KAMPALA- Uganda today marks the International Day of the Girl-Child amid calls to increase investment in collecting and analysing girl child-relevant data, which can be used to make amendments in the issues that affect them.
The year’s theme is; “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”
The theme is in line with the challenges that many girls face and the need to empower them to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030, especially goal number five on gender equality.
Ms Perry Aritua, the executive director of Women in Democracy Network, says lack of an opportunity to attend school is the biggest challenge facing many girls.
She said: “Education empowers us; all you have to do is to look at the number of women suffering because they never had an education. The lack of regard for the girl child as an equal to the boy child is disheartening. Girls in rural areas are made to develop the mentality that they can never be better than boys, which is wrong.”
The introduction of Universal Primary Education saw the enrollment rate of girls go up from 3.1 million pupils in 1996 to 8.4 million in 2013. However, the drop-out rates, especially among girls, are quite high.
In 2012 The UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation estimated that 68 per cent of children who start primary school in Uganda leave before reaching the last grade.
The National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy 2014/2015-2019-2020, shows that the completion rates of girls both at primary and secondary level (66 per cent and 24 per cent) remain behind those of the boys (68 per cent and 52 per cent).
Mr Mondo Kyateka, assistant commissioner for Youth and Children Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, says the key to stemming school drop-out rates is community awareness.
“We are carrying out aggressive awareness to inform parents that girls are as useful as boys. We advise them to invest in girls because the returns are huge. Educated girls make productive women and rise empowered children.”