Every year on October 11th, the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl (IDG) to raise awareness about the challenges girls around the world face and promote their fundamental rights. This year, at Crossroads International, we want to shed light on the socio-cultural practices in Africa that limit girls’ potential and advocate for the opportunities they should have to thrive.
In sub-Saharan Africa, many girls face harmful cultural practices that hinder their education and development. Among these practices are forced sterilization, early pregnancies and marriages, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence.
To combat these practices and empower girls, Crossroads International has established empowerment programs in Ghana, Eswatini, Togo, and counting. Girls who participate in these programs learn more about their bodies, their rights, and their potential. They also receive crucial support from other members to openly discuss their experiences and hopes for the future. These programs are safe spaces where girls can seek help and regain the confidence needed to protect themselves and transform their lives.
Furthermore, for over three years now, the ambitious “DAMCAM – My Voice, My Health” project has been running in Senegal. Its goal is to raise awareness and improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of 30,000 young people aged 10 to 19 in the Kédougou region of Senegal, who have limited access to healthcare and education due to the region’s poverty.
The DAMCAM project has seen significant expansion since 2020, reaching an increasing number of young people through various activities. Mobile Learning Laboratories (MLLs) are one of the project’s main innovations, aiming to provide quality education on sexual and reproductive health to young people through informative content. Fifteen MLL sites have been established, equipped with 225 tablets and other technological equipment.
- In eSwatini, one in three young girls experiences sexual violence before the age of 18.
- In Togo, five out of ten girls do not complete primary school, compared to two out of ten boys.
- 8% of young Ghanaian girls are married before the age of 15, and 29% are married before the age of 18.
- In total, 871 teenagers benefited from information sessions with a school mediator. In addition, the DAMCAM project has helped set up 32 Clubs de Jeunes Filles (CJF), enabling members to acquire key knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.
- 3,000 girls participate annually in 71 empowerment programs in Ghana, Togo, and eSwatini.
- 300 mentors and teachers work in girls’ empowerment programming.
- Pilot projects of boys’ clubs for change are conducted in schools in Ghana and Togo to teach boys positive masculinity models and the role they have in preventing gender-based violence.
“Today, I have confidence. The girls are my family. I’m no longer shy. We have debates, and we have fun. We advise other girls. It’s nice. (…) I want to be an independent and vibrant girl. I want to become a lawyer, and I know I will. I believe in myself now.” Phiwokuhle Vilakati, a member of a girls’ empowerment club in Eswatini, shares her experience.
Through these actions, Crossroads International strives to break down the cultural barriers that limit girls’ potential and create a world where every girl can realize her full potential. On this International Day of the Girl, we reaffirm our commitment to working for a better future for all girls, where they can grow, learn and thrive without harmful cultural barriers.