On October 11 every year, the international community commemorates the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’. I am deeply passionate about the protection and development of the girl child. In this regard, I wish to call upon and encourage my fellow Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa and the entire international community to step up efforts to ensure the protection and development of the girl child in the context of the recently adopted United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant in protecting girls against early and forced marriages, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, gender-based violence, female genital mutilations and HIV and AIDS, among others.
I am aware that child marriages - a practice which affects 15 million girls a year with devastating repercussions on their health, education and wellbeing and the other vices against the girl child - are adequately addressed within UN SDGs framework. We must take further, effective and practical interventions to ensure speedy action on these critical issues. HIV and AIDS remain a devastating threat to the health of an adolescent girl. As leaders, let us remain vigilant in the fight against HIV and AIDS, especially where it concerns the girl child.
I am happy that the 2015 theme, ‘The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030’, is in line with the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation call for:
* Empowerment of adolescent girls, young women and women in every country across Africa in order to protect themselves against HIV and to have access to life-saving HIV services. Evidence-informed HIV prevention programmes must reach adolescent girls, young women and women, but they must also be adapted to meet their specific needs;
* Access to antiretroviral medicines for all pregnant women living with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission and for their own health, including follow-up throughout their lives; and
*Engagement of adult men to know their status, access treatment for their own health and protect their partners
Finally, I call on governments and the international community to maximize investment in adolescent girls’ education. I firmly believe that when you educate a girl child, you have not only educated a family but a nation. Educated girls are better placed to make informed choices about their own future and that of their families.
I thank you,
Dr. Joyce Banda
FORMER PRESIDENT, REPUBLIC OF MALAWI
10th October 2015