In June 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights adopted the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action, in which girls‘ rights were first recognised. In 2018, twenty-five years later, contributing to its global strategy Plan International launched the Girls’ Rights Platform. Over the past two years, while constructing the database, Plan International has sought to analyse the status of girls in international law which results are brought together in the report ‘Girls ‘Rights Are Human Rights’. The report sheds light on gaps and trends related to girls’ rights in key planks of human rights law – prompting the question: does the international human rights framework adequately protect girls from discrimination. The report answers this and makes recommendations to strengthen and advance girls’ rights.
On Friday 20 April, after having similar meetings held in Geneva and New York, Anne-Claire Blok from Plan International’s UN Liaison Office in Geneva travelled to Brussels to introduce the Girls’ Rights Platform to EU policy-makers, staff of Permanent Representations to the EU, and other interested stakeholders. The event was organised by the Plan International EU Liaison Office and hosted by the Latvian Permanent Representation to the EU. In the opening remarks Latvian Ambassador to the EU, Sanita Pavluta-Deslandes, pointed to the need for a stronger girls’ rights agenda, “if we go on like this, it will take 80 years to fill the gap towards gender equality”. Plan International’s Head of the EU Office, Serap Altinisik, underlined that the platform contributes to ensuring that girls are not left behind in the EU human rights and development cooperation agenda and allows one to reflect on how language about girls is used in international and EU policy.
What girls deserve
At what age do girls think they are less intelligent than boys? What is the only article of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that mentions girls directly? What is the most common cause of death amongst 15-19 year old girls? These are among the questions included in the Girls’ Rights Quiz, equally accessible through the Girls’ Rights Platform website. Participants had the opportunity to take part in a short preview of the six-part quiz available and although participants scored high, this served as a reminder that girls’ rights are still far from being realised. Girls are the largest group facing discrimination, simply for being young and female, as was reiterated by Ambassador Pavluta-Deslandes. 32 million primary school-aged girls worldwide do not attend school. Half of all sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16 years old. In policy-making, girls are often merely an “add-on” to the text, and the issues, which are addressed, are often limited to education and freedom from violence. But girls face many more challenges that need to be at the heart of both the EU and International agenda, such as an inability to have their opinions heard in decision-making and debate.
Making girls more visible
Just as we shared this tool with policy-makers in Brussels, some hope that the EU Institutions will share it with their representatives across the world, especially in the EU Delegations. It would permit officials, whether in UN negotiations, or in Council conclusions, or in dialogues with partner governments, to verify previous language on girls’ rights on a given issue and help them to protect and advance what has been achieved so far for gender equality. Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration, it is time to stand up and explicitly address the challenges that girls face, through policies that are not just gender sensitive, but gender transformative.