Significant strides have been made in Africa over the past few years to improve the plight of the girl child. However, these strides are insufficient as there are still huge gaps. This was made evident in the African Report on child well-being for 2020 by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). The ACPF is an independent, not-for-profit, Pan-African institute of policy research and dialogue on the African child.
Furthermore, the ACPF survey states that girls in Africa are ignored, forced into early marriage, trafficked, beaten, and sexually abused. African girls are denied access to adequate health, social care, and education at home, school, or work. They are also victims of genital mutilation.
The survey rates Mauritius, Tunisia, and South Africa as the top three girl-friendly countries. Also, the worst countries include South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, and Nigeria. Africa is home to 308 million girls aged 18, yet African governments are failing girls on equality.
International Day of the Girl Child is an annual celebration of Oct. 11 to draw attention to the plight of the girl child. You can join in this year’s celebration using the hashtag #BRIGHTERFUTURE for girls. Share what this hashtag means to you on your social media platforms. This will go a long way toward raising awareness.
What Is The International Day Of The Girl Child?
The International Day of the Girl Child is a commemoration declared by the United Nations. This year’s celebration will be on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. The aim is to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
The Day of the Girl also focuses on the challenges the African girl child faces, such as violence, education inequality, and early child marriage. These challenges are formidable for millions of girls in Africa. Sadly, most of the challenges they face begin from the home. The theme of the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child 2021 is “Digital generation. Our generation”.
The African Report On Child Wellbeing
Provided by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), the African Report on Child Wellbeing is a unique and pioneering report that offers a comprehensive and continental review and analysis on the state of the African girl child.
Furthermore, the report also assesses the performance of African governments in fulfilling their duties to girls using a robust statistical framework—the Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI). It also conveys girls’ voices sought through targeted multi-country qualitative studies carried out in selected countries across Africa.
The Top Ten Best African Countries for the African Girl Child
Mauritius takes the number one spot in the top ten best African countries for the African girl child with a GFI score of 0.8109. The country has the highest coverage of basic vaccinations for girls (93%), and it also provides all pregnant and adolescent girls with access to antenatal care by healthcare professionals. More than 98 percent of births in Mauritius take place in health facilities, ranking the country third in Africa. These are necessary conditions for both the mother and the infant during pregnancy and child delivery.
About 89% of girls in Mauritius have access to pre-primary education—the highest in Africa—and the lowest rate of cumulative dropouts. Mauritius has also performed significantly well in terms of putting comprehensive laws and policies to benefit girls.
Second on the list is Tunisia, with a GFI score of 0.7766. The country has already achieved universal birth registration and has the lowest prevalence of child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Africa (both less than 2%). Furthermore, almost all births in Tunisia are delivered in health facilities by professional health practitioners.
Also, the country records under-five mortality among female children or 17 deaths per 1,000 live births, making it the second-lowest in Africa. Tunisia has also done well in providing quality education for girls and eliminating early child marriage. It is also among the nine countries to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings.
#3: South Africa
South Africa is ranked third with an impressive record of improving the wellbeing of African girl children. Child labor among girls in the country is just 3%, the second-lowest percentage in Africa. Furthermore, the government has done well in keeping girls in school, especially at the primary level.
It is essential to know that the primary education rate amongst girls in the country is 98%, while at the upper secondary level, it is 52%. South Africa also has an excellent framework to protect girls from early marriage, child labor, trafficking, etc. The country has a GFI score of 0.7761.
Seychelles is also among the countries that favor the African girl child. It ranks third with a GFI score of 0.7439. The government enacted laws and policies against the discrimination of women. It also has fundamental human rights laws that incorporate many human rights principles. Seychelles has health care facilities for births. It is also among the countries with the lowest prevalence of child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Africa.
Algeria takes 5th place among friendly countries for the African girl child with a GFI score of 0.7400. However, the government has also performed really well in terms of protecting girls from violence and exploitation. It has laws and policy frameworks that protect the rights of girls. The government also commits budgets to ensure girls get access to education, sanitation, sexual and reproductive health care, and other services critical for their development.
#6: Cape Verde
Cape Verde has a GFI score of 0.7156, ranking it the 6th best country for the African girl child. The country has made significant advances concerning women’s and children’s rights. However, the country’s limited resources and its populations still hamper the whole implementation of measures to ensure and strengthen respect for women and children. The government still has many challenges to overcome. Nevertheless, the willingness of the government makes it possible to envision a better feature for girls and children.
Namibia has a GFI score of 0.7105. The country ranks as the 7th best country for the African girl child. This is because the government is taking the lead in mobilizing support to establish a continent-wide African Girl Child Movement. The country also has policy frameworks that fight against early child marriage and girl trafficking.
Egypt is in the category of friendly countries for the African girl child with a GFI score of 0.6604. This country has also performed well in protecting girls from violence and exploitation and providing them with basic services. Furthermore, Egypt also provides health, education, and basic vaccination coverage, contributing to its GFI score.
