Message by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October 2012
The ILO welcomes the special focus on the situation of the girl child on this new UN Day.
Gender inequalities that take root at an early age tend to produce long-term gender inequality which is reproduced in the world of work.
We are compelled to act to ensure that the rights of all girls and boys are equally respected. Yet, notwithstanding the values, principles and rights so widely endorsed by the international community, too often the reality is that girls are systematically left behind by virtue of their sex. This must end.
Practices such as child labour and child marriage – the theme of this Day – are a denial of the rights of children and an acute constraint to their full development. Such practices also weigh heavily on the overall capacity of societies to achieve their development objectives.
Some 88 million of the world’s child labourers are girls. Their specific vulnerability is recognized in the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) which asks member States to take this into account.
Many girls enter the workforce at an early age, commonly ending up in the lowest paid and insecure work, constrained by gender inequality at home and in the workplace. Moreover many working in the home remain invisible and unaccounted for. The patterns of inequality are also reflected in education outcomes with 64 per cent of illiterate adults being women.
Inequality of access at the primary level becomes even more marked at the secondary level. Yet education, starting with a quality basic education for all, is the corollary to the effective abolition of child labour and a fundamental step in opening up better prospects for decent work in adulthood and in generating a new dynamic of change with social and economic progress.
The benefits of valuing and investing in the girl child for herself, her family, community and society, have long been evident.
Improving the situation of the girl child on a sustainable basis calls for a coherent set of measures geared towards changing structures, policies and values that sustain social injustice. Measures targeting the girl child must be accompanied by those that empower women and mothers – through organization, access to income-generating activities and social protection.
Today with persisting conditions of global economic crisis and uncertainty, there must be a firm resolve to re-commit to the goals of social progress and social justice in shaping a world where the girl child finds her rightful place – on equal terms with boys, at home and in school and well-prepared for entry, at the right time, to the world of work.