INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD 2016
Hello, I'm Natasha Stott Despoja.
One of the pleasures of my work as Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls is the chance to meet with young women around the world and to be inspired afresh by their energy, intelligence, creativity and passion as they seek to shape their worlds.
This year I have been privileged to spend time with a new generation of young women leaders in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. I have met with the World YWCA delegation at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York and with young women who travelled from around the globe to add their voices to the deliberations of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Most recently, I was in Samoa for a Commonwealth Ministerial meeting at which young women of the Commonwealth spoke powerfully about the world they want, and the challenges they face in achieving their aspirations.
Representing the Commonwealth Youth and Gender Equality Network, Tahere Siisiialafia reminded Ministers of the importance of an intergenerational partnership to achieve sustainable development. She said she came to the table to speak for the voiceless across all generations.
Australia is a strong supporter of young women like Tahere. We place great importance on the empowerment and agency of young women.
The fact that my title is Ambassador for Women AND GIRLS was a deliberate decision on the part of the Australian Government to highlight the critical role youth play in identifying new solutions to old problems and bringing justice, progress and prosperity to their countries.
Education is, of course, key to young women’s agency, which is why Australia places high priority on supporting quality educational opportunities for girls, especially those who are marginalised.
Conflict and crisis are a major threat to a country’s stability and its long-term outlook, particularly in terms of impacts on children and their futures. The situation is especially dire for girls. UNESCO data shows that girls who live in conflict affected countries are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than their male counterparts.
So Australia has pledged $220 million to support people affected by the Syrian crisis, including getting children back into school in Jordan and Lebanon by the end of the 2017 and addressing barriers to girls’ education like early marriage.
Last month, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, signed the Statement of Action to Accelerate Marginalised Girls’ Education Outcomes and Gender Equality, reaffirming Australia’s commitment to girls’ equal right to education.
No community can reach its full potential without drawing on the ideas and talent of its young women.
On the 11th of October, International Day of the Girl Child, we celebrate our young women and girls. There is no more promising, untapped resource and no greater cause for hope and optimism in a better, brighter future.
Happy International Day of the Girl Child.