If you’ve ever made a rule, you’ll know that it takes two steps. First, you’ve got to create the rule and make it official. Second, you’ve got to make sure that people actually follow that rule.
The same thing is true when it comes to rights and laws that affect girls. First, you have to establish the right legally, and then you have to figure out a way to put it into practice. Here are a couple of examples:
Girls still cut in Ethiopia: In 2004, Ethiopia’s government outlawed female genital cutting. Female genital cutting is also against international law. However, the existence of these laws hasn’t eradicated the practice: in Ethiopia, 38 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have at least one daughter who has been cut. After the law is put into place, a lot of work still has to be done to make sure that girls’ families and communities stick to the rules and protect her from being cut.
Child marriage in Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, you can legally get married after your 18th birthday, but estimates show that 2 out of 3 girls are married earlier. Nargis, who is now 19 and has two children, was forced to marry at age 16, even though the practice of child marriage is illegal. Authorities face challenges enforcing the law as many girls don’t have birth certificates that can prove they are under age.
Official rules and laws can help protect girls’ rights, but only if those rules and laws are followed.
Three things we can do to help put law into practice for girls’ rights:
1. Know your rights: If you don’t know the rules, how can you play by them? Girls need to know their rights so they can stand up for themselves! Parents, communities, families, and governments also must know about girls’ rights so they can help girls reach their full potential.
2. Change is good: Sometimes, rules about girls’ rights contradict how a community has been doing things for many years. Adapting to a new law takes time and change in the community. It’s possible, but certainly a challenge.
3. Take back the power: Laws that back up girls’ rights give girls power and strength. But it doesn’t mean that other people’s power will be taken away in the process. Making sure that everyone is involved in making girls’ rights a reality helps overcome this big obstacle.
Can you think of any official laws in Canada or at your school that aren’t put into practice?