Let’s Invest in Young Girls Now

Today, the whole world is celebrating International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence”. This theme reflects that of the London Summit, in which my colleague Nathan (a children’s reporter) and I participated in July, as representatives of the Congolese children.

For Day of the Girl Child, we hope to focus our message on child marriage. Child marriage is unfortunately a widespread practice in our country; the DRC ranks second worldwide.

Child marriage is a complex issue that has many causes. These causes include lack of education, influence of religious leaders (especially in rural areas) and of course poverty.

Child marriage results in serious consequences on a young girl’s life, as well as the life of any children that she may have.

We have all already seen these children around the city; we commonly refer to them as street children. How many of them are sons or daughters of a mother who was married too young, of a young girl who couldn’t take care of a child because she herself was still a child? A child’s body is not ready to carry a baby. Many young girls married too early die during childbirth.

For many young Congolese girls, child marriage forces them to give up their studies. How can I, a young girl and future woman, contribute to building a better future for the Congo if nobody gives me an opportunity?

We don’t want to keep living with a distant hope, we want to see our hopes fulfilled.

That’s why we are asking you, the authorities gathered here today, to use the power appointed to you to:

– Invest in all girls in our great country

– To pursue the plan aimed at accelerating the promotion of educating and supporting girls in school, in order to supply them with the knowledge, abilities and self-confidence necessary to take control of their lives

– To develop an action plan with the goal of organizing and creating a work platform with traditional and religious leaders, so that they might be our allies in promoting the end of the practice of child marriage

– To ensure that every girl at risk of becoming a victim, or who is victim, of this practice has access to the appropriate services such as education, psychological support and health care

Thanks to our efforts and convictions, we were able to attain an International Commitment Act during the London Summit. We ask you today to join with this Act, with the purpose of standing hand in hand with numerous other countries who have already committed, in order to empower young women.

Lets give young Congolese girls a way to contribute to the future of the Congo, for their own good, the good of their children and the good of us all.

We thank you very much.

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Our participation at the London Summit

During the Girl Summit co-hosted by the British government and UNICEF in London in July 2014, we held a discussion with children around the world about the issue of child marriage, meaning before the age of majority, which is 18 in our country, and about the ways it can be brought to an end.

We attended several sessions of activities, such as “The Power of a Girl” with English musician JESSY – J, who stated that “the power of a woman is not provided by early marriage or by mutilating any organ of the body; her power shows when a women can speak and go to school”.

Another activity, which we found very important was “The voice of the youth.” Ms. JUSTINE GREENING, Secretary of International Development of the United Kingdom, explained us the purpose of the summit: “That all countries put their efforts together to put an end to FGM and early marriage of children and ensure that the young voices heard on these issues around the world.”

We obtained the commitment of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, to support advocacy we have to carry after the summit. They promised not only to young Congolese, but to all young present in the summit because “we, young, are the guarantee of a country”.

It is very important to make our voices heard. How? Denouncing any bad practice that hinders our development, as we did at the summit.

More changes and no traditional constraint for girls!

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Since October 2013, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Delegation of the European Union , UNICEF and GIZ (German organization of international cooperation) started the implementation of “Women and men, let’s move forward together”, an innovative programme with a high political significance that aims at fighting gender-based violence through a holistic and sustainable approach. This approach consists in working on the root causes of gender-based violence, in order to obtain lasting results in the perception of the role and the position of women and men in the Congolese society.

Translated from french by Gail Somers

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Merveille a 17 ans et elle étudie en première année à l’Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe à Kinshasa. Après plusieurs années d'expériences d’enfant reporter, Merveille s'est lancée dans des études d'histoire, sciences sociales et gestion politique. Son but est de défendre les droits de ses pairs et de venir en aide. Selon elle, “il ne faut pas se limiter au rôle d’enfant reporter mais poursuivre cet engagement pour les enfants dans la vie d’adulte”.

Merveille is 17 years old and is in her first year of university in Kinshasa. After a few years of experience as Child Reporter, Merveille has decided to study History, Social Sciences and Political Management. Her goal is to defend her peers' rights and help. Merveille believes: ‘One must not restrict oneself to the role of being a child reporter, but continue this commitment for children into adult life.’

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