Girls must be protected from all forms of sexual and gender based violence.

The safety and security of the girl child is still in jeopardy even as the world marks the 27th anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.
This makes it pertinent to examine how Kenya has fared in ensuring that issues of sexual and gender based violence against the girl child are tackled.
The menace of teenage pregnancies and other sexual reproductive health issues continue to be a heavy burden to both the local and national leadership, even as the world reconsiders development models and techniques which are intended to bring about equitable and sustainable development to communities.
There has largely been an understatement and total blindness of how the majority of the world’s girls are agents of this process and not first-hand partakers of the same.
Becoming a parent at any age can be a life altering experience. Regardless of race, education as well as socio-economic status, motherhood and fatherhood uniformly places demands on one’s life that were non-existent prior to the child birth.
Education being of vital importance and a main aspect of human security and means of empowerment in the modern day world, girls aged between 13 and 17 continue to drop out of school. This is due to the pressures they experience including stigmatisation associated with early parenting, isolation from peers and lack of needed support from parents, friends and schools.
Socio- economic outcomes have been the traditional focus of research on teenage parents that often finds a negative impact on employment and earning. However, education can help mitigate these negative outcomes on the girl child.
Alternatively, girls have found ways of surviving in precarious circumstances that may destroy them and limit their ability to cope and create a decent living for themselves.
This observation supports the need for more opportunities for girls worldwide. The inequality that girls’ faces include areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and protection from discrimination and gender based violence.
For instance, looking at the dynamics of out of school children statistics, it is notable that a big number of girls have dropped out due to various reasons ranging from poverty, early and forced marriages to discrimination.
Another issue that should be looked into is safety and security in schools. Cases of rape and sexual harassment have been numerously experienced in schools with most of the cases going unreported due to fear, stigmatisation and discrimination.
Relevant measures should be put in place to look into preventing sexual violence by ensuring that girls have knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health, particularly menstrual hygiene.
Most girls who are faced with the predicament of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases usually resort to desperate measures as a result of prejudice and discrimination from their families, peers and the community at large.
In most cases this leads them to start looking for alternative means to sort themselves out. These are some of the factors that lead to numerous drop outs as compared to their male counterparts who are at times responsible for the pregnancies.
Sex tourism as it is mostly referred to is a form of female-driven act in the scope of human trafficking and is seen as a social exchange rather than an explicit transactional sex.
Although sex tourism can be variously voluntary or exploitative, confirming or negating a sense of integrity or self-worth, it is believed that most of the girls involved in this business are supported by their parents, siblings, friends and relatives. This is attributed to the fact that proceeds and gains from the trade are used to support families and siblings. This is a lame justification used to capitalise on and rationalise sexual encounters with the girl child.
Barely a teenager, homeless, pregnant and a school dropout 13-year-old Esther’s life came crumbling down on her. She did not have anyone or anywhere to turn to.
“I was devastated and confused. I walked a long distance just to reach my aunt’s place. I even begged for money from people along the way since I had nothing with me when I left home.”
Just like Esther, many other girls worldwide suffer as a result of poverty, greed and need to make easy money.
Many of the girls who have fallen prey to this business find it difficult to quit simply because of the prestige obtained from having a foreigner, the money that flows and luxurious lifestyle that comes with it.
The child sex tourism makes profit from exploitation of the girl child who although seems physically matured, is mentally immature.
In most countries, legal frameworks have been put in place whereby laws have criminalised sexual violence. It is everyone’s responsibility including the Government and Judiciary to ensure speedy access to justice for survivors.
Community leaders and stakeholders also have a role to play in educating people at the grassroots level that these issues need to be addressed and not treated as family matters.
It is imperative to note that girls’ education goes beyond getting them to school. It is about ensuring that they learn and feel safe while in school.
It also means completing all levels of education to acquire skills to effectively compete in the labour market.

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