As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF-Nigeria) has called for the protection of the human rights of the girl-child to keep them safe from HIV and STIs.
The International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated globally on October 11, and AHF’s 2020 theme; “Empowered Girls = Brighter Future”, is aimed at working to keep them healthy, and help them gain confidence by staying in school and taking control of their health.
Earlier, members of AHF-Nigeria Girls Act had interfaced with the House of Representatives Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control (ATM) at the National Assembly on the need to improve the wellbeing of girls in the country, particularly the need to create unhindered access for girls to access reproductive health services that is youth-friendly.
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Hon. Abubakar Dahiru, chairman House Committee on ATM promised that his committee would lead the effort to improve the wellbeing of girls in Nigeria.
Dr. Echey Ijezie, AHF-Nigeria Country program director noted that the 2020 International Day of the Girl Child is another auspicious moment for stakeholders to rally round for the wellbeing of girls.
Ijezie said during these unprecedented times for global public health, girls worldwide are losing access to health services and are at a much higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse and violence.
According to him, ‘‘the opportunity has come again for everyone to contribute and lift our girls by investing in initiatives that are capable of developing the leadership potentials in girls and like our girls have demanded.
“The provision of water and hygienic toilets in schools, free sanitary pads provision to indigent girls and, considering lowering the age of consent would be a strong statement of our support for their wellbeing.’’
“Since 2016, AHF has made young women and girls a top priority across our global bureaus with our Girls Act program—and with the ongoing pandemic, it’s even more important that girls everywhere can stay safe and healthy and have the opportunities to achieve their goals,” said AHF Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy Terri Ford. “IDGC events—whether virtual, socially distanced, or a combination of these—held by our country teams will be a great way to bring girls together, let them have fun and help give them some vital keys for success – such as staying in school, avoiding unplanned pregnancies and remaining on treatment if they’re HIV positive.”
“COVID-19 has been devastating – but the limited access to services for sexual and reproductive health and other vital areas for girls and young women are making the situation increasingly worrisome,” added Loretta Wong, AHF Deputy Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy. “The United Nations Population Fund predicts that there could be up to 7 million unintended pregnancies as a result of the crisis, and cases of gender-based violence have gone up across the globe. Governments must do more to ensure girls are protected and have access to the health services they need.”
Jennifer Wankar, a member of AHF-Nigeria Girls ACT from Benue, said, ‘‘we are looking to when the rights of girls are protected, for instance, providing free sanitary pads to girls will indicate that as a nation, we are looking out for our girls.’’