politics

Senator Michaelia Cash writes: "If we let girls be girls, they will be whatever they want to be."

October 11 annually is a day of reflection of the challenges faced by many young girls worldwide — challenges that young girls should not have to bear, such as genital mutilation, child marriage, rape and slavery.

The International Day of the Girl Child is a day where these issues and cultural divides are bought to the forefront of our national agenda.

While there are steady improvements being made in some developing countries, it is the sad reality that many young girls are prevented from living long, fulfilling lives.

Around the world, there are too many girls facing innumerable obstacles due to the sheer fact of their female gender.

There are still too many girls who are subject to inhumane practices that exploit and abuse them. There are too many girls who are treated as second class citizens, denied education and sometimes even denied equality in food allocation and healthcare simply because they were born into this world as female.

The result of this inequality is that the boys and men in their society continue to outpace and outrank them.

Michaelia Cash at the launch of the Government's Women on Boards Gender Balance Report. Image via Facebook.

Today we recognise how empowering girls is not just about the girls themselves, but their families, communities and society at large.

The United Nations agreed to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015 as part of an initiative to create a better future for our world.

As a global leader on gender equality, Australia supports the Sustainable Development Goals set out under the Agenda.

Australia’s aid programme actively supports gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Government has set a target requiring at least 80 per cent of aid investments, regardless of their objectives, to effectively address gender issues in their implementation. On top of this, last month we announced a $6.5 million investment in the UN Women ‘Making Every Woman and Girl Count’ program, a public-private partnership aimed at closing the gap in gender-related data.

To track how we are progressing, we need to work together to address the widespread lack of data about women and girls status in society.

Improving the availability of gender-related data, as well as the capacity to analyse and use it to inform policy, is critical for making progress on gender equality.

To this end the Government provided $180,000 to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to build the evidence base for gender indicators for culturally and linguistically diverse women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women with disability.

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Girls with a disability particularly need us to ensure their voice is heard.

Watch: Why the gender pay gap remains a problem in Australia.

Video via ABC

Today, to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, I have announced $42,500 additional funding for Women with Disabilities Australia to help young girls with disability understand and advocate for their rights.

This funding is in addition to $275,000 provided to Women with Disabilities Australia in 2015-16 under the Australian Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy. The work of Women with Disabilities Australia is critical in informing, empowering and inspiring the 100,000 young girls with disability in Australia.

Australia is, and will continue to be, a strong and committed advocate for gender equality, girl’s empowerment and the advancement of the rights of girls internationally.

The message from UN Women on this International Day of the Girl Child is ‘let girls, be girls’. Because if we let girls be girls, they will be whatever they want to be—teachers, scientists, politicians, mothers, writers, electricians, lawyers or actors.

They will take their rightful place as CEOs of companies and leaders of countries.

They will lend their insights and intellect to making their families, their communities and their countries better places.

They will make an equal and valuable contribution to the future of our world, if we just let girls be girls — irrespective of where they are born.

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