Why girls’ rights are important on human rights day
My name is Mervis, I’m 19 and from Malawi. I believe that girls’ rights are as important as all human rights so that girls and women are not subjected to violence, can access education and are equal to boys in all aspects of their lives.
In Malawi I work with other youth advocates, through Plan International, to end child marriage in my country. This campaign is really important to me – I want to improve the lives of girls so that they can get an education and benefit from their basic human rights while they are still young children.
Whether they’re pulled out of school for marriage, or other reasons, too often girls are denied their right to education. When I went to a new school I realised how few girls there were in my class, compared to boys. A week later, I went to a wedding ceremony with a friend and I noticed that the bride was a girl who had been in our class. The girl was 17, marrying a man much older than her. A girl’s right to be free to live her life as she pleases, is all too often forgotten about in my country.
As well as the campaign being recognised by our government, this year has been a huge year for me as I’ve attended the UN General Assembly, met fellow feminist campaigner Emma Watson and I am humbled to have had the privilege of being asked by the UN to join their UN Advisory Group on women’s rights.
With 10 other leading gender activists from around the world, I’ll be the eleventh member, and the only young person, to work on the UN strategies for advocacy, policy and programmes aimed at improving equality.
Boys and men, our brothers, uncles, fathers and friends can all be part of this movement. When I met Emma Watson earlier this year we spoke about the need for men and women to engage equally in this fight for girls’ rights. I work with fellow youth advocates that are boys and I know how important it is to have boys on our side. Emma grew up with three brothers and her parents treated them all the same. For many girls in Malawi they have to carry out family tasks as soon as they are old enough to, while boys don’t have this additional pressure piled on them.
The Sustainable Development Goals can help us achieve change for girls whose rights aren’t being respected. They are a promise to all girls out there that want to achieve more, that their realities can change. Our leaders must be more accountable for the future of girls and women around the world.
On 10th December, World Human Rights Day, I commit to carry on using my voice to drive change for girls in Malawi. Girls’ rights shouldn’t be forgotten about, we are all humans and we all deserve our human rights.
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