Statement by UNICEF The Gambia Representative a.i. Mariavittoria Ballotta on International Day of the Girl
Banjul, 11 October 2023 – “Today, we join girls in The Gambia and around the world in commemorating the 2023 International Day of the Girl around the theme: “Invest in Girl’s Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”. This year, girls are asking us to strengthen partnerships, work with them and scale up investments in their leadership and well-being without leaving any girl behind. Let us listen to them!
“The Gambia’s decades of investment in equal rights and opportunities for girls has put the country on a higher pedestal for growth and development. Today the country has so much to be proud of; there are now more girls in school than ever before. Girls are outperforming boys in school – 53% of the students who scored 5 credits or more in the 2023 West Africa Senior School Exams are girls. And fewer girls are getting married before their 18th birthday – the rate of child marriage has dropped from 46.5% in 2010 to 34.2% in 2018, hence creating more opportunities for them to fulfil their dreams.
“These are important milestones that we must build on to register even greater progress for girls and help The Gambia meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the aspirations of The Gambia Green Recovery-focused National Development Plan 2023-2027.
“The Gambia is striving to meet its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the country ratified in August 1990, evidenced by the enactment of the Children’s Act 2005. This and other laws, such as the Women’s Act 2010, represent strong safeguards for girls’ rights. UNICEF will continue to work with the government and other partners to strengthen the legal safeguards for girls, including the implementation of laws that protect the rights of girls.
“As more girls attend schools at all levels, we must support them to access the right skills and qualifications for them to be empowered and ensure they have equal opportunities in society. Let us work together so that every girl, including those in rural communities, has equal access to the services they need, including digital technology and gender responsive information so that they can learn and develop their full potential. Finally, let us continue to create opportunities for girls to be involved in decision-making processes, especially in decisions that affect them.
“In communities, schools and civic spaces, courageous young girls are taking stronger leadership roles, they are innovating and mobilizing to support girls’ rights, and developing solutions to social problems.
“Together, let us keep girls at the centre of national priorities, scale up investment in programmes and services that help protect and promote the mental health, prevention and protection from violence including sexual violence, cyberbullying, and harmful practices such as FGM.
“This is a collective responsibility, including of boys and men, decisionmakers, traditional leaders, school authorities, and development partners. The girls are speaking to us. Let us listen to them today and every day.”