education plays a particularly important role as a foundation for girls’ development towards adult life.
For this we need active players at different levels.
We need committed governments that see education as a basic human right. It is the obligation of states to provide an equal and safe school-environment for girls and boys.
And we need adults and parents that encourage their children to go to school.
As you just have seen on the screen, Senna, 14, attended school thanks to her father. Senna lives in Peru in the city of Puno. In Puno nearly 68 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 30 percent survive in extreme poverty. And like in many other poor areas many parents have no choice but to enlist the help of their children. And consequently therefore preventing them from attending school. For girls this is more of a truth than for boys.
But in Sennas case it was different! Her father insisted she go to school. ”Make a better person of yourself Senna, study,” he said. And Senna excelled in school.
If Senna wouldn’t have take part of a school education, she would basically have had three choices: to be at home and take care of the household, to work near the mines or be exposed to prostitution. But now she has a chance! Now she is an active agent of change! Senna’s father’s insistence upon her education transformed her life, as we now can se in her poetry.
I am myself an avid reader and follower of feministic fantasy and science fiction literature and TV-shows. So of course I have seen the show Xena, for whom Senna’s father named her. Xena is a strong warrior woman, who depends on no man to save her. Instead she has found the tools to save others. She is a hero. And despite her somewhat strange clothing she is a very good role model. I find it encouraging that Senna’s father named her after Xena. Unfortunately as he died from ill-health he will never see her succeed, but she is determined to prove him right.
Improving educational opportunities for girls helps them to develop skills that allows them to make decisions and influence community-change in key areas. To help save others, just like Xena.
It is almost impossible to realise that 25 % of all girls worldwide are born into extreme poverty and that many are forced into arranged marriages. Often with older men before the age of 16. The documentary with Senna moves beyond that. It offers hope and a solution: education.
Senna is proof that no matter how disadvantaged a girl without access to education can be, given the opportunity and with determination, it’s possible to overcome any obstacle.
Knowledge is power! And as it is said in the film: educated girls are a powerful force for change and this kind off change – it happens fast. Senna is both a role model and a hero. And clearly a poet.