This year's International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) is being celebrated globally on Friday, October 11, on the theme Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow. The Day of the Girl Child, which is an international observance day declared by the United Nations, highlights the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
IDGC also recognizes the empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the eradication of poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, as key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.
IDGC is also observed to make a strong case that empowering girls required their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men, and the wider community.
According to the UN, there are 1.1 billion girls in the world and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future. They are a source of energy, power and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises are suffering even more. According to the UN, this year's International Day of the Girl Child will celebrate achievements by, with and for girls since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and passage of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In spite of the remarkable progress over the last 25 years, there is a call on the global community to create more opportunities for girls' voices to be heard and safe spaces for their participation in decision-making, as leading change for girls is everyone's responsibility. A lot more activism is required by all, particularly young women's movements, to ensure that the rights and needs of the marginalized, poor and vulnerable, and people with disabilities, are adequately catered for.
One movement that is sweeping the country and making a difference in the lives of young women and girls is CAMA (CAMFED Alumnae Association). CAMA is a strong alumnae network of over 30,000 young women who have benefitted from CAMFED's support. CAMA members are united by a background of poverty and a commitment to plough back into their communities, with profound demonstrated impacts at the family, community, national and international levels. CAMA members are involved in efforts to enable children to remain in school with material assistance and mentoring. Members are also involved in training other young people in key areas such as reproductive health, financial literacy, business skills, women and children's rights, and advocacy for change. The CAMA network is operational in 31 districts of the Northern, North East, Savanna, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions and has chapters in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Obuasi, Techiman and Bolgatanga.
As a demonstration of their commitment to develop themselves and invest the benefits of their education back into their communities, the CAMA network established the CAMA Fund. The CAMA Fund is a discretionary fund owned and run by the CAMA network to enable CAMA to provide targeted and immediate material support to out-of-school children and those at risk of dropping out of school to remain in school, perform well and complete their education. The Fund is also designed to formalize and give an organized structure to CAMA's philanthropic initiatives.
The CAMA Fund is being implemented in Chereponi, Kpandai, Mfantseman, Karaga, Bawku West, Builsa North and Garu-Tempane districts. Since the Fund became operational, a total of 5,822 vulnerable children have been supported. These beneficiaries were drawn from the six districts as follows: Chereponi 1,348; Kpandai 1,497; Mfantseman 1,196; Karaga 505; Bawku West 368; and Garu-Tempane 908. Out of the total number reached, 3,488, representing 59.9 percent, are girls.
In addition to the implementation of the CAMA Fund, individually, CAMA members are using the power of one to make a change through community sensitization programmes in all districts of operation. Major issues on which sensitization programmes have been undertaken include health, education, sanitation and environment, financial literacy, amongst others. For instance as a CAMA member and health practitioner, Fatima Yakubu has been the resource person in advocacy and community sensitization programmes on health-related issues such as teenage pregnancy, maternal mortality, Hepatitis B, epilepsy, breast cancer, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. In October 2014, Fatima initiated and spearheaded a project called "Safe Delivery: Priority for All" in her community to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality and morbidity. This initiative helped to increase the number of pregnant mothers who visited the hospital for antenatal and prenatal care.
Some CAMA members have been trained as Peer Educators and are responsible for visiting schools in selected districts of operation to deliver financial literacy and entrepreneurship training to community members. For instance Ruka Yaro was responsible for implementing the training programmes in the Sagnarigu District in Northern Ghana. In this role, she trained over 500 young women in financial literacy who in turn trained over 10,000 community members. In 2014, she participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African Leaders in the United States in recognition of her contributions to community development.
As part of the implementation of the 'My Better World' (MBW) program in schools in selected districts, CAMFED trained some CAMA members as Learner Guides who visited schools in the selected districts to deliver the course modules under the MBW program. The MBW is a well-being program designed for students to have a deeper understanding of themselves in order to influence the life choices and decisions they make. Nimatu Siisu, a CAMA member, has facilitated the selection and training of other CAMA members who served as Learner Guides to 3,600 senior high school students on the My Better World program. As an organization, CAMFED continues to provide technical advice and support to the CAMA leadership, data collection and monitoring assistance, as well as support with technical report writing.
Recently, the CAMA network in the West Mamprusi District organized a community durbar in the Kinkandina community. The durbar was organized to officially hand over a three-unit classroom block to the Ghana Education Service (GES). The classroom block was constructed by CAMA with the support of community members. The project was completed in August 2019 and handed over to the GES in September this year.
As we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child, CAMA affirms its commitment to continue to be a vehicle for change in communities. CAMA members will continue to advocate for the rights of young women and girls and capacitate communities to lead change. The CAMA network will be developed as a platform for women's leadership and an African-led young women's movement for change.
Ruka Yaro, National Chairperson of CAMA handing over the classroom block