In Mexico, nearly 18.9 million adolescent girls and women under the age of 18 represent 15 percent of the national population. This demographic, while substantial, is often overlooked when it comes to public policy and protection. To truly honor the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the first binding international treaty, and the General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, approved in Mexico in 2014. More must be done to safeguard the rights and future of young girls.
Pedro Daniel Martínez Sierra, an academic at the National School of Social Work at UNAM, acknowledges that there has been progress in recognizing and respecting the fundamental rights of Mexican girls and adolescents. However, these efforts are insufficient given the myriad challenges they continue to face.
Gender violence is pervasive and often hidden from public view. It is deeply ingrained in family dynamics, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and biases. “They are victims of acts of intimidation, humiliation, exploitation and all kinds of discrimination, mainly because of their gender condition,” states Martínez Sierra.
Moreover, gender discrimination is evident in access to education, food, clothing, healthcare, and footwear. This discrimination limits girls' opportunities and potential for growth. Regularly, traditional roles are imposed upon them, relegating them to caretaking and domestic chores and depriving them of pursuing their dreams.
Child marriage remains a pressing issue in rural areas of Mexico, stemming from deeply rooted customs. This practice disrupts the childhood and adolescence of countless girls, stunting their development. Unplanned children and adolescent pregnancies, frequently resulting from rape, exacerbate these problems.
International non-governmental organizations, such as Save the Children, emphasize that being a child is synonymous with vulnerability, with girls facing additional challenges, including child marriage, genital mutilation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and a lack of access to medical services during childbirth. Economic exclusion, lack of recognition, and vulnerability in emergencies and armed conflicts further compound these issues.
Promoting Empowerment and Fulfilling Guarantees
To address these challenges, the State and society must actively promote the empowerment of girls and adolescents and ensure the fulfillment of their inalienable rights. They should be encouraged to become leaders and activists, fostering civic awareness. Inspirational figures like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai serve as role models for girls aspiring to make a difference.
Eliminating gender stereotypes is crucial in schools and communities. It is essential to encourage girls to pursue their interests, whether in science, technology, architecture, medicine, sports, or the arts, without constraints based on their gender. These actions can help break the cycle of discrimination and inequality.
To address these issues, several actions are necessary:
- Preventing School Dropout and Adolescent Pregnancy: Implementing comprehensive sexual and reproductive rights education is crucial in preventing school dropout and adolescent pregnancies.
- Eradicating Exploitation: Efforts should be made to eradicate child labor and exploitation, ensuring that girls have the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives.
- Incorporating the Gender Perspective: Gender equality should be integrated into all aspects of children's rights and protection, addressing the unique challenges faced by girls.
- Creating Opportunities: Spaces for skill development and opportunities should be facilitated, allowing girls to explore their full potential.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, Mexico must reflect on the challenges faced by its young girls and adolescents and the urgent need to address them. The date established by the UN serves as a reminder to promote girls' rights, raise awareness about the issues they face, and encourage governments to address these unprecedented challenges in the 21st century.
It is only by investing in public policies that benefit children and recognizing the agency of children and adolescents in the present that we can hope to change the conditions in which they live. This International Day should be a collective call for the State, institutions, and society to work together to provide girls with more and better opportunities for development. It's time to empower Mexico's girls and adolescents to create a brighter future for themselves and the nation.