Today U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Verma marked the International Day of the Girl Child with comments focused on U.S. and Indian efforts to celebrate and support the girl child.
“Each year on October 11 people around the globe mark the Day of the Girl Child. This day, inaugurated by the United Nations just four years ago, is a time for us to recognize what the UN called ‘the unique challenges girls face around the world.’ The Day of the Girl Child is a vital reminder to us all that no nation can move forward when half the population does not have adequate access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.”
He added that “Prime Minister Modi has made empowering girls a centerpiece of his administration through his Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana campaign. As I said last year in Haryana: ‘According to recent data from the International Monetary Fund, women’s full economic participation would add as much as 13 percent to India’s per capita income. When women are guaranteed access to education and opportunity, they are able to make better choices for themselves and their families; their children are healthier; they live longer; and they are accepted and participate as full members of their communities. When women are empowered to move forward, they bring the rest of society with them.’ This is why our two countries are working together on this vital issue. Chalein Saath Saath.”
In addition to recognizing the government of India’s efforts in this area, Ambassador Verma also highlighted several U.S. government programs that bring together American and Indian organizations to support Indian girls and young women, including:
- Safe Cities – A three year program partnering the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with UN Women, and the Governments of Delhi and Japan, to help girls and women reclaim their right to public spaces through improvements in safety on public transportation, streets, sidewalks, and in schools. A two-year, dual city project called “Community Led Action Program with Police” (CLAPP) partners students on local college campuses with police to improve safety for women and girls in public spaces. Run by our partner PCVC (an International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care) these programs kicked off in Hyderabad in September and Chennai in October along with stakeholders from St. Mary’s College and SHE Team of Hyderabad Police, as well as MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Loyola College, and State Police in Chennai.
- Reproductive Maternal Neonatal and Child Health + Adolescents Alliance – The alliance is bringing together philanthropists and social entrepreneurs in an effort to save the lives of one million adolescent girls, mothers, and children by addressing health problems such as early pregnancy, weak antenatal/postnatal care, unsafe deliveries, low nutrition levels, incomplete immunization, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
- Girl Rising – A global partnership engaging USAID, 10×10, Intel Corporation, the Council on International Educational Exchange, Vulcan Productions, the Pearson Foundation, and CNN that supports girls’ education with the use of Girl Rising – a powerful feature film that highlights the stories of nine girls born into difficult circumstances. India participated in the most recent Girl Rising program, Empower New Generations to Advance Girls’ Education, which is changing minds, lives, and policies using locally developed releases of its film and follow-on teaching materials.
- Women and Girls Lead Global – The Hero Project – ITVS, the independent television service, is partnering with USAID, the Ford Foundation, and CARE to create media campaigns that celebrate girls and women’s accomplishments. The India multimedia campaign addresses the roots of gender-based violence and gender inequality by challenging patriarchy and using films to engage men and boys on the topic of positive masculinity.
- Half the Sky Movement – USAID, through a multi-donor, multimedia program, supports the empowerment of women and girls through engagement on the topics of girls’ education, maternal and child health, reproductive health, women’s economic empowerment, and gender-based violence. The Half the Sky media and technology initiative is designed to promote knowledge and behavior change through film, social media, and in-person engagement, positively impacting women’s access to social, economic, and political opportunities.
- Education, Speaker and Film Programs – The U.S. Embassy and our consulates around India regularly partner with local organizations to sponsor films and international speakers as a way of engaging audiences and sharing the solutions we have found. In Hyderabad the co-founders of A Mighty Girl met with authors, educators and students to demonstrate how books, stories, movies, and gifts can be used as cultural tools to achieve gender inclusiveness. In Mumbai the U.S. Consulate General held a crowd-sourced film festival on gender violence, and works with Dharavi Girls, a group of young girls living in the Dharavi slum who make mobile applications in areas such as GBV, health, and education. In Chennai the State Department sponsored an English Access Microscholarship Program for 100 girls from economically disadvantaged rural areas to develop their English language skills and improve their opportunities to study and obtain jobs. In Kolkata, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants led a series of interactive activities for 100 Access students at the Samaritan Help Mission aimed at visually demonstrating how gender discrimination affects them on a daily basis in which the participants created letters to share with their future selves. This was coupled with a workshop at the American Center-Kolkata titled Stand Up for Girls which used playwriting, performance and storytelling to provide an interactive and interdisciplinary educational experience for youth leaders. Mission India also welcomed the Chief Counsel on Domestic Violence for the American Bar Association who traveled around to meet with law students and legal practitioners to exchange ideas about combatting gender based violence through legal frameworks.
- Public Affairs Grants – One of the most effective tools for long-term engagement on empowering women has been through Public Affairs grants that create links with local organizations and ensure sustained year-round activities to counter violence against women. For instance, an important ongoing grant in North India focuses on “Youth Countering Violence Against Women in India.” The grantee is organizing high-impact training initiatives for youth in the 14-35 age group. In Kolkata the Consulate is working with the Vikramshila Education Resource Society on a grant for a three-week Career Readiness Camp directed at 18-year-old girls from underprivileged families. The camp will take place in May 2016 and will include training on Business English, Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills, ICT Skills, and Career Goal Setting.