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African girls still face exclusion, exploitation, report finds
Activist Yetnebersh Nigussie taking part in a discussion on girls rights

African girls still face exclusion, exploitation, report finds

 Despite much stride made to end discrimination against girls, a new report released by Plan International in Ethiopia highlighted how “Millions of African girls face exclusion and exploitation on a daily basis because the law discriminates against them and fails to uphold their rights”.

The report titled, ‘Getting Girls Equal: The African Report on Girls and the Law’, is the first such report that looked at the indication and was released at the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) at Hyatt Regency Hotel in the capital.

“African girls face double discrimination as both children and female,” the author of the report, Violet Odala (PhD), Programme Manager at ACPF said. “Girls fall between the cracks of most laws and policies, which in most cases either address women as a group or children as a group, without specific regard to the special situation of girls”.

Furthermore, the report also highlighted how laws reflect “perpetuate deeply ingrained political, social and cultural beliefs and practices designed to subjugate girls” and said how blatant legal discrimination remains a uniform like problem to end, what is described a “blatant legal discrimination”.

Among them are, “lower legal minimum age of marriage and sexual consent for girls than boys, ‘informal’ courts which compel girls to marry men who have raped or sexually assaulted them; laws which expel pregnant girls from school; failure to prosecute perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages”.

Added to that burden are,“courts adopting patriarchal perceptions and discharging dismissing sexual assault on girls on spurious grounds such as girls looking older, discriminatory and degrading laws relating to girls with disabilities; and inheritance laws, rules and practices which favor boys over girls. The problem not only arises from the failure of national legal instruments but also from the failure of international instruments to fully address the specific vulnerabilities of girls”.

The Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Assefa Bequele (PhD) recognizes the success as well the needed work ahead.

 “African girls are valued and respected far less than boys. Exclusion, exploitation, deprivation and subjugation are the norm for the overwhelming majority,” he said. “Africa has made considerable progress in the socio-economic and legal status of its children, but there remains much more to be done”.

Plan has been an advocate of girls and women’s rights in Ethiopia.

“In a deeply gendered and patriarchal Africa, girls’ voices are deliberately shut out,” Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO Plan International which partnered on the report told the one-day conference on Friday “Their opportunities for self-development and self-determination are hugely diminished or nonexistent”.