Lesotho has a GFI score of 0.6504. The country’s situation when it comes to the rights of the girl child is constantly improving. Nonetheless, the decrease in economic resources has deeply affected Lesotho as a whole. But the country ratified its Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and it has also formulated more laws and policies to protect girls and children.
Eswatini comes 10th when it comes to the best countries for the African girl child. The government has also been effective in achieving tangible results for girls including investing a high share of its income in health and education, basic vaccination coverage for girls, and quick access to antenatal care. The country also has a high enrolment rate for girls in secondary and primary education. It is also essential to know that in Eswatini, more than 80% of girls deliver in a health facility under the supervision of a health professional.
The Top Ten Worst African Countries For The African Girl Child
#1: South Sudan
South Sudan has a GFI score of 0.1590, and it is ranked the worst country for the African girl child due to several factors. The country’s prevalence figures for malnutrition among girls and child marriage are among the highest in Africa. Furthermore, girls’ rate of education participation is meager at both primary and secondary levels (at only 30.4% and 4.5%, respectively). Sudanese girls are at risk of dropping out of school and failing to complete the levels for which they are enrolled. The country has also made the least investment in sectors that benefit girls.
Chad takes second place with a GFI score of 0.1697. In the country, two out of every five girls face child labor and child marriage. About 67% of girls are married off before the age of 18. Furthermore, only one in four girls under the age of five in Chad receives basic vaccinations. Also, only one in five births in the country occurs under a medical professional’s supervision. All these features make the country rank low.
Eritrea has a GFI score of 0.2499. However, female genital mutilation and exploitation still occur in the country. In Eritrea, very few female children can enjoy their rights. Even though access to information has progressed in the country, Eritrea continues to be a country where it is difficult to get up-to-date statistics. It is challenging for international health professionals, academics, and NGOs. Girls in the country face different factors such as poverty, abuse, trafficking, lack of education and health care, and early child marriage (41% of girls are married before 18).
#4: The Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a GFI score of 0.2721. The African girl child faces one of the most humanitarian crises in this country, where they constantly encounter armed conflict, sexual violence, and lack of adequate health care. Their human rights are routinely violated and they are frequently exposed to violence from armed groups.
Niger is another country that isn’t friendly to the African girl child. The government has a GFI score of 0.2772. Here, living conditions, particularly those of girls and children, are extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that it is highly concerned and has called on the country to take the necessary measures to permit children from Niger to enjoy their rights fully.
Owing to the extreme poverty that afflicts Niger, minors often end up as prostitutes. Many young girls sell their bodies to support their needs. Also, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and child labor are still practiced in certain regions in Niger.
#6: Central African Republic
The Central African Republic has a GFI score of 0.2844. Girls in the country are often unable to fulfill their rights due to the challenging context in which they live. The African girl child is often a victim of child labor, obstructed access to education, forced displacement, and prostitution. All these contribute to why the country is among the worst countries for the African girl child.
Despite implementing democratic institutions, poverty remains a dominant problem in Comoros. This is due to the rapid overpopulation in the country. Poverty is one big problem that young girls have to battle within the country. This often leads them into prostitution and early marriage. Other issues girls face include child labor, sexual exploitation, lack of adequate health care and education. Nonetheless, the country has a GFI score of 0.3330.
Liberia still has a long way ahead to ensure girls in the country exercise their rights and are taken care of. The role of traditional and cultural practices in Liberian society and the very young age of the population (41% under the age of 15 years, median age 19,1) creates significant challenges for young girls and children’s rights in the country.
Furthermore, girls face substantial shortcomings concerning access to quality education and sanitary facilities. Also, cultural practices such as child marriages, child labor, witchcraft and ritual killings, and forcible initiation ceremonies like female genital mutilation are further compounding the problem. Liberia has a GFI score of 0.3534.
Despite several advancements to protect African girls, Cameroon still has a long way to go. In fact, significant progress needs to be made in due time. In Cameroon, the infant mortality rate remains exceptionally high. Statistics show that 11% of newborns are moderately and/or severely underweight due to the absence of adequate health facilities for girls.
Parents hold parental authority and can force a young girl to marry without her consent. Also, girls are victims of genital mutilation such as “breast ironing” (“massage” using heated objects to hinder the development of the breasts of young girls). With a GFI score of 0.3703, Cameroon must take drastic measures to eliminate these prejudicial cultural practices.
Guinea is committed to protecting and respecting the rights of African girls. Still, despite all the efforts, especially legislative ones, the country faces many issues that prevent young girls from exercising their rights. The number of girls affected by female genital mutilation is exceptionally high and on the rise. Many girls are forced off to marry early, and they are often victims of trafficking. The country has a GFI score of 0.3712.
One thing is clear, most African governments need to do more to create a friendly environment for the girl child. In most African countries, women are in charge of training the child. Therefore, Africa needs a conducive environment for girls to grow into healthy mothers. Subsequently, they will pass this positive attitude to their children. In the long run, Africa will be a better place.