Oct 11, Colombo: The United Nations (UN) in Sri Lanka Thursday held a panel discussion to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, which falls on today, October 11.
The Panel Discussion held at the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo was a first of a series, focused on raising issues that need policy action, including issues of the worst forms of child labor.
A second Panel Discussion will be held today in partnership with the District Secretariat, Ratnapura. It will focus on raising awareness to end child labor in the district.
In a statement the UN in Sri Lanka said the day was marked recognizing the courage and determination of one girl, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist, who was fighting for life after she was shot by the Taliban a year ago for speaking to promote education for girls.
"Today she is a symbol of the courage, hope and change for the girl child," the UN in Sri Lanka said.
The UN while admiring Sri Lanka's achievements in primary education and acknowledging that Sri Lanka's record in human development has made it a front runner in the South Asia region said however, there are still children who are not able to stay in school and complete primary education. Moreover, it is important to ensure that the girls continue to stay in secondary and tertiary education, it pointed out.
"We see many issues affecting the girl child today, which affect their wellbeing and prevents them from making use of the opportunities. On this day we hope to bring attention to the girl child and advocate for change," noted Mr. Subinay Nandy, UN Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka.
The reporting of violence, including violence against girls, has increased substantially, the UN in Sri Lanka said. Although the stigma attached to reporting violence makes the true extent unclear, various reports point to an increasing trend in violence perpetrated against girls that has effects throughout their lives. While addressing the effects of violence on victims, a fundamental change in attitudes towards women and girls, having zero tolerance for violence against women and children, and ensuring that women and girls are respected and treated as equals in society are other factors those of us working in the development sector have to consider.
Mr. Nandy further noted that "there is a need to take action, finding new solutions to these challenges, which should include the voices of young people and mobilizing all partners in the efforts, if the conditions of the girl child in Sri Lanka are to improve".
The event also highlighted the need to advocate for girls' rights related to child labour, particularly the worst forms of child labour, including the challenges surrounding child domestic work. The conditions that make these children take up work continue to be significant; largely due to the inability of their families to break out of the cycle of poverty and inequality, and limited opportunities.
Secretary to the Ministry of Child Development and Women's Affairs Eric Elayappaarachchi, Commissioner General of Labor, Department of Labor, Mrs. Pearl Weerasinghe, Director, Centre for the Study on Human Rights, Prof. Sharya Scharenguivel, Emeritus Professor of Law and International Expert on the Rights of Women and Children Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, National Youth Services Council and representatives of the UN Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, attended the event.