Effective International Aid Depends on the Application of Girl-Centered Design

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Give girls the opportunity to be leaders by giving them the chance to take the lead in change efforts, listening to their voices, responding to their requests and welcoming them into decision-making spaces. This is one way to invest in an future where girls are empowered. International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated annually on October 11, empowers girls by amplifying their voices. Credit: UNFPA Burkina Faso/Theo

Opinion
  • by Amy West, Aysel Madra (washington dc)Monday, October 09, 2023
  • WASHINGTON DC, Oct 09 (IPS) – In a year that is rapidly becoming the costliest on record for climate-related disasters, the International Day of the Girl Child appeals to the global community for greater investments for and with adolescent girls.

Mounting evidence continues to show that the wellbeing of our households, our communities, and our world, especially amidst climate change, hinges on how seriously we take this call-to-action for half of the world’s population. Protecting the rights of girls will be key to the Sustainable Development Goals. This priority of girls’ rights, according to the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, is even more important for those living in traditionally marginalized and underserved communities. Many of these communities are at the intersection of climate vulnerability and poverty. Adolescent girls are forced to forage and access services after cyclones and other natural disasters such as wildfires and floods. A direct correlation exists between climate-related disasters (or any other natural disaster), girls’ inequitable education, skills-training, health and wellbeing support, and increased exposure of sexual and gendered violence. Credit: UN Women/Ruhani Kaur

Furthermore, the breakdown of family and community as well as loss of key information and learning resources, namely school or other educational centers, exposes girls with exploitative behaviors as they are exposed to multidimensional and interconnected vulnerabilities. To reduce the increased risk and its ripple effect on social and economic goals, disaster preparedness must include solutions that are centered around girls. The recent earthquakes that have struck Turkey, Syria and Morocco caused unprecedented devastation in terms of both human life and infrastructure needed to access public services, as well as ensure protection against sexual abuse, violence, and exploitation. In the southeast provinces of Turkey, the earthquake affected 9.1 million people, displaced 3 million, and destroyed nearly 300,000. In the midst of this devastation, 320,000 or more people continue to live in shelters. Initial reports have noted that for adolescent girl, there has been a significant increase in domestic care, domestic violence, sexual and gender-based abuse, child marriage, along with lowered enrollment rates at school.

Committing to Girl-Centered Design

Girl-centered design is one protective and pro-active approach to finding new solutions to the challenges that international humanitarian and development sector practitioners struggle to address at scale. This process focuses on how to create spaces, programs and activities for and with girls, based upon child safety protocols and participation by the girls. This process is used to ensure all girls are engaged and recognized, particularly those who are underserved.

In Pazarc?k, and Antakya, Turkey–areas hardest hit by the February earthquake–adolescent girls, and their families, still live in temporary shelters. Several of these girls were asked recently, “if you oversaw international aid, what would you do differently?”

Creating Spaces for Girls To Occupy

With more evidence on the connection between wellbeing and outdoor activities or the powerful healing and learning that happens when girls have the right to play there is a cry to do better for them. Shelters need to be built to provide safe outdoor play areas for girls, improve the accessibility of the information they require, and give them access to basic services to support their immediate and long-term needs. When such spaces and services are offered, they are primarily used by men and boys.

Adolescent girl understands what it is to be a woman, feel safe (or unsafe), and be valued equally (or not). For girls in Pazarck and Antakya investing in and with them does not just mean expanding the safe, green, and educational spaces for the girls to learn, play, and grow. It also means ensuring that their voices are heard and their ideas taken seriously. While there are positive signs, they are not enough. Girl-centered design, and girl-led disaster solutions, could yield results we have never seen before. (Suna’s Daughters). EDC. They are both active members in the Coalition for Adolescent Girls (CAG), a member-led and-driven organization dedicated to supporting, investing in, and improving the lives of adolescent girls.

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Original source: Inter Press Service

